Fans predict classic clash as Tipp and Cats resume rivalry
Excitement as supporters get behind teams for hurling final
It is nothing short of hurling's clash of the titans.
In the battle for hurling's bragging rights, the rivalry between Munster and Leinster neighbours, Tipperary and Kilkenny, is absolutely ferocious.
From Thurles to Tullaroan and from Callan to Carrick-on-Suir, fans are bracing themselves not only for a Croke Park classic but for a painful 12 months ahead for whoever loses.
The Premier County proudly claims to be the true 'home of hurling' - while the Cats currently top the roll of honour with 36 All-Ireland titles.
Tipperary and Kilkenny will now face each other for the sixth time in the past 11 years for the Liam MacCarthy Cup - with 27 previous championship meetings in total.
It is a rivalry that dates back to 1895 when Tipperary and Kilkenny met for the first time in an All-Ireland decider - the Premier County emerging triumphant that day on a 6-8 to 1-0 scoreline.
Ray Brophy, who operates Matt the Millers bar in Kilkenny, said hurling isn't so much a passion on the banks of the River Nore as an overwhelming obsession.
"It is all anyone has been talking about," he said.
"There was a mad scramble for tickets. And for those who didn't get tickets, the entire city will come to a standstill for the match."
He takes enormous pride in Kilkenny's proud hurling history, now celebrated in the city centre with a special statue.
"Before the Liam MacCarthy Cup came into being in the 1920s, the winning captain was given a special hurley. It was sometimes engraved with silver. I have that hurley from the 1907 final. I also have the sliothar from the match," he said.
He even has a replica of the Liam MacCarthy Cup in Waterford Crystal.
"We will have the real silver one back in Kilkenny on Monday. I even have a five-metre tall inflatable cat on the pub roof," he added. The cat - painted proudly in black and amber - was bought by Mr Brophy 14 years ago and has a hurley grasped in its paw.
However, just across the border in Tipperary, Premier fans are determined to put manners on their proud neighbours.
Tipperary fans like to remind everyone that it was the blue and gold who won the first hurling crown in 1887 - 17 years before Kilkenny took their first title in 1904.
"Tipp owe Kilkenny one," Pat Doyle, from Thurles, said.
"They's beaten us three of the last four times. So we need to even the score up a little bit."
Tipp superfan James 'Sid' Ryan said he was confident manager Liam Sheedy's nous will give the Premier County the edge over their old rivals tomorrow.
"This is our year - we are going to beat the Cats. We stopped the drive for five with Kilkenny so we have no fear of them," he said.
"We can beat Kilkenny any day we play them - we are good enough. Look at our forward line - it is the best in the country. If they are on song, no one can stop them," he said.
Mullinahone, Thurles, Fethard and Boherlahan are famed for their blue-and-gold displays and homage to Tipp greats. But Carrick-on-Suir has outdone itself this year - though some have taken a slightly diplomatic approach to decorations in the border town.
Butler's Florists received plaudits for its All-Ireland window display but opted for a combined Tipperary and Kilkenny theme. Helen and Sean Dwyer went for a Tipp theme in decorating their home and predicting their 28th All-Ireland title tomorrow.
Tipp fans also rallied to the cause with an open Premier training session at Semple Stadium last week attracting a remarkable 7,000 supporters.
There will also be divided loyalties tomorrow as Shane Purcell, from Kilkenny, proudly celebrated his Naval Service passing out ceremony yesterday - but his father, Dave, hails from Tipperary.