Premier men will need to find more to end Cats' jinx
Published 15/08/2016 | 02:30
Starting out in the depths of winter you'd have said Tipperary and Kilkenny were the top two teams in the country and even if it's been a matter of inches to get to the final on both counts, the cream has risen to the top again.
Tipp slugged it out with Galway in yet another classic, which really could have gone either way. It was Galway's turn last year and the Premier men's this year after a ding-dong battle.
It was so hard to pick a winner, but ultimately two goals in three minutes and John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer weaving his magic with an outrageous goal from the end-line eventually sealed the deal in dramatic circumstances.
Tipp were just that little bit cuter and even though their forwards were being hustled all day long, when they created those two big chances they made them count. If those goals hadn't come they wouldn't have won, and they didn't look like coming for a long time.
Galway had them well snookered up front; they were horsing them out of it, so there's plenty of room for improvement. They weren't let hurl to their potential and it's the best training session of all for them.
Much like playing Limerick with 14 men for most of the Munster semi-final, they were forced to adapt and dig deep. For them, it's as good to win by one as 10 and they're going to get the same off Kilkenny, where there'll be no quarter asked or given.
After winning the Munster final so easily you wouldn't have known what way to read them, but this will have them ripe for the All-Ireland decider. And in 'Bubbles' and Jason Forde, they had two outstanding subs to bring on.
It'll be interesting to see who starts the next day because No.1 to No.9 is settled, whereas in attack there will probably be some tweaking. Dan McCormack could be the one to lose out as they need scorers on the pitch.
They secured their passage to the decider despite the best efforts of David Burke, who covered every blade of grass and didn't deserve to finish on the losing side, likewise for his namesake Dáithí who was immense in defence.
Conor Cooney, Joseph Cooney and Jason Flynn were all on song in attack and Galway will feel they left it behind. They responded well to the colossal loss of Joe Canning on the stroke of half-time, but that was a real game-breaker.
He'd be a big leader on that team and even young Adrian Tuohy going off made a massive difference because they had to rejig the defence and move Johnny Coen back, even though he was flying at midfield.
This is a young team which Micheál Donoghue has built and despite coming in under unusual circumstances, by God they fought till the bitter end for him, for each other and for that jersey. They died with their boots on.
They could still have won it. Tipp weren't let flow and they would have expected to dominate and win with a bit in hand, but it's probably what they needed before facing the Cats.
Being hardened and getting a tight game before entering the Kilkenny cauldron is essential. It's small margins that decide whether you win or lose and last year Tipp's eyes may have been distracted going into the same fixture.
They had their minds on Kilkenny, whereas this year they've focused wholly on each game as it came. If they hadn't had that approach they would have been pipped yesterday and Michael Ryan has shaped a steelier side this year.
There's an edge to them that we haven't seen in a while and I know their dream is to beat Kilkenny in a final - the Cats have caused the bulk of this side untold heartbreak, pre and post their last big win in 2010.
Who'd have thought six years later they wouldn't have got their hands on the Liam MacCarthy again and it's really been a Kilkenny thorn in their side.
However, they'll feel they're coming good at the right time to scalp the Cats. You could say they're due one, but at the same time, the longer it goes on the harder it gets. There's a lot of lads there that haven't beaten Kilkenny and it's going to be one hell of a war. They've no God-given right to win it.
Michael Fennelly is going to be a terrible loss to Kilkenny, he was actually only getting going on Saturday night and Tipp might smell blood. They're itching for this since Hawk-Eye intervened to deny them two years ago.
New players like Seamus Kennedy, Ronan Maher, Michael Breen and John McGrath could make all the difference and they're definitely a stronger side than 12 months ago. It's going to be a cracker of a final, Tipp craved this and now must deliver.
It'll be a shoot-out again, no sweepers in sight and manly stuff, but there's momentum with Tipp and they'll feel they can finally get back to the promised land.