Sky Sports analyst Jamesie O’Connor gives his thoughts ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland final between Tipperary and Kilkenny.
The likes of Brendan Maher, Noel McGrath, Padraic Maher and Seamus Callanan have given huge amounts to Tipperary hurling over the last 10 years.
Considering their service to the county, the big games they’ve played and all the talent they have, just two All-Ireland triumphs is a poor return for this generation.
Can they add to their haul on Sunday? You don’t get too many more chances at this level.
The Cats might be coming into the tie as slight underdogs, but they should never be written off.
In their pomp, Kilkenny were favourites in every game they played. But there is a sense that they relish the underdog status. We saw that in their wins over Limerick and Cork, and even in last year’s Leinster final.
Against the Treaty, they channelled all their frustrations in the right way, and delivered a masterful performance – their aggression and intensity levels were through the roof.
I don’t see any favourites or underdogs for Sunday. All bets are off after the two semi-finals.
Limerick looked unstoppable after dismantling Tipp in Munster, but Kilkenny stunned them in the semi-final, the experience that there is in the team was clear to see – TJ Reid, Richie Hogan, Walter Walsh, Colin Fennelly and Padraig Walsh steered them to victory.
It’s a local derby, two teams with a lot of history, I don’t think favourites or underdogs come into it.
One concern amongst Tipp fans is that the Premier have not beaten Kilkenny in a tight game.
But they will be prepared for it to go down to the wire. I do not think there is anyone in Tipp expecting anything other than a dogfight for this.
Nobody can question Tipp’s character after the semi-final win over Wexford. When Lee Chin got that goal, the Yellowbellies were a man up and five points to the good. I could not see Tipp winning that game without getting at least one goal, or maybe two.
But they kept their nerve, and really dug it out.
That is when the experience of Brendan Maher, Padraic Maher, Seamus Callanan and Noel McGrath came to the fore.
You could certainly make the case if it’s a tight game, Kilkenny’s self belief is extraordinary.
I’m sure it has been spoken about in the Tipperary dressing room, ‘we could be five behind heading down the home straight, but this won’t be over until it’s over’.
Both teams know that.
I think Tipp might find a way, just to dig it out.
I’m not saying it with any great conviction, because after what Kilkenny did to Limerick. But you cannot ignore that Limerick had 15 wides, some of those really hurt. You cannot ignore what the inside Cork forwards did to that Kilkenny fullback line and some of the scores that they got.
At the same time, you have to be concerned if you look at what John Kiely’s charges did to Tipp in the Munster final, when they shut down the puck-out, put five guys across the middle and Tipp could not get their hands on the ball or get it into Seamus Callanan and those inside forwards.
That will not be lost on Brian Cody, and that’s exactly what Kilkenny did to Cork in the quarter-final.
I just think it’s a toss of a coin. It’s going to go down to the wire, and there will not be more than a puck of the ball between them.
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