Tactical war in battle for supremacy
A couple of weeks before last year's All-Ireland final, the Kilkenny squad went on a training weekend to Carton House in Kildare.
Over the years, the Cats have never focused much on video analysis, but that Saturday, they were shown several clips of two Tipperary players in particular -- Padraic Maher and Lar Corbett.
The Kilkenny management had come to the conclusion that that was where Tipp's real power resided. Maher had largely been the source of Tipp's attack through his long deliveries, most of which had been aimed at Corbett, who was in the form of his life, having scored 10 goals in his previous five championship matches.
The two players Kilkenny ear-marked for Maher and Corbett were Eddie Brennan and Jackie Tyrrell.
Brennan's brief was to consistently push Maher back by stopping him winning ball uncontested, which would in turn stem his ability to pick out a Tipperary forward with his long deliveries. Maher did pick out Noel McGrath for a point in the first half and he ended up making more plays (19) than any other Tipp player on the day.
Yet Brennan produced his best championship performance in two seasons. He made 11 plays and engineered the game's decisive score -- Richie Hogan's goal -- but his main contribution was in limiting Maher's overall impact.
Similar to Brennan, Tyrrell also sacrificed his own game. Although Corbett set up 1-1, he never struck the ball once with his hurley. Everywhere he turned, Tyrrell was all over him like a cheap suit.
Last weekend, the Tipp hurlers also fetched up in Carton House for a training camp. Similar to Kilkenny last year, they had plenty to study ahead of the biggest game of the campaign.
Once more, the team that can edge the tactical battle by getting the match-ups right could find themselves on the right side of the outcome.