Fitzpatrick: Tipp game will be 'toughest yet'

Fitzpatrick: Tipp game will be 'toughest yet'

He may have 21 Senior Championship appearances under his belt, but 2008 All-Ireland SHC winning captain James 'Cha' Fitzpatrick believes that this Sunday's Liam MacCarthy Cup decider against Tipperary will be the toughest yet.

"Without a doubt in my mind and in a lot of the players' minds, this will be the toughest game so far," he said.

"Tipperary are a year older and a year wiser and they came very close last year to beating us. I'm sure they will be out for revenge.

"Revenge is a serious motivating tool, and we are really expecting a tough one this time."

Last year Kilkenny defeated the Premier County side by five points in a gripping All-Ireland final.

Twelve months on as the Cats seek a unique five in-a-row, little has changed in terms of the preparation.

Fitzpatrick says his side are always seeking to make improvements, particularly after a disappointing National League campaign this year.

"Early on in the year we got a bit of a wake-up call in the league and we didn't progress there," admitted the midfielder.

"Come Championship we have progressed nicely without being pushed to the pin of our collars. We had a tough game against Galway alright, but still we are going to need an awful lot of improvement if we are to win this final.

"Tipperary were beaten by Cork earlier in the Championship - but I think that is after driving them on and making them a better team.

"They have grown in confidence all year, they are building momentum and they just have a nice mix of young players - very talented players, and experienced players as well.

"They are a formidable side and serious opposition for us."

Fitzpatrick believes that Tipperary's loss to Cork in that Munster Championship clash was a mere blip on their part, and not an indication of a general weakness within the team.

"No doubt, I'm sure Tipperary feel that they didn't do themselves justice against Cork that day.

"They have been very impressive since, in beating the Munster champions Waterford fairly comprehensively and I suppose if Tipperary build adrenaline inside themselves against us - that's very hard to stop.

"We'll have to pull out all the stops if we are going to beat them."

Casting his eye back to 2009, it was a year of ups and downs for 'Cha', despite All-Ireland, Leinster and National League titles coming his way.

Both himself and his Ballyhale colleague Michael Fennelly were caught by illness and had to spend some frustrating amounts of time on the sidelines. The current Cats panel looked to be progressing well until recent injuries to Henry Shefflin, Tommy Walsh, John Tennyson and Brian Hogan began to dominate the headlines.

Fitzpatrick would love to see all four play some part in this weekend's All-Ireland showpiece, but says that regardless of their availability this Kilkenny panel can cope in the face of adversity.

"It's not an individual sport, it's a team sport and that's the nature of it," said the 25-year-old.

"It was very disappointing to hear the news about Henry and John Tennyson both doing their cruciates.

"On a personal level it's a huge disappointment, but the show goes on. The team drives on and it is a great opportunity for other players to step in.

"We have a strong panel, I think everyone knows that. Tipperary have a strong panel too, and on a Championship day it's more than the 70 minutes - you are talking 75 minutes-plus and the players on the line have put in as much effort as anyone else on the field, so it can be a great opportunity for those as well."

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