Opinion: Brian Cody and Kilkenny to be crowned September kings

Opinion: Brian Cody and Kilkenny to be crowned September kings

All-Ireland SHC final - Kilkenny v Galway, 3.30pm, Sunday, Croke Park

Live on RTÉ and Sky Sports

By Peter McNamara

The lyrical waxing has been relentless, but there's always room for a tad more.

All-Ireland hurling final-week always puts Irish culture front and centre, arguably more than any other match, in any code.

The Gaelic football fraternity, of course, would argue against that notion.

Admittedly, it's difficult to truly choose one occasion over its Association counterpart.

However, on the one day each season that the Liam McCarthy Cup is perched in the Hogan Stand at headquarters, there is a unique feeling in the air.

Kilkenny, you know that crew, black and amber jerseys, guy by the name of Cody in charge, yeah, them.

Opinion: Brian Cody and Kilkenny to be crowned September kings

And Galway, the great Irish sporting 'conundrum' of our time (bet they're damn sick of that analogy by the way) collide at Croke Park seeking 2015's ultimate throne of superiority.

Within AC Milan's dressing room in the San Siro players had their own seats which were moulded into their upper and lower backsides.

You can't help but think Cody's torso is virtually imprinted on hurling's top seat in a similar fashion on Jones' Road.

After all, only the groundsman spends more time at Croker than the James Stephens' clubman!

That is what Anthony Cunningham and Galway are up against again on Sunday.

Opinion: Brian Cody and Kilkenny to be crowned September kings

The Tribesmen's task is to dethrone King Cody by demolishing his henchmen.

In contrast to previous campaigns, it does seem as if this particular group from the west is mentally tougher than some of their predecessors since 1988, the last time, of course, that Galway were crowned September royalty.

Yet, until they actually storm the likes of Kilkenny's castle and capture that elusive prize doubts will surround the maroon and white.

Nevertheless, with excellent attackers such as Cathal Mannion and Jason Flynn providing a fresh and courageous approach to supplementing Joe Canning Galway have progressed offensively.

Yet, their full-back line has been found wanting up until now.

And even though Iarla Tannion is a warrior at centre-back, Richie Hogan's dynamism could keep the former on the back-foot.

Or at least that's the general consensus.

However, Cunningham will surely appreciate Hogan needs man-marking and that Tannion ain't no man-marker?

Opinion: Brian Cody and Kilkenny to be crowned September kings

Hogan is the current GAA/GPA Hurler of the Year.

He has hit 1-14 in open play in Kilkenny's three-game Championship sequence this summer but there was a hint against Waterford in the All-Ireland semi-final that there's much more in the locker.

In fact, given he was far from 100% on that occasion and has yet to really fire the All-Ireland final might be his to run as he pleases, within reason of course.

Also, Walter Walsh is another man capable of lighting up this decider.

Walsh is not having his most efficient Championship as a Kilkenny forward.

In three outings in this campaign the physically imposing character has managed just 0-2, both scored, interestingly, in the Leinster final against Galway.

Inspiring statistics? Not quite.

All the same, given how woeful the Tribesmen were under the high ball in around Colm Callanan's goal in the All-Ireland semi-final, there is a theory Cody could move Walsh in to the full-forward role.

And if he does, instead of being on the periphery of the wing, Walsh could hurt Galway.

Opinion: Brian Cody and Kilkenny to be crowned September kings

Everybody saw, and as was illustrated pre-match here, with Séamus Callanan that Cunningham’s defence is vulnerable under aerial bombardment.

Cody is notorious for playing on the weaknesses of Kilkenny’s opponents and who better than Walsh to torment Galway a la Callanan?

His form, thus far, has been subdued. However, everybody witnessed how, as to be fair to Cunningham et al – an unknown quantity, Walsh produced a man of the match performance in the All-Ireland final replay of 2012.

The towering attacker hit 1-3 in open play and the RTÉ Sunday Game panel deemed him MVP.

It could happen again on Sunday.

Alongside Hogan and Walter Walsh, there is possibly more to come from Eoin Larkin and Colin Fennelly too.

The Ballyhale Shamrocks operator is a supreme talent but can frustrate at times by drifting so far from goal to put in the hard yards.

Is it possible Colin Fennelly will be the one on the wing and Walter Walsh inside instead?

In terms of Galway, Andy Smith has been a revelation this summer and if the Portumna clubman can exert his influence again in the middle-third opportunities and openings will be created for those ahead of him.

Regardless, Kilkenny's overall experience, age profile and class should see them retain their place in the hurling hierarchy.

Opinion: Brian Cody and Kilkenny to be crowned September kings

And King Cody can climb back onto that famous throne.

Key men: Richie Hogan/Walter Walsh

Verdict: Kilkenny

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