Jackie Cahill. 

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How will Tipperary set up against Kilkenny?

Tipperary must play on the front foot on Sunday, while at all times maintaining a strict defensive system, suggests Jackie Cahill

How will Tipperary set up against Kilkenny?

It’s a difficult marry but possible with the artillery at the Premier County’s disposal.

Tipp have proven in recent years, most notably in 2010, that they can stand toe-to-toe with the Cats in the physical stakes and so it’s time to let their hurling do the talking.

Let Kilkenny worry about Tipperary, rather than vice versa.

The key defensively is to keep it simple and not allow full-back James Barry and centre back Brendan Maher get dragged out of position.

That may require one of Tipp’s midfielders to sit a little deeper in the pocket to provide extra protection but the use of Cork’s Daniel Kearney in a similar role backfired on the Rebels in the semi-final.

Dropping Kearney back to play in a more defensive way took something from Cork’s game and Aidan Walsh was isolated in midfield, with Tipp midfield pair Shane McGrath and James Woodlock picking off six points from play between them.

It’s unlikely that this will happen against Kilkenny but manager Eamon O’Shea’s coaching philosophy is to trust the individual and collective ability of his players.

Throughout the Allianz League, they conceded plenty of goals but deploying Brendan Maher in a ‘sweeper’ roll helped stop the rot.

But Tipp’s march through the back door has seen them open up in attack, with the clever, flashy movement patterns reminiscent of 2010, when O’Shea was coach, visible once more.

Tipp are at their best when taking the game to the opposition.

Winning primary possession around the middle third of the field, and particularly in the half-forward line, has been an issue and while goalkeeper Darren Gleeson will look to hit his half backs and midfielders with short puckouts, the space that was there against Cork is unlikely to appear again.

Tipp’s half-forward line need to compete aggressively in the air with Kilkenny and four years ago, this was an aspect of their play when they matched, and overtook, the Cats.

Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher is a renowned ballwinner and while Gearóid Ryan hasn’t been hitting big totals, much of his best work goes unnoticed.

Noel McGrath, too, can play a big role, drifting between the half and full lines to good effect. He’s capable of catching ball too and in the Allianz League final, he scored 0-5.

In the All-Ireland semi-final, Limerick manager TJ Ryan opted to play with his back six in place against Kilkenny. O’Shea won’t be overly concerned with match-ups. It’s more a case of his defenders being ready for the opponent that wanders into his patch.

If the Kilkenny forwards roam to other positions, let them go because O’Shea likes his players to be adaptable to not only any position, but any opponent.

Don’t concede an early goal will be one of the key messages and in 2010, O’Shea targeted Kilkenny’s wing-back pillars at the time, Tommy Walsh and JJ Delaney. Keep at them and they will crumble, he told his Tipperary players before throw-in.

Walsh is on the bench on Sunday and Delaney at full-back but Kilkenny have not only Delaney, but also Brian Hogan and Jackie Tyrrell the wrong side of 30 in their back six. Fast ball, direct and early, could be the key for Tipp’s quick forwards to profit.

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