Brendan Cummins believes Kilkenny are operating in ‘survival mode’ until they reach Croke Park, at which point they’ll turn on their ‘attack’ status.
But the veteran Tipperary goalkeeper and all-time Championship record appearance holder has bullishly predicted that even if the Cats do belatedly cut loose, it’s still Dublin’s title to lose.
Cummins was part of the Tipp side beaten by Kilkenny in a memorable All-Ireland qualifier tie earlier this month.
He revealed his admiration for how Kilkenny ground out that win and then dug deep again to overcome Waterford the following weekend, securing Sunday’s quarter-final clash with Cork.
Despite lacking top form and being injury-hit, Kilkenny’s very presence in the Championship means they remain favourites for the title.
In fact, many believe that the eventual champions could come from this weekend’s quarter-final ties, with Galway also in action and expected to deliver a surge in form after a shaky summer start.
Cummins admitted there are cases to be made for all the teams still standing.
But he whetted the appetite by suggesting he can see a Limerick/Dublin decider coming to pass with Dublin — ‘athletes with hurleys’ — best placed to prevail.
“I think if Dublin can get the six week lay-off out of the way, I think they can do it, absolutely,” said Cummins.
“The energy and the ball winners they have are just scary. They’re athletes with hurleys and they have skill levels that have grown with every match. The six-week lay-off is going to be the question. But I think with Anthony Daly’s know-how, they’ll be okay. They’ve gone down this road before and they’re used to Croke Park.
“They played us there in the 2011 semi-final and they’ll have learned a lot and grown a lot from then. Don’t be surprised if they pull it off because they’re a serious team.”
Back at the tail-end of the Allianz League, many interpreted Dublin’s semi-final loss to Cummins’ Tipp as a sign that they would struggle against the top teams.
“Don’t mind what we did in the League semi-final,” dismissed Cummins. “Dublin had a training camp the weekend before and they had it fairly hot and heavy for three days. They were leggy coming into that game. You could see it in the way they played. There was no sharpness to them. Anthony Daly has turned it around now, the old dog for the hard road, the Championship is where it counts for him.
“They came in under the radar, maybe like Limerick did against us, where no-one is giving you a hope. So you have that anger in you and you just produce.”
Cummins was quick to point out he believes Limerick are strong contenders too.
“They learned from 2012, there’s no doubt about that,” he said of John Allen’s side. “I mean, they’re holding players back now to come on. That shows how good John Allen has the group bedded in together. Normally, a player that is left out is sulking or crying or ringing the manager the following day to say, ‘Why wasn’t I playing?’ But these Limerick boys know where they fit into the jigsaw and they are prepared to give to the group, no matter whether they’re playing or not. That’s the trademark of a great manager. John Allen is using them at the right time. If you think about it, 12 months ago, when we played Limerick, we beat them with our bench — 12 months later, they learned from that and they beat us with their bench.”
As for Kilkenny, who are hot tips to secure a golden ticket to Croke Park at Cork’s expense this weekend, Cummins knows better than to write the Cats off too.
“They’re surviving at the moment,” he noted. “I think they want to get back into Croke Park and when they do, they’ll move out of survival mode into attack mode.
“I think Brian Cody always talks about the hunger when the final whistle blows and I think that’s what they’re chasing all the time. That’s driving them, I would say.
“Whenever they’re losing, they click back to that feeling of what it’s like when the game is over and they just seem to find something from somewhere. Sure look, they’re the bench mark and they continue to be. Everyone thought after the Dublin game that they were finished. But roll on to Nowlan Park and they ground it out against us, then they ground it out against Waterford. So they can win dirty as well and that counts for a lot.”
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