IT IS time for Tipperary to stand up and be counted. There can be no excuses now, with Eamon O'Shea in charge. He is the man that all of the players wanted, as Lar Corbett revealed in his book last year.
The fluent movement and interchanging in attack is reminiscent of 2010 when O'Shea was coach and Tipp stormed to All-Ireland glory.
They are my favourites to reclaim the Liam MacCarthy Cup this year and I believe they will take a big step forward by beating Kilkenny at Nowlan Park in Sunday's Allianz League Division 1 final.
Toughness is a massive tradition with Tipperary defenders and their two corner-backs, Paddy Stapleton and Michael Cahill, are back to their tigerish best. Emergency plans are in place at full-back, where Conor O'Mahony played against Dublin and would you get a better midfield pairing than Noel and Shane McGrath? Brendan Maher can play there, too, or at wing-back.
Tipp's ability to spray a heavy supply of direct ball into their forwards is one of the many reasons why I am leaning towards them this year.
And they have huge motivation travelling to Kilkenny. They will want to win after last year's heavy All-Ireland semi-final defeat – not only for themselves, but also for their supporters.
They came in for a lot of stick last season and, while a couple of Tipp players have spoken about how unjustified that was, much of it was deserved. Supporters can be over the top at times, but when you lose an All-Ireland semi-final by 18 points, you have to expect a backlash.
It does appear, however, that the Tipperary public are getting behind their team again. And a victory at Nowlan Park would go a long way towards getting them back on board full-time. What a statement that would be – beating Kilkenny, in a national final, in their own backyard.
There have been times this year when it looked like Kilkenny would be opened up, but that hasn't happened yet. And they seem to thrive on people questioning their pace at the back.
The Cats' machine trundles on and I have been really impressed by Eoin Murphy in goals. He has all but secured a championship place for himself and, while Lester Ryan has had to wait until 24 years of age to get a sniff of a chance, he has taken it and has been really impressive at midfield.
The big question is whether Kilkenny will go man-marking Tipperary, a move that really benefited them in the 2011 All-Ireland final.
I have a hunch that they won't – I think they'll trot into their positions and take it from there.
We won't see Jackie Tyrrell up against Corbett again, because taking Brian Hogan out of centre-back would cause too much disruption to Kilkenny's defence.
The only way you can take Hogan out of centre-back is putting him at full-back, which means JJ Delaney is moved elsewhere. That would be too much of a domino effect.
Brian Cody will be absent again from the touchline, it seems. But, as Richie Hogan stressed after the Galway match, it is business as usual.
No matter who is unavailable, be they players or even the team manager, they just get on with it.
Behind the scenes, Cody will set out his stall and deliver his instructions to Martin Fogarty and Mick Dempsey.
From a neutral's point of view, I would have to admit that I would miss his presence on the line. It doesn't quite seem the same when Cody's not around.
Nowlan Park could suit Kilkenny, too. It is a tighter pitch compared with Semple Stadium or Croke Park.
With space at a premium, this is where Tipp need their midfield pairing to step up. If they win this area, they will go an awful long way towards winning the game.
For Tipp – who remain a work in progress – this is all about performance. Even if they come out of this with a one- or two-point defeat, they will say to themselves in the back of their minds that they can take Kilkenny later in the year.
If the champions want to win another All-Ireland, I firmly believe they will need Henry Shefflin. They have won the league before without him, but, when push comes to shove, they will need his influence and experience to get over the line. Nine-time All-Ireland medallists and 10-time All Stars are irreplaceable.
Let us hope that Henry makes it back this summer, but, for now, the early bragging rights look set for Tipperary. They will win next Sunday, with two or three points to spare. And I am expecting them to push on after that by capturing Liam MacCarthy this September.
I've done some crazy things in my time and picked up red cards along the way, but biting an opponent never entered my mind. I just don't understand what made Luis Suarez do it.
The mind can be a terrible thing. I know from my own experience how the red mist can descend in a flash. A couple of hours later, you're thinking to yourself, why did I do that?
But, no matter how much you try to analyse the situation, there can be no condoning what he did. And, remember, it wasn't the first time he's been in trouble. Suarez is a volatile player, who seems to court controversy. He's certainly not a Messi, the type of player who just goes out and plays.
Suarez's reputation did him no favours either, but the FA have been hypocritical by giving him a 10-game ban. John Terry got four games for racism, Suarez eight.
In 2006, Jermain Defoe bit Javier Mascherano in a Premier League game and his punishment was a yellow card.
It's a bit like Kerry's Paul Galvin – your reputation precedes you. The cameras are trained on the player who is expected to snap, but what's rarely seen are the numerous nasty incidents perpetrated on these players – who are then hung out to dry when they snap.
I was blown away by Micheál ó Muircheartaigh and Aidan O'Brien when I was asked to attend a fundraiser for the Nagle Centre last week.
ó Muircheartaigh conducted a superb interview with the legendary horse trainer. I'll look back on this in 10 or 20 years' time and remember that I was there that night.
Micheál is 83 this year, but still retains a phenomenal energy. His career has spanned generations and I don't think we'll ever see his likes again. He's moved with the times and the way the Kerryman interviewed O'Brien was on a par with any of the top broadcasters around the world.
It was great to get an insight into what the Ballydoyle supremo is all about and what makes him tick. He's up at 5.0 every morning and doesn't knock off until late evening time or sometimes into the night.
I had a short conversation with the man afterwards and he's such a humble individual. I like horse racing and we discovered that we had some mutual friends. An unforgettable evening and one of those rare occasions when legend interviews legend.