Tipperary v Kilkenny: The faint hearted need not apply

Tipperary v Kilkenny: The faint hearted need not apply

The faint-hearted need not apply for a place on the field at Croke Park on August 18.

Quite frankly, only the most dogged of souls will survive. And even then, the bodies will be sore for days afterwards, you would imagine.

Not that the winners will notice during their celebrations, however. Unless, of course, there is no winner on August 18.

Another draw in an All-Ireland SHC final is a live possibility as there should be so little between Tipp and Kilkenny, in-play, on the day.

And the scoring averages of the teams indicate it should be no surprise whatsoever if the game ends level – Tipp have averaged 26.7 per game while Kilkenny have posted an average of 27.

Interestingly, though, Brian Cody might well have a target score for his players to aim above, without, obviously, putting a ceiling on their flag-chasing ambitions.

In Tipp’s last two championship encounters including the All-Ireland quarter-final and All-Ireland semi-final, the Premier have registered 2-25 and 1-28 respectively.

Now, that could just be coincidence. Additionally, you have to take into account that maybe Liam Sheedy’s men were not going full tilt in the closing quarter against Laois and were a man down from the 45th minute last Sunday following John McGrath’s dismissal.

Yet, it does illustrate that Kilkenny may have to score a total of at least 31 points if the match is high-scoring and not attritional.

These counties have shown in the recent past that they can mix manic intensity with an ability to create a massive number of scoring opportunities and so, despite the savagery expected in the final, it may not detract from their respective capacities to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

This latest Sheedy versus Cody encounter could be another epic clash. The collisions should be ferocious and the middle-third, once again, will be the area with the most traffic problems for the players.

Even though there are a few weeks to go before the day itself and, of course, thought-processes can change, there is a slight leaning towards the Premier as being the team to emerge from the wreckage with the silverware.

At the start of the year, Cork and Tipp were the two taken against the field as the mostly likely All-Ireland champions. Kilkenny, though, were also flagged up, in the very same column, in fact, as the other outfit that it would be foolish to dismiss. Shouts such as those should not fall into the ‘hipster’ line of thinking. Yet, it was almost considered eye-popping in some quarters to side with the traditional powerhouses of the code as the ones to fight out the finish this year.

Tipperary v Kilkenny: The faint hearted need not apply

However, here we are, with the Premier and the Cats being the teams due to line-up before President Higgins on the biggest day of all.

Of those three counties, I was most convinced of Cork’s chances of ultimate success since the beginning of the year. But Tipp were a close second and that was primarily due to Sheedy’s return.

The Sheedy factor cannot be underestimated. He is just an amazing man-manager. He treats every player on the panel as if they are the most important man in the squad and they all respond to his style.

Additionally, and this is vital, Sheedy surrounds himself with great minds, particularly, of course, Eamon O’Shea.

And with O’Shea in the fold it is no shock that Seamus Callanan has managed to score a goal in every championship game this summer and 7-16 overall.

Callanan scored his 34th championship goal last Sunday and is in the mix for the Hurler of the Year award with TJ Reid and Noel McGrath, you would now think.

Reid is odds-on favourite currently. However, if Tipp do win the decider, Callanan might shade the vote, especially if he makes another significant contribution in the final.

Another man which is surely going to get an All-Star this year is Jason Forde.

It sort of went under the radar given how brilliant the match was, but the corner-forward did strike 0-12 in an All-Ireland semi-final including two sweet scores in open play and two converted 65s.

Furthermore, he was back defending and putting in blocks to help his team out even more in the first-half and were it not for Noel McGrath’s clever performance in midfield, Forde might well have been selected as man of the match.

Tipp, collectively, displayed guts in the wake of John McGrath’s sending off. And afterwards, Noel McGrath’s comments were revealing in that the players were aware of their heart being questioned in the past.

Tipperary v Kilkenny: The faint hearted need not apply

"I don't really have words to describe what has gone on for that 70 to 75 minutes,” Noel McGrath said. “We had our backs to the wall for a lot of that second half after going down to 14 men.

We were questioned beforehand about what we can and can't do. I'll tell you anyone that was looking for answers got them today.

"Look, this is why we train, this is why we play. That was some occasion. To come out on the right side was even better.

"We'll regroup, we'll refresh, relax tonight and enjoy ourselves.

"We'll get up tomorrow morning and think about what's going to come in three weeks."

They will need all their courage against Kilkenny as well.

And if they bring such fire again, Tipp might shade a potential classic at headquarters.

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