The difference between Cork and Kilkenny?
Ask Donal Collins, who hurled at the top level in both counties: having collected All-Ireland club medals with Blackrock, a spell working in Kilkenny saw him throw his lot in with James Stephens.
“We had a lot of dealings with James Stephens as a club in Blackrock, because we’d have played in the fundraising tournaments they ran in Kilkenny during the seventies.
“You’d have the likes of Buffers Alley, the Fenians from Johnstown, Bennetsbridge, clubs from Cork, all playing in it. One year Blackrock and Glen Rovers played in the final.
“The tournament was sponsored by Smithwicks, and after one final there was a night in the brewery - a couple of lads from one of the Cork clubs were a few days getting back after that.”
On the field of play Collins found there were subtle differences.
“At the time Kilkenny club hurling was focused on catching the ball to an extent you didn’t find in club hurling in Cork, where only the likes of Denis Coughlan and Ray Cummins were really catching the ball.
“But in Kilkenny they were going up for the ball with the hand all the time, and it was a time when your hand was fair game all the time if you didn't protect it.
“Now if a player puts his hand up and an opponent pulls it’s a free, but it was different then.
“I also thought the hurling in Cork that time was a little faster and crisper, the ball travelling, but it was more physical in Kilkenny.”
Not surprising in the context, he adds.
“Much of Kilkenny was a rural community at the time. A lot of farmers were involved in teams, players who were very physically strong from farm work. I remember playing Muckalee that time with James Stephens and they were massive men, hitting hard.
“That was a bit of a change - in Cork I thought the ball moved that bit faster in comparison.”
The training field could provide a culture shock as well: “The training was pretty similar to what we were doing in Cork at the time, but one thing I noticed was that when all the players on the field would come together for the match at the end of the training session, they’d just throw their hurleys into a heap.
“They’d pick hurleys out at random then to make up the two teams for the game. When I did that after coming back to Blackrock it didn’t go down too well, but it worked very well for James Stephens.”
Collins remembers the shadow cast by hurling within the county.
“Everything was hurling. If you walked down the street in Kilkenny every person would talk to you about it, if you played golf the first thing someone would talk about - after the golf - was hurling.
“In Cork that’d be a rarity. The odd person might talk about hurling to you, but not everyone, certainly.”
He pays tribute to his old teammate’s management skills with the Kilkenny senior side: “In fairness to Brian Cody, he makes sure they’re up for the battle every time they go out. Their commitment, their spirit, that’s never in doubt, and they always perform.
“That wasn’t always the way, even in Kilkenny. I can remember them getting hammered in the Leinster final in 1976 when they were going for three in a row, but not Cody’s teams. That spirit is a given.
“I was in Kilkenny recently myself and got the impression that they wanted to get Cork this weekend, that they feel they have the upper hand on Cork.
“They’ll be hard opposition for Cork to overcome this weekend, but I’d be quietly optimistic. If they can cut out silly errors, Cork have options on the bench and they have speed.”