Will this Sunday’s All-Ireland decide the decade in Kilkenny or Tipperary’s favour?
If you ask Cats’ corner-back Paul Murphy there have been plenty of deciders already.
“I joined in 2011 and that final was seen as the final to decide who had the real bragging rights over the last few years because Kilkenny had consistently met Tipperary.
“But I think that question always came around regardless. We met them in the semi-final the following year and people went ‘Well okay, this is the match’ “And then 2013, ‘This is the match’. And 2014, ‘This is the match’. It just seemed to always be a question that came back around.
“So regardless, it was just the group of players that were there, with the Henrys (Shefflin) and the Tommys (Walsh) and these, people were always asking the question ‘Well, if Tipperary beat them today, will this be the day that they finally walk away?’ And thankfully they were able to do it on a winning All-Ireland.
Mind you, one of the biggest matches wasn’t an All-Ireland final at all — it was the 2013 qualifier in Nowlan Park.
“People do talk about other matches, and that’s the one for me,” says Murphy.
“There was nothing on the line that day (in terms of silverware), only just this tribal thing of ‘You can’t lose to Tipperary in Nowlan Park and be knocked out of the championship.’
“That was probably one of the greatest games I was ever part of, because the atmosphere was something else. It was unlike any other match I’ve been a part of. I mean, the crowds were there four hours before the game, and you could feel it when you were on the pitch, and there was this anticipation of ‘Who’s going to play?’ as we had injuries and they had injuries.
“And the fact that we got over the line that day, and we were probably favoured to be knocked out... that is certainly one of the matches that I’ll always look back on and say was brilliant to be a part of, even though there was nothing on the line only bragging rights really, and pride.”
Kilkenny also won the 2014 encounter in a high-scoring All-Ireland final and replay.
“I couldn’t even tell you the score from the 2014 match! They were brilliant scores. I mean, the standard of hurling was huge, and the fights for just the small balls, to win these little rucks, was just enormous.
“But the quality of scores throughout the game — in any other game, we’d still be raving about them, but because there were so many, and so many moments, they can often be lost in the middle of it.”
In 2016, Tipperary broke back with a dazzling forward display. A bad day for Murphy and his fellow defenders.
“It was my first experience losing an All-Ireland and I suppose a lot of people will obviously say that the full-forward line for Tipperary scored a huge amount that day, and people afterward would have said, ‘How does that feel?’
“I think the reality is that you’ve lost the All-Ireland. I know (because) we were part of that, the full-back line, people will say, ‘Do you feel more disappointed?’ I think it’s kind of an absolute feeling, you’re disappointed you’ve lost the All-Ireland final.
“People will be curious then to see does it affect your confidence subequently. It depends on how you want to take it. You can put it down and say, ‘Look, we’ve lost the match, we can move on’. I don’t think there’s any point in dwelling on it too much.
“You commit too much time and sacrifice too much to beat yourself up after it too much. You’ve lost an All-Ireland. It’s a disappointing thing to experience but anything more than that, I think you’re over-punishing yourself and I think we’ve shown that.
“Myself and Joey Holden were there that day, Joey has had an absolutely brilliant year and has had brilliant years since then as well, even with Ballyhale as well. I think we’ve shown that you can park those performances. These Tipperary lads have lost All-Ireland finals as well. It’s just something that unfortunately when you sign up, you might experience it.
Getting on with it means new players coming on stream for the Cats. Murphy points to Brian Cody’s consistency in that regard: “As Brian always says, if you’re good enough you’ll be playing and that’s it.
“Ok, I had three championship matches before that (2011 final) and I had played bits in the league. You look at the likes of Walter Walsh, he made his debut for Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final. In fairness to the boys, it could be hollow words when people say if you’re good enough you’ll be playing but Brian has shown that consistently throughout the years, and nothing highlights that more than starting Walter in an All-Ireland final in 2012 simply because he was hurling well enough. Once you get there, prepare accordingly and that’s really it.
“There is no set format.”
There isn’t a set format for Tipp-Kilkenny games either. Is entertainment the only guarantee?
“Because if it’s a league match down in Thurles of a rainy Sunday or if it’s an All-Ireland final, for some reason both teams get up for it and just get a huge reaction and produce a brilliant match. Whatever the ingredient in, probably it’s just the rivalry and the fact that neither side can stand to lose the ground to the other because you know it can have repercussions down the line.”
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