IT’S All-Ireland final week but would you know? I don’t think so, I have not heard or seen much about it.
I was even in Tipperary and Kilkenny last week and there is not too much hype in either county from what I have seen. I don’t think this is a good thing. Is there too much sheltering of the players going on? Wrapping them up too much?
Press nights seem to be a non-event with one or two players turning up and maybe one or two mentors as well, and the players might not even be on the first 15. I just believe it takes away a lot of the excitement and the buzz around this wonderful occasion.
I know from personal experience when I was involved, the press nights were great, with all the journalists meeting players and management at training and a big crowd of supporters around which created a great atmosphere for everybody. Especially for the supporters, and sometimes even the journalists spoke to some of them too.
Then it was off to the hotel for a nice meal in a relaxed atmosphere where media could meet all the players, do their interviews, and everyone enjoyed the occasion. That is the way we did it when involved with Clare in the 90s and it never affected players on the big day either. It was a great way of promoting the game, especially for youngsters.
So different now, and I think we have lost something that was unique. All-Ireland final day is a big day, a special Irish occasion and should be promoted in every way on radio, tv, and in the print media, and should not be held back by anyone.
I believe this week proves my point, too low key for me. Players should be to the front of everything. Other sports do it very well.
This Sunday should be a fascinating contest: the old enemies taking centre stage. Look at the fantastic All-Irelands they have given us over the last 10 years.
They always seem to produce classics and the reason being that they are bitter rivals. They love to meet and beat one another, and they both like to know that they are the best. That cannot be disputed, apart from Cork, but they have fallen a bit behind lately.
I expect this game to traditional in every sense of the word. The physical exchanges will be savage. Obviously, there will be tactics used by both teams, but the biggest tactic of all will be to dominate the man you are on.
Tipperary will have great confidence after their All-Ireland semi-final win over Wexford, coming from five points and a man down. They showed real Tipp fighting spirit and no little craft to pull it out of the fire.
I think Wexford helped them along the way when they completely ran out of steam because make no mistake about it they were in a winning position. Seamus Callinan, Noel McGrath, Brendan Maher, Jason Forde and especially Ronan Maher were the main men to get Tipperary over the line.
This is Pádraic Maher’s seventh All-Ireland to play in (including one replay) and against Kilkenny in each of them. I don’t know if that ever happened before, maybe it did, but it feels like some sort of record.
Will he be detailed to pick up TJ Reid or will they give that job to Brendan Maher? It’s going to be tough for either. It might take the two of them.
Reid, to me, is one of the greatest players of his generation. His strength and his free-taking, but above all his brilliant skill and sportsmanship, make him a role model for any youngster interested in the game.
Kilkenny have Colin Fennelly, Walter Walsh and Richie Hogan, and probably the young player of the year, Adrian Mullen, supporting Reid. So the Mahers and Cathal Barrett will have a lot of defending to do.
Also I think at the other end, John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer, Jason Forde, John McGrath and especially Seamus Callanan will take some watching. Kilkenny, with Eoin Murphy the best ’keeper in the country, Paul Murphy, Pádraig Walsh, that great warrior Conor Fogarty, and the find of the year, Huw Lawlor, won’t give away anything easy. They will battle to the last drop, and I mean the very last drop.
Midfield should be crucial as well, with Noel McGrath, very influential here for Tipperary, and a man who has got to be marked at all times. I think he should be one of the nominees for Hurler of the Year.
If a fit Cillian Buckley can start for Kilkenny, we’ll get a great contest between the two. Maybe one of the lesser-known players, or someone coming off the bench, could be the match-winner.
It’s very hard to forecast a winner. Tipperary had a bad defeat in the Munster final, a really bad defeat. Kilkenny lost in the Leinster final, when, unusually, they panicked towards the end of that game. Nevertheless, both teams have recovered to get to this final.
I think Tipperary’s passage was easier when they had to see off Laois and an accommodating Wexford. Kilkenny definitely had the harder route, when they saw off two Munster teams, Cork and the All-Ireland champions, Limerick.
I believe if they reach any of the heights that they reached in those two games, they will be All0Ireland champions. They cannot afford to give Tipperary the same chances that they gave to Limerick, as Tipperary will take them.
Kilkenny to do enough.