Round 3, the decider!!

Yes, its round 3 next Sunday on hurling’s biggest day of the year. The hurling world awaits and expects a colossal confrontation from the ’09 and ’10 champions. The thing is, confrontation they will most definitely get, whether it will be a classic in hurling terms … chances are that it may not be!

There is significant motivation in both camps. The champions are looking to put back to back titles together, something Tipp have not done for quite a while. The contenders; well revenge mission is in the air for them, Kilkenny intend reversing last years result. Throw into the melting pot that both are arch rivals and you have an explosive concoction. So motivation will not be deciding factor, what will?

Both counties realise that they can’t concede goals and they must do their best to score them. But both are traditionalists and they wont bring the extra man back to try to stop the opposing goal threat as they also know that they need the bodies at the other end to keep the scoreboard moving (pity Donegal didn’t understand that point)! I would expect to see both half back lines staying as close as possible to their full line, I couldn’t see them get sucked out beyond their own 65. I don’t see the half forwards of either team drifting out and staying in the midfield area, they will pop up there that’s for sure, but this will be more a side effect of massively high work rate than team tactics.

A team tactic, for both teams will be to ensure that neither half back line have time and space to deliver precision ball and this will ensure that half forwards don’t drift too far. So we can assume that there will be pressure on half backs clearing, they may not even get the chance to deliver long to the inside forwards. The midfield for both teams must make themselves available to receive ball from half backs under pressure to clear. It will be hear where the real battle will take place. Shane McGrath and Gearóid Ryan are a strong combination for sure but Michael Fennelly is in the running for hurler of the year, who will partner Fennelly will be very important. Kilkenny have a number of options; Reid, P Hogan, Rice, Cha. Tipp also have a big impact player in this space also in Brendan Maher. However how this midfield battle resolves itself will have a large bearing on where Liam McCarthy will travel to on Monday.

There are lots of other interesting match-ups. You would presume that Kilkenny will have some plan for Lar(man mark him??). But the key for any defense facing good forwards is to reduce the space as much as possible and probably even more importantly is that their team mates put enough pressure on the opposing half backs and midfield such that they can only play in 50:50 balls, then the defense has a real fighting chance. But if Lar is tied up, then its up to the other Tipp forwards to rise to the challenge and produce.

Will Kilkenny play Henry on John O’Keeffe? Probably yes for two reasons, one is that John O’Keeffe is a debutant All Ireland finalist and secondly, they will not drop ball on Padraig Maher from puck outs. Dublin payed this way but thankfully the Clonoulty man held up well.

Will Colin Fennelly play, if he doesn’t he will most definitely be a loss to Kilkenny as he runs at backs which can often lead to goal chances!

Curran on Larkin, another huge battle! This will be slightly different for Curran from last year with Richie Power as Larkin is physically very strong and Curran wins a lot of battles by cleverly using his physique.

Tipp’s general movement in the forwards is very difficult to defend against, but there must be space available to move into, can Kilkenny close down that space enough?

Who can come in and make a difference? From Tipp’s perspective, they have a number of options J O’Neill, Buggy O’Meara, Brendan Maher, Benny Dunne, Shane Burke, Pa Burke. Majority of Tipp’s options are forwards so hears hoping that our backs hold out. For Kilkenny E Brennan, A Fogarty, P Hogan, Cha, M Kavanagh, some of these may start even. So Tipp look to have the upper hand in this area and Tipp’s substitutes are nearly all young, U21 or just over it.

The next thing to consider is the managers and back room brains trust. Here Kilkenny have the experience in spades with Cody being they key man. Declan Ryan and co have done very well so far, lets hope they make the correct calls if needed.

So there is so many variables at play in this contest, its very, very hard to pick a winner! It will be a titanic battle as it was for the last two years. Tipp to get through in a bruising, tight, savagely intense game with very little open hurling (is that my heart or my head talking???).

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