Tipperary will throw everything, but it won’t be enough
Saturday, July 06, 2013 Irish Examiner
Even the people in the stands in Nowlan Park should be wearing helmets this evening, such is the ferocity in store.
What a prospect, and the people we have to thank for that? The hurlers of Limerick and Dublin, for knocking these two teams out of their provincial championships and putting them in this do-or-die situation.
How many of us saw this coming? This game was supposed to happen in September, but here we are.
Hasn’t it all the ingredients? It’s a sell-out almost since it became a reality, and if Nowlan Park had twice the capacity (it’s only 24,000) it would still be a full house. And it is not just Tipp and Kilkenny people either; every neutral hurling fan that managed to secure a ticket will be there.
This is old-style All-Ireland championship, straight knockout. The safety net has been pulled, someone isn’t going to survive.
People are saying this is an aging Kilkenny team which are over the hill. How many of them are over 30? They have five, JJ Delaney, Jackie Tyrrell, Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan and Aidan Fogarty.
Tipperary have exactly the same – Brendan Cummins, Paul Curran, John O’Brien, Eoin Kelly and Lar Corbett. So let no-one talk to me about age being a decisive factor here.
There’s a massive energy that’s been growing all week in Kilkenny in support of this team. The fans know this is a special side, they do not want to see the end of them. After losing to Dublin last week, and this being a third hard game in just a fortnight, the players are going to need to feed off that energy.
They are a hurting team, there’s no question about that. Henry hasn’t played this year, the first time he has failed to do so in championship since he and Brian Cody started back in 1999. Michael Fennelly is still out, as is Paul Murphy. Those are three outstanding players who would walk onto any team. There’s talk they’ll play but if they’re injured I think Brian Cody should resist the temptation. I don’t think it does the player any good, I don’t think it does the team any good, playing them.
A bigger problem for Cody and Kilkenny is form. Richie Power was the only forward that showed anything against Dublin in the replay and I think he started at midfield. What’s happened to TJ Reid and Colin Fennelly? Eoin Larkin is a huge player, on form, as is Richie Hogan; but they both need to step up their game now. The Kilkenny defence too was exposed, to an extent, against Dublin, pulled and dragged out of position. They’ll have to be wary of that this evening.
Tipp have named a stronger team than that which started against Limerick, in the forwards especially. I’d have a question about midfield though — Shane McGrath hasn’t played well since being named captain. As with Larkin and Hogan for Kilkenny, this is the game above all games where he needs to take a big step forward.
Kieran Bergin is out injured which is a blow to the visitors, given how well he played in Nowlan Park in the league. Conor O’Brien is no bad replacement but it weakens the bench.
A winner? This is all about Tipperary standing up, about this Tipp team in particular, standing up. I think they will, but I think a resurrected Kilkenny will still best them.
On Clare and Laois; I was impressed with Laois against Galway and if they play like that again, Clare will have to earn it here. Should be a home win but Laois are not going to die easily or quickly.