KILKENNY will be without pivotal forward Richie Power and Walter Walsh for tomorrow's mouth-watering Allianz Hurling League Division 1 final against Tipperary, which is already close to a sell-out.
Power, who reportedly fainted after completing a club game last weekend, is out with damaged ribs, and the Cats will also be without the towering Walsh.
He had to go off with a head wound during their semi-final defeat of Galway, and still returned to the match after getting stitches, but it is an elbow injury that is keeping him out – which he reportedly also picked up in their semi-final.
One consolation is that Michael Fennelly is back to start and Cillian Buckley, who proved his fitness off the bench last time out, is also back in.
Fennelly returns to partner Lester Ryan in midfield, Michael Rice (right) moves forward to replace Power at No 11 and Buckley replaces Walsh at right-half-forward in an otherwise unchanged team.
Kilkenny will also be without their inspirational manager Brian Cody, who is recovering from recent heart surgery but, even in his unprecedented absence, they cruised through their semi-final by seven points to set up this hugely anticipated rematch with Tipperary.
The GAA's decision to fix a league final for Nowlan Park for the first time since 1966 has already paid off.
The capacity has been capped at 23,000, with both main stands already fully booked out, and the new Ardan O Cearbhaill – behind the Country End goal – is moving fast, too.
Local officials reckon that only terrace tickets will be available tomorrow in what is a rematch of the 2009 league final. That game started the ball rolling on what has turned out to be a great rivalry.
As reigning league and All-Ireland champions, Kilkenny will be particularly anxious to lay down a marker to a resurgent Tipperary ahead of the championship.
KILKENNY (SH v Tipperary) - E Murphy; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Hogan, K Joyce; L Ryan, M Fennelly; C Buckley, M Rice, E Larkin; C Fennelly, R Hogan, A Fogarty.