TIPPERARY will relish the opportunity to hammer the final nail in Kilkenny’s 2013 championship coffin next Saturday evening. The chance to win at Nowlan Park and wipe out the memories of last year’s crushing All-Ireland semi-final defeat is more than enough motivation for the visitors
Tipp would gain serious momentum with a victory and I expect them to play with huge intensity and work-rate.
I felt after the league final that they were holding something back and now the acid test has arrived.
In that Nowlan Park decider, Tipp deployed Noel McGrath as a third midfielder and I’m anticipating serious movement from their forwards. And if the Lar Corbett-Jackie Tyrrell match-up becomes a reality again, expect Lar to bring Jackie to where he’s least comfortable – on the edge of the square.
Whether or not Jackie will start is another question as he clearly wasn’tfit last Saturday night. So the vulnerable All-Ireland champions could be without Jackie, Paul Murphy and Henry Shefflin. They might try to rush Michael Fennelly back because they have no other option but to.
Expect Tipp to focus on conceding no goals and I also expect to see a more animated Eamon O’Shea prowling the touchline. This is too tempting a chance for Tipperary to pass up – and I believe they’ll get the job done. If Kilkenny do win this match, they are some team. At the moment, they look mentally drained and victims of their own success.
Time waits for no man and age is definitely a factor. But to dismiss them totally is dangerous because the Cats will use that as a source of motivation.
These players owe Kilkenny nothing but if there is a sting, it’s the sting of a dying wasp. I fear the well has run dry. I stressed in this column, on more than one occasion, the importance of Shefflin and Fennelly to their chances.
The Cats are eminently beatable without the pair and don’t have that strength in depth any more. Tipp are available right now at 6/1 to win the All-Ireland and they’ll have a very good chance if they beat Kilkenny.
There are parallels between next weekend’s two biggest hurling clashes. Tipp are fresh while Kilkenny have built up intensity levels with three games under their belts. And it’s a similar story in the Leinster final as Galway face a Dublin team preparing for a fifth game in as many weekends.
With the benefit of hindsight, those two Wexford matches stood to Dublin as it steeled them for a successful tilt at Kilkenny. But are Galway the big winners after the attrition of previous weekends?
They’re lying low with little being said about them. And next Sunday morning, they’ll prepare for a Leinster final with one of their biggest rivals for the All-Ireland title knocked out.
It’s an electric championship and when I checked the odds on Saturday evening, I saw Kilkenny available at 5/2 to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup. When is the last time that we’ve seen those kind of prices?
People laughed at me during the week when I suggested that it wouldn’t be a surprise if Dublin beat them in the replay. I went with the Dubs on the handicap betting, but my only regret is that I didn’t lump on them at 6/1 to win, or grab the 12/1 on offer for Dublin to lead at half-time and win the game. Anthony Daly knows that if you play a conventional 15 v 15 against Kilkenny, you’re asking for trouble. It’s a tactic he’s tried as far back as 2004, when he was Clare manager and Alan Markham was played in a sweeper role in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
Daly has acknowledged over time that a well-worked game plan, combined with a great attitude and serious work-rate, can be successful against the Noresiders.
We saw that in abundance on Saturday as Dublin played seven at the back with Danny Sutcliffe retreating at times to provide extra cover. That condensed space and gave the Dubs a great chance. These, combined with clever use of the ball and constant running at the Kilkenny defence, were the reasons they came out on top.
I hope the All Star selectors took note of Liam Rushe’s performance at centre-back. He was immense and it was great to see ‘Dotsy’ O’Callaghan return to his best form.
I watched the game in Bolger’s and it was a bumper weekend with the Viking Marathon and Madness in town. But the real madness was the decision not to televise the replay. The TV power brokers really missed a trick here.
Dublin have a massive challenge ahead of them in next Sunday’s Leinster final. They’ve become used to provincial venues en route to the final and the wide-open spaces of Croke Park will test their tired legs against a Galway side that will look to open it up.
If Dublin can devise a plan to shut down Joe Canning, they’ll be right in there but for me, it’s Galway to hold onto the Bob O’Keeffe Cup.