| 1.1°C Dublin

Sheedy's Tipperary can break free from Cats' stranglehold

PITY the NHL never got the send off it craved last Saturday night in Semple Stadium but given the torrent of snowfall which materialised an hour or so before the scheduled throw in, it was surely for the best that Barry Kelly deemed the pitch unplayable.

Unfortunately, tonight's rescheduled duel could yet be stalled by the weather.

With a record of zero wins from three meetings with Kilkenny last year, Tipp need to beat their neighbours just to get concrete evidence that, as so many people are predicting, they can topple the Cats this year. Conversely, a defeat tonight could have a negative effect on their collective mindset - even at this raw stage in the year.

For that very reason perhaps, Brian Cody paid the Walsh Cup and Shield little heed, fielding sides baring barely a recognisable name and going out to Offaly and Laois respectively. The big names were kept under wraps and it's notable that despite the absence of his Ballyhale contingent, Cody has still been able to name nine of last year's All-Ireland final starting 15 for tonight.

Tommy Walsh, Jackie Tyrrell and JJ Delaney make up a powerful half-back line while the positioning of All-Star midfielder Michael Rice at centre-forward is a move which has been expected.

However, there is plenty of intent in Liam Sheedy's team selection too. Eoin Kelly plays, despite his ongoing troubles with a delicate back injury and is expected to sit out the next two games, at least. Along with Noel McGrath and Micheál Webster, Tipp possess a potent inside forward line and if they click early, the Premier men should get the win they crave.

TIPPERARY: B Cummins; C O'Brien, P Curran, B Maher; D Fanning, P Maher, S Maher; B Dunne, S McGrath; S Hennessy , S Callanan, H Maloney; E Kelly, M Webster, N McGrath.

KILKENNY: PJ Ryan; C Hickey, B Hogan, J Dalton; T Walsh, J Tyrrell, JJ Delaney; W Dwyer, PJ Delaney; R Hogan, M Rice, A Fogarty; M Grace, M Comerford, R Power.

ODDS: Tipperary 11/10, Draw 10/1, Kilkenny 5/6

VERDICT: Tipperary