Former Kilkenny hurler Ritchie Hogan believes that his old side is the team best placed to end Limerick's quest for five-in-a-row next year.
Kilkenny and Limerick have played in the last two All-Ireland finals in 2022 and 2023, with Limerick winning both times to secure their third and fourth Liam McCarthy titles, respectively.
Hogan, who retired in September this year, was speaking at a GAAGO event this week and admitted that John Kiely's side would once again be red-hot favourites. However, if any team can go up to another level from the challengers to winners, it is Derek Lyng's Kilkenny outfit.
"Notwithstanding that Limerick are clearly favourites - and would I be surprised if Limerick win it? Not in the slightest - and they're rightly favourites. But I just think Kilkenny has the greatest capacity for improvement," the seven-time All-Ireland winner said this week.
"Clare were very strong and have Limerick's number or seem to have Limerick's number. Maybe they haven't beaten them that often, but they've certainly put it up to them every single time. I think if Kilkenny can learn a little bit from that, then they should be able to get over the line.
"A few of the guys who came in last year should improve too. Mikey Carey is back, Billy Drennan should get a bit better and get on that starting team. David Blanchfield, who was a huge loss in the All-Ireland final, will be back and hopefully bigger and stronger."
In 2010, Kilkenny under Brian Cody were aiming to become the first side since the Cork team in the 1940s to win five All-Ireland titles in a row. However, Tipperary ended that dream 13 years ago.
This year, Hogan is on the other side of that quest and is aiming to stop Limerick from creating the history they aimed to cultivate all those years ago.
Hogan, although a competitor of Limerick, will be aiming to stop it. He believes that the all-conquering hurling side should embrace the goal rather than run away from it.
“It'll definitely be a factor, and it should be a factor for them. There's this GAA or Irish kind of, I don't know what it is, but there's this mindset that you shouldn't talk about these things. You can concentrate on what you're doing while still realizing there's the opportunity to create some form of history in hurling," he added.
“We hid that a little bit, I think, in 2010. And I'd say that would be a mistake because the supporters are going to do it anyway. I think it would be foolish of them not to talk about it themselves and address it and then move on and concentrate on the game in hand.
“Because clearly you can't win five-in-a-row today, you can only win it if you get to the second or third week in July. So, they won't worry about it until then, but they'll definitely address it. They should do.”