Michael Moynihan looks at the old and new factors in today’s meeting of these storied rivals...
1. The pairing
This is a double act which has been durable for many years, though whether the familiarity is tipping into something less enjoyable for those outside the two counties is dealt with below. Certainly the levels of hysteria about Cork-Clare three years ago were partly driven by the sheer novelty of the participants. Proof? This from Enda McEvoy here earlier in the week: “This will be the sixth September encounter of Kilkenny and Tipperary since 2009. They’ve met in three National League finals in the same period of time. There was a July championship encounter and an August championship encounter in there too.”
2. The officiating
In a parallel track with the line-up, you have the decisions. Going back to 2009 (Tipperary unhappiness with Diarmuid Kirwan’s penalty award) and to 2014 (Kilkenny unhappiness with Barry Kelly awarding a late free), this has become, if not a poisoned chalice, a huge challenge to the men in black, or off-green, or whatever the uniform is.
Expect a huge focus on referee Brian Gavin this weekend or more accurately, tonight and Monday morning. You may have noticed some shots fired across his bow just a couple of days ago from Knocknagow about fairness. This is a growing trend in Gaelic games; Just ask David Gough.
3. The apathy
This was neatly summed up on social media during the week by the tweeter who remarked with a straight face that the hype for this game was curiously muted compared to the previous four finals between the team . . . when Mick O’Dwyer’s Kerry team were running amok they had an enjoyable spread of significant opponents - Cork, Dublin, Roscommon, Offaly, Tyrone - over ten or twelve years. Tipp and Kilkenny have lost their lustre: the fact that you could buy tickets this week is proof of that. As a friend of this writer pointed out, it was easy to get a Davin Stand ticket for Sunday afternoon than it was to find a ticket for Squeeze on Saturday night. Another nail in my heart, anyone?
4. Michael Ryan
The temptation is to fold the Tipp manager into the ‘old’ category, given his long service on the sideline with both Liam Sheedy and Eamon O’Shea in times past. However, this is his first season as commandant rather than adjutant. Significant? Tipperary have not lost a game yet and, more importantly, have come out on the right side of a tight championship games. This is all the more notable because of the sense of lessons learned: Tipperary lost some tight league games earlier in the year, most notably to a last-gasp long-distance free against Waterford, but in the high summer they were able to close out that All-Ireland semi-final last month. An omen for today?
Don’t miss the Irish Examiner GAA Podcast. Daithi Regan, Tadhg O’Connor, Eddie Keher, Eamonn Murphy and PM O’Sullivan join Peter McNamara to discuss the Kilkenny v Tipperary All-Ireland hurling final.
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