Tipperary can find that little bit extra to finish the job

O’Shea’s men to confirm the impression of the first day – that their top gear is ultimately higher than Kilkenny’s

Lar Corbett: his movement will prove a real threat to Kilkenny’s defence again. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Lar Corbett: his movement will prove a real threat to Kilkenny’s defence again. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

 

This is still as evenly balanced as ever but the last three weeks must have been easier for Tipperary. They’ve fewer players with a back pocket full of medals, fewer players putting their lives on hold for as long as many in Kilkenny’s set-up have been over the past 10 years.

They are though setting out to repeat what they did the first day, which is a tricky challenge for any team even if Clare managed to do it last year. There were times the last day when they looked like they had the extra gear but Kilkenny were so resilient and hard to put down that Tipp ended up needing that gear just to survive.

It’s unlikely to be as free -flowing as the first day but it doesn’t have to be to be another great contest.

Kilkenny have tried to come up with changes to improve the performance from the last day. In some ways that’s an easier motivation than simply trying to repeat what you did the first day. They’ll want to create a much tighter contest.

Brian Cody will have looked at the video and seen how much difficulty they had in defence and he’s made a big call to replace most of his half-back line. This is structural change and more fundamental than simply changing players.

Direct running

Brian Hogan is a conventional, stand-up centre back but that type of player isn’t the best fit for the tactical flexibility needed to deal with Tipperary’s rotation in attack or the direct running of Bonner Maher.

Pádraig Walsh has played mostly in the forwards this championship but in the league final against Tipp back in May he was superb when moved to wing back so that selection isn’t a major surprise.

Second Captains

I’d also expect Michael Fennelly to move to midfield, an area that will need to be more defensively aware, which brought an improvement the last day and Richie Hogan to switch into the forwards where they will also look for more from Colin Fennelly, their player with most scope for improvement.

Kilkenny’s resolve is still undoubted. You could see it against Limerick in the semi-final and it got them to within a botched Richie Power scoring pass of putting away the final. It’s not as if they’re running on empty at this stage, either.

Richie Hogan, TJ Reid, Cillian Buckley and Paul Murphy were all excellent in the drawn game. Richie Power played well and if they get improvement from Colin Fennelly they’ll still take beating.

Tipperary have stuck to their guns and Eamon O’Shea wants the players to try to emulate what they did the last day. It must have crossed his mind that there was a case for putting a marker on Richie Hogan, whose importance – with Hurler of the Year award now well in the bag – to Kilkenny is huge.

Major rol

Michael Cahill

It was interesting that before the first match the view was that Kilkenny’s bench with all its medals would be more formidable than Tipperary’s but in the end that strength in depth wasn’t apparent and Cahill was easily the best sub brought on by either side and he could well have a major role again today.

Tipp also have room for improvement. Both Brendan and Pádraic Maher were quiet by their standards the last day and more will be expected today. James Barry is another who will be keen to do better under the certain aerial bombardment he’ll face.

If the Mahers manage to improve at half back that will be very significant because look at the damage the forwards did with a much reduced platform compared to the Cork match.

I’m convinced that they’ll continue to open up goal chances and the finishing is another thing that could improve.

I’d probably like to see Larry Corbett spend more time closer to goal because he’s so dangerous and I expect him to be a big threat again.

At times JJ Delaney was barely hanging on against Séamus Callanan but he clawed his way back into it as you’d expect from a player of his quality.

I still believe Tipperary’s attacking movement will again create space in attacking positions and they’ve been blessed with the Indian summer which means the ball will be moving even quicker in late September.

For me, they’ll confirm the impression of the first day – that their top gear is ultimately higher than Kilkenny’s.

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