All-Ireland Hurling Final Preview: Who can seize second chance?

All-Ireland Hurling Final Preview: Who can seize second chance?

CROKE Park, Dublin, September 7, 2014. As the epic unfolded, two key questions arose. Who would win? And secondly, was this the greatest match in the history of the ancient sport?

For some, last year's All-Ireland final replay gets placed in that category yet for others, the 2009 decider merits a position above both. But in the context of where both sides stood earlier this month, the quality of the show, coupled with the circumstances which surrounded it, made this contest a game for the ages.

So what now? Knowing that sequels rarely reach the standard of the original, we'd be surprised if we get something as good again. So will Saturday be Tipp's day? Or can Kilkenny win a remarkable 10th title for Brian Cody and Henry Shefflin? Below we examine the key issues ahead of Saturday's All-Ireland hurling final replay.

Can both sets of forwards be as good again?

There were 54 scores in the drawn game, a record for a 70-minute final as both teams reached standards of shooting that is rarely seen in Croke Park. With no wides posted between the 44th and 72nd minute, Kilkenny managed to put 3-22 on the scoreboard, Tipp 1-28, the highest total since the 1970 final, which was played over 80 minutes.

"The quality of the shooting was unreal. Can anyone remember a match where the shooting for points was so accurate? The ball was flying over from all angles, and all distances, and under all kinds of pressure. Both teams were superb."

Ger Loughnane, former Clare and Galway manager

Can Kilkenny's defence handle Tipp's attack?

Never before have Kilkenny conceded as many scores (29) to any side in a single game since Brian Cody took charge of the Cats 15 years ago. Tipp's tally of 1-24 from play is the highest recorded in an All-Ireland final by a team who didn't end up as winners. If Kilkenny are to win a 10th title for Cody, then they will have to tighten up.

"When you have a scoring return like that, it would suggest that the defending wasn't of the highest order. But the defending was exceptional. It's just that both teams were able to create space in attack.

"Kilkenny were particularly adept at this. They had to make maximum use of the chances they got because they didn't get as many as Tipp. Kilkenny got the goals when their need was greatest and, ultimately, that's what saved them.

"In all Brian Cody's time in charge, it's hard to remember the Kilkenny defence being opened up as much as Tipp managed."

Ger Loughnane

Can Tipp's full-back line cope under the high ball?

Eight of Kilkenny's first-half scores came from their forwards winning aerial battles and when you consider the Cats won 60 per cent of their own puck-outs and disrupted Tipp for 45 per cent of theirs, it is clear they have an advantage in this area.

"We wouldn't be happy with the goals we conceded. We gave them a bit too much space but we have positives too."

Paraic Maher, Tipperary

Should Cody introduce King Henry earlier?

"The [last] game was made for Henry to be introduced into it mid-way through the second half. It would have been great for him to have been brought on as a wing forward for puck-outs to be dropped down on top of him. He hasn't the pace for corner-forward any more, especially the way the Tipp corner backs were playing, but there was a role for him on the field."

Eddie Brennan, former Kilkenny hurler

"We didn't see Henry Shefflin until very late which indicates that Cody knows he isn't up to speed. And when the ball did come near him, it was swatted away in the blink of an eye."


"Obviously there's huge media concentration on Henry because of the situation he is in and because of what he has done over a very long career. Everyone speculates what could happen and all the rest of it.

"But it's not about that for us, it never has been. The panel is there and we just work away as we always have done. There's not a pressure from within with regard to any player on the panel, whether he starts or whether he doesn't start.

"The three extra weeks, like, what are you talking about, three training sessions really, in reality, short training sessions, the opportunity is there for all players to, you know, impress or put themselves in the frame. Is he in the frame? Of course he's in the frame."

Brian Cody

"The frustration that Henry has must be massive at this stage. I've argued that playing him anywhere along the full-forward line could result in him having a bearing on the game. And it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if he had to go off.

"Shefflin still has such a huge presence. He is so well regarded in Kilkenny, he's such an influence and if he gets a chance or two he's going to take them."

Michael Duignan, two-time All-Ireland hurling winner with Offaly

How big will referee Brian Gavin's influence be?

