Three counties, one goal: What the experts think
It was a great achievement for Waterford to win the Munster championship I think that even their fans didn't expect that at the start of the year. But Tipperary's need to get back into the final might be greater. I can't say with any great deal of certainty -- it could be either -- but if push came to shove, I'd go for Tipperary.
It will be close, I can't see it being a high-scoring match because Waterford's tactics will probably dictate the game and they will try to limit the amount of space and time the Tipperary forwards have on the ball. I think Tipperary have been unconvincing so far. Against Galway they made a lot of fundamental errors. I would say no less than three points will separate the teams and I'd have a sneaky suspicion for Waterford.
It's hard to call. Tipperary haven't produced anything like the form they were in this time last year; however, they have certainly got things together after rumours of discontent in the camp earlier in the season. Waterford have some of the finest hurlers in Ireland; Tipperary appear to be the more balanced outfit. But I think Waterford will shade it.
Waterford have always been a bogey team for Tipperary and this year I think they will prove to be just as tough. Waterford beat them in 2008 at the same stage but they learned from what happened. This bunch of lads are committed and they have gone hard at it in training all season. This is their year.
If Waterford play like they did in the Munster final, they are in with a big shout but I suppose I would have a slight preference for Tipperary just based on the fact that they are coming into form at the right time. They are now at full strength and their forwards might be that little bit stronger overall.
I honestly think that Waterford would make a better fist of it if they get into the final. There were a lot of questions after last year's game with the refereeing and Benny Dunne getting sent off. I think Kilkenny could be out to savage Tipperary if they got the chance. But I don't think either of them will stop them this year.
Kilkenny have kicked on from last year and while Waterford have kicked on too, Kilkenny have too much strength around the field. Too many things need to go wrong for them and everything needs to go right for whoever plays them in the final. They are the closest thing ever to the perfect unit and they can't be stopped.
This year had the end of Kilkenny's dominance written all over it just before the start of the championship. Poor league form and a definite rise to power among the more traditional title contenders made it seem like a change was on the cards. But Kilkenny have rolled back out the big guns and obliterated everyone on their path, even a Munster team en route, and the status quo has been restored.
Kilkenny are overwhelming favourites but I don't buy into this idea that it will be an easy ride. It's going to be there for the taking and whoever gets a crack at them will know that. Hurling needs a change. Today's game will hopefully bring that and then a good All-Ireland final would help the year overall.
I would say they can. It's not going to be easy to derail them but it can be done. To win five in a row is going to take a huge team, it's a massive job. The probability is that they will win it but it's not a certainty.
-- MARIE CROWE