Delaney determined to finish the job

Delaney determined to finish the job

Influential defender JJ Delaney believes that his Kilkenny side have what it takes to claim a historic five in-a-row of All-Ireland SHC titles at Croke Park this Sunday.

The 28-year-old, like most of his Kilkenny peers, knows almost nothing else other than title successes - the only year he has not won any accolade, either based on personal or team performances, was back in his debut year of 2001.

That year Tipperary, the Cats' opponents on Sunday, claimed the Liam MacCarthy Cup for the last time, but four-time All-Star Delaney is not keen to give them a sniff of it this weekend.

"All-Ireland final day is why you train in January and February and you are going there to finish it off," he said.

"If you don't win it kind of takes away from the last four finals. You kind of feel come a few years down the road people may not be talking about the four we won but the one we lost.

"So now all we can do is our very best to bring Liam MacCarthy back to Kilkenny."

Just more than a week ago, the Kilkenny panel resembled a hospital ward, with talk of injuries to Henry Shefflin, Tommy Walsh and John Tennyson, while last Wednesday Brian Hogan suffered a finger injury in training and is definitely out of the decider.

With all the talk of player injuries dominating the headlines the past few weeks, Delaney remembers having suffered the same fate in 2006 when he was cruelly injured the week leading up to the All-Ireland final against Cork.

"I have felt awful for my team-mates. It's devastating when you suffer an injury," he said.

"You're working all year towards the final and to be struck down is really tough. It's such a lonely place when you're injured as it's individual but you have to get on with it.

"I'm really looking forward to the game. I am so excited and cannot wait to get there. It's the only way to feel, you have to love what you do or there's no point doing it."

Delaney may be hoping for another silver lining coming 5pm or so next Sunday, but he recognises that Tipperary are among the best teams in the country at present.

"Tipp have been the form team over the past two years. They had one blip at the start of the Championship against Cork, but since then they are after racking up big scores against Offaly, Wexford, Galway and Waterford. They are very impressive and there's no doubt about it."

Like they have done for each of their previous four All-Ireland successes, the Cats have come through the provincial route this year, picking up Leinster silverware along the way.

Delaney says that the games against Dublin, Galway and Cork this year were equally tough.

"We had three different challenges, and every game is a different game where we always have to get our own house in order for each, just adapting our game-plan," he said.

With Tipperary providing the All-Ireland final opposition once more, he knows Liam Shed's charges will do everything in their power to secure the win - especially after last year's final defeat to the Cats.

"They have been looking all this year to get a crack at us in the All-Ireland final. It's only natural, and I suppose they are dead right too," admitted Delaney.

"Their game against Galway was a good game and Tipperary fought until the end and in the last few minutes looked dead and buried, but won the game.

"They are obviously after learning from last year as well, and they are certainly going well at present too.

"The final is going to be a very interesting game - finals are different and when two teams play each other that is the beauty of hurling.

"They could play each other five times and the five games could be completely different as well. It's going to be an interesting game and I'm looking forward to it."

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