Editor’s note: John Mullane is the brand ambassador for JJ Kavanagh & Sons and will be bringing his thoughts on the 2016 Hurling championship. In John’s latest post, he takes a closer look at the All Ireland Hurling Final between Kilkenny and old rivals Tipperary.
So John, are the two best teams in the country in the final?
Yes, I do think the two best teams in the country are in the final. With the exception of 2013 both these counties have been the top two in the country. Tipperary now contest their fifth final and Kilkenny their seventh since they first met in the 2009 final.
The challenge for Tipperary is to become the top dog again which Kilkenny have held for most of those 8 years.
I think this game will be a close contest! With the exception of the 2012 All Ireland Semi-Final which Kilkenny won comfortably both these counties have served up some crackers. Most notably 09′ and 2014 finals. Both have taken each other down the home straight for the past finals and I’m expecting no different come Sunday.
Do you think that Michael Fennelly will be a huge loss to Kilkenny on Sunday? Who do you think will replace him?
Without a shadow of a doubt he will. In the first 45 minutes of the replay against Waterford he was heroic about how he went about his business. He was starting to hit form at the right time and he would have had a major influence in this final for Kilkenny. His physicality, leadership and hurling brains will be sorely missed but cody won’t dwell on it and will use his loss in a positive way to rally the troops. Similar to the loss of JJ Delaney againgst Cork in the 2006 final.
Where will be the key battles in the field be?
There are four key battles for me; Seamus Callahan v Joey Holden, Richie Hogan v Ronan Maher, John McGrath on Paul Murphy and Bonnar Maher on Kieran Joyce. The big question for Tipp is how can they break even with Kilkenny’s half back line. Tipperary in the past have struggled to win the aerial ball in their half forward line but if they can break even with Kilkenny’s half back line on Sunday they’re in with a great shot of winning this game.
What part will Cody play in this final?
Cody will be Cody. His team will be ready and structured in the best possible way to get them over the line on Sunday. We’ve seen it in the past that he is a master to pull a Trump card on All Ireland Final day and it wouldn’t surprise me if he done it again. Look how he sprung ‘Wally’ Walsh in 2012. He made his championship debut at corner-forward in the All Ireland Final replay against Galway and on the same day won man of match!!
Will the bench be a big part in the final 20 minutes? Who do you think has the better bench?
Possibly Tipperary have the better bench. The loss of Michael Fennelly will narrow Cody’s choice of an already bare Kilkenny bench. JJ Farrell or Lester Ryan you would expect will replace Mark Bergin and Joyce you’d expect will come in for Michael Fennelly leaving John Power and Mark Bergin as the two likely lads to come in off the bench.
Tipperary have a decision to keep Bubbles on the bench or not which adds to the attack massively. If Michael Ryan decides to hold Bubbles, Tipperary have a slight edge with either Bubbles or Jason Forde to come off the bench.
So the biggest question John, where will the Liam McCarthy Cup being going to this year?
I suppose it’s hard to believe that Kilkenny are going for another 3 in a row and yet it is all low key. For a team going for 3 in a row all the pressure seems to be on Tipp to finally deliver another All Ireland. Before a ball was pucked in either hurling semi – final I said Tipp are the best equipped team to win the All Ireland and I stand over that; I believe they will edge a tight encounter.