The last three All-Ireland finals between the sides were close encounters – and I don’t think there’ll be much between them at Croke Park again on Sunday (3.30pm).
Tipperary (6/4) have been in free-scoring mode recently and you could argue that the last time they were really tested was against Galway – before they steamrolled them for the last 20 minutes. After that they put Offaly and Dublin away – and for whatever the reason – Cork just didn’t turn up in the semi-final and Eamon O’Shea’s side strolled home.
But you can only beat what’s put in front of you and Tipp have been able to play more or less within themselves for those games.
One thing’s for sure though – 34-time champions Kilkenny (8/11f) won’t sit back and admire their artistry.
The Cats had a very physical encounter against Limerick in their semi-final with Brian Cody’s side eventually winning by two points.
I don’t think that this game is going to be be as fluent as many people expect. There’e going to be a lot of bodies in the middle of the pitch and it could turn into a very tactical affair.
Kilkenny won’t be as naive as Cork were in the semi-finals and star forward Seamus Callinan won’t be given the type of space that he got off Shane O’Neill – that’s for sure.
There are going to be key battles all over the park and the Seamus Callanan v JJ Delaney, Patrick ‘Bonnar’ Maher v Brian Hogan and potentially the Brendan Maher v Colin Fennelly face offs will be fascinating.
Whoever wins these tussles could have the winning of the game for their side.
Will King Henry reign?
All anyone wants to know is whether Henry Shefflin will start on Sunday. There’s one thing about Brian Cody though – who is managing the Cats in his 13th final – is that sentiment will mean nothing in his team selection.
Past reputations mean nothing to him.
He’ll put out the best 15 that can win the game for Kilkenny. But he’ll also realise that an All Ireland can’t be won or lost in the first half.
He knows better than anyone that the game could come down to the last 15 minutes. That’s when you’ll want your experienced men and the likes of Shefflin and possibly Tommy Walsh coming on board.
Richie Power made a massive difference when he came on against Limerick and my own gut feeling is that he will start the game – possibly at full forward – and Shefflin will be kept for later.
First goalscorer …
If you’re looking for a first goalscorer I wouldn’t look past the Carrickshock clubman Power at 8/1 to get the first goal of the final or 9/2 to be Kilkenny’s first goalscorer.
He’s my idea of the Cats’ trump card in this final. To be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if he went very close to a Man of the Match award if all goes to plan for the Cats.
The spotlight may be on Seamus Callinan for Tipp but Lar Corbett is due a big one and All Ireland finals have a habit of throwing up storylines.
The Thurles Sarsfields’ clubman is 8/1 to fire home the first goal of the game or 9/2 to score first for his side.
Winning margin …
If Tipperary are to win this game – Brendan Maher is going to have to have a big one in midfield and full-back James Barry is going to have to hold the fort against the onslaught from the Kilkenny attack.
My gut instinct is that Kilkenny will just shade it and the 1-3 point winning margin at 7/2 could be the value call.