Kilkenny were angered by the decision by Barry Kelly, the referee in the drawn match, not to send Paddy Stapleton off for tugging at Richie Power's faceguard, the same foul that resulted in Clare's Podge Collins getting dismissed against Wexford earlier in the Championship.

Power was also the victim of a rough foul from Darren Gleeson which could have led to the Tipp player seeing red. However, he escaped with a caution.

Throw in the fact that each of the two penalties Kelly awarded to Tipp could reasonably have been given as frees instead and you can see why they are quietly happy that Gavin, from Offaly, is now in charge.

Is the psychological advantage now with Kilkenny?

"Three weeks is a long time, the weather could be very different to the last day and that would suit Kilkenny as they are massive men.

"I don't know whether I'm right or wrong but you'd be thinking the Tipp lads, going back after the replay were thinking, 'We should have won the All-Ireland, we hurled so well, had all those goal chances, and now we have to wait three more weeks'. Whereas the Kilkenny lads would be going back to training on Tuesday night thinking, 'We're back training again' because that's what they do and that's what they've been doing for so long, that's in their psyche.

"They'd be surprised at how well Tipperary played and still didn't get over the line."

Michael Duignan

Who will win the sideline battle: Cody v O'Shea?

"For me, the switch of the game was Cody moving Michael Fennelly to midfield and putting Richie Hogan at centre-forward. That was crucial, because Fennelly was totally lost on the 40 in the first half, struggling badly with the pace of the game but, when switched, he had that physical power driving forward from the middle.

"When scores were really needed, Hogan picked them off at centre-forward. A lot of Kilkenny's forwards weren't firing, so the others had to pick up the slack. It was Hogan's move to the 40 that really kept them in the game."

Ger Loughnane

"Eamon O'Shea had a great day the last day with his calls. He is a superb manager."

Michael Duignan

"Any times I have met Brian Cody, I have talked to him about our industry and how we work things. He is always asking, not to be smart, just to store up little things, little bits of  knowledge. He wants to bring things to a new level so he wanted to know about how injuries are treated, comparing training methods, stuff like that. He had a real interest and guys like that succeed.

"It's like Alex Ferguson. The respect is just immense for everything he's done and that is a big thing for teams to try and beat. Kilkenny have bought into that. They train as if their lives depend on it and the fitness levels have been brought to a new level.

"I don't know what the stats say but, to me, he's been the most successful manager in my lifetime. And he does it in a manner that epitomises everything that's great about hurling. It seems to me that his system works to a T and the players give him full backing within that system.

"He's taken on one or two of the so-called stars over the years in a real professional way for the better of the team. He seems to have won all of those various battles and got the team motoring."

Niall Quinn, former Irish international soccer player, ex-Sunderland chairman and Tipp hurling fan

Who will be the unlikely lad?

Think back to last year, then to 1995 or even to 1998. There is often a story where an accidental hero becomes the match-winner.

In 1995, Clare got their hands on the Liam MacCarthy Cup for the first time since 1914. The critical goal was scored by Eamonn Taaffe, who wasn't even named in the match programme but came on as a sub and fired a loose ball to the Offaly net. Taaffe was taken off shortly afterwards because, in the confusion, Ger Loughnane and his selectors thought it was Cyril Lyons who had got the goal, not him.

In the 1998 All-Ireland final, when Offaly met Kilkenny, the great Brian Whelahan was suffering with flu and getting skinned by Brian McEvoy. Michael Bond, the Offaly manager, figured he couldn't afford to take Whelahan off so he shoved him up to the unfamiliar territory of full-forward. Whelahan finished with 1-6 and the man of the match award as Offaly stormed home to win by six points.

Then there is the 2012 replay and the impact Walter Walsh made against Galway. Until that replay, Walsh hadn't played a minute of Championship hurling but Brian Cody decided the time was right to blood him. Walsh scored 1-3. And Galway were beaten.

Do we need to remind you what happened in another replay - that just 12 months ago between Clare and Cork? Shane O'Donnell's Championship experience going into that game amounted to a few minutes as a sub. But Davy Fitzgerald knew he was primed and ready. He named Darach Honan in a dummy team and only told O'Donnell that he was in for Honan two hours before the throw-in. O'Donnell touched the ball nine times and scored 3-3.

Expect the unexpected.

Tipperary v Kilkenny, Croke Park, Saturday, 5pm