'Fennelly takes great confidence from knowing that nobody can compete physically with him'
THE big factor is Michael Fennelly. In training over the last two weeks, he has been performing at a different level to everyone else.
He is raring for road after missing the Leinster campaign through injury and he really shook the rust off his system in the second half against Limerick with 11 big plays.
He is an extra defender and extra attacker rolled into one.
He also takes great confidence from the knowledge that nobody can physically compete with him.
It was also no surprise that both times Kilkenny lost big matches in the last two years -- the 2011 league final and this year's Leinster final -- that Fennelly was injured.
Against Tipperary in the last two seasons, Michael Rice has made more plays than any other Kilkenny player. That stat is further enhanced given that he only came on as a sub in the 2010 final.
He is one of Kilkenny's most underrated players, but they may need him in the half-forward line on Sunday to try and tie down Padraic Maher. If they do, Cillian Buckley will come in at midfield.
The sheer physicality of Fennelly will facilitate that transition because it was even evident in the inter-provincial semi-final in February how Shane McGrath struggled to cope with his power.
In the Munster championship, McGrath rediscovered some of the form he had lost over the previous year, while Brendan Maher is still seeking the great form he showed back in 2010, when he was the best player in the country.
Kilkenny will bank on winning this battle, because losing it in the Leinster final showed how much it affected their twin ability to set up with a zonal defence and build a platform for their own attacks.
Kilkenny -- 9
Tipperary -- 8