GAA: Jamesie O'Connor previews the All-Ireland final between Tipperary and Kilkenny
By Tony Tighe - @TonyTighe94. Last Updated: 25/09/14 5:08pm
Jamesie O’Connor believes Tipperary’s poor recent record against Kilkenny will add further fuel to their desire to lift the Liam McCarthy Cup.
Sunday’s All-Ireland final will be the counties’ sixth championship meeting in as many years, with Tipp’s sole success coming in the 2010 decider.
Kilkenny were also victorious when the counties collided in this year’s National League final, having edged a 10-goal epic in Nowlan Park earlier in the season, and Sky Sports expert O’Connor believes that added motivation could help Tipperary to finally get one over their neighbours on Sunday.
“Nobody needs any motivation heading into a game as big as Sunday,” said the Clare legend, who won two All-Ireland titles in 1995 and 1997. “These players set out at the start of the season with the aim of reaching an All-Ireland final.
“But if I was a Tipperary player I would certainly feel that I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of pain and hurt from these Kilkenny guys. You only have to go back to this year’s league final, where Tipp went toe-to-toe with them for 90 minutes and had it taken away by TJ Reid with almost the lack puck of the ball.
“I think the Tipperary players believe that if they come with their ‘A’ game and match Kilkenny’s work rate and intensity for 70 minutes, they can win. They’ve done it before.
“Kilkenny will take the view that when it’s come down to it, they’ve had Tipperary’s number. In the game that they did lose in 2010, Henry Shefflin and John Tennyson were carrying injuries into that game and Kilkenny were weakened as a result.
“I think both teams will be looking for any angle they can get, but certainly from a Tipperary perspective it has to be a huge motivator, that fear of losing again to Kilkenny. I wouldn’t underestimate the power that will have.”
The counties played out two high-scoring thrillers during this year’s National League, with a total of 13-86 scored. While the league is a poor relation to the championship, O’Connor expects there to be plenty of scores at Croke Park, such is the quality of both forward lines.
“There is too much attacking talent on both sides for it to be any other way,” he said. “Deep down, both teams might have concerns about their full-back lines. JJ Delaney and Jackie Tyrrell are in the autumn of their careers and there are questions marks over their pace, while down the other side of the field, Tipp have two rookies in their full-back line in James Barry and Cathal Barrett.
“Tipp will be thinking that they can expose the lack of pace in the Kilkenny full-back line, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the Cats will be gunning for Barry, and to a lesser extent, Barrett. It’s going to be interesting to see how both teams, structurally, can protect their full-back lines.
"I think the Tipperary players believe that if they come with their ‘A’ game and match Kilkenny’s work rate and intensity for 70 minutes, they can win the game. They’ve done it before."
“Back in 2010, Tipp opened Kilkenny up and got the decisive goals to win the match. In 2011, Kilkenny went man-for-man and Brian Hogan spent time at corner-back on Noel McGrath. He basically followed him wherever he went. Tyrrell was out at centre-back on Lar Corbett at one stage.
“That strategy worked in the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final whereas in last year’s game at Nowlan Park, it was more a case of fellas playing their individual positions and taking up whoever came into it.
“It will be interesting to see how it pans out but I would imagine that Hogan will want to hold the middle down, and drop back towards the ‘D’ and help out his full-back line. The challenge for Tipperary will be to create that space and to try and take Kilkenny defenders out of their normal positions, and to get running at the full-back line.”
Kilkenny name their starting line-up on Friday night and Henry Shefflin, who is attempting to win a record 10th Celtic Cross, is expected to be omitted from the starting line-up. The 35-year-old has had to settle for a place on the bench during this year’s championship but O’Connor believes he is now a bigger asset to the team when used as an impact sub.
“I think Brian Cody has made up his mind on that,” said O’Connor. “Deep down he believes there is no longer 70 minutes in him. Henry has been central to Kilkenny for the last 15 years, so that’s not easy to accept and I’d imagine he’s not happy about that. I’m sure he’s been doing everything in his power in training over the past three weeks to give Cody some food for thought.
“Shefflin did have an impact against Limerick, although Richie Power had a bigger one, but he is a player that still commands huge respect in the Kilkenny team. A couple of things that he tried against Limerick didn’t come off but I still think he’s not that far away. He’s got that experience and wiliness, and given that Tipperary have a couple of inexperienced players in the full-back line, if he is introduced on Sunday I imagine he’ll be stationed pretty close to the Tipp goal.”
A tight, physical contest is expected on Sunday but Kilkenny remain favourites to claim a record 35th All-Ireland crown. However, O’Connor is backing Tipperary to end their winless streak against the Cats.
“I’ve probably been sweet on Tipperary all year,” he said. “They have a lot of talent and a manager who was instrumental in getting the best out of that talent in 2010. There are a lot of parallels with that year in that they had to come through the back door, but in those games they found momentum and form, and most importantly, confidence.
ALL-IRELAND SHC FINAL
Kilkenny v Tipperary
Live on Sky Sports 1
“I just think that the desire and hunger is there because of the suffering they’ve endured at the hands of Kilkenny. I think these guys will be massively motivated to get their hands on that second All-Ireland.
“I would have said in the past, the first All-Ireland I won was fantastic, but the second one was sweeter. You’re older, you appreciate what it takes to get there. Maybe the Tipp lads took it for granted in 2010 and assumed that it would happen every year.
“Tipp lost the final in 2011, 2012 was bitterly disappointing, and they were gone out of the championship in early July last year. This is an older, wiser, more mature team and they will find a way to get goals. If James Barry can do a job at full-back, I just have a feeling that they’ll edge it.
“It’s going to be fascinating battle. Where will ‘Bonner’ Maher play? Will he be at centre-forward on Brian Hogan? Will he play closer to goal?
“Richie Hogan and James Woodlock is another match-up that I’m looking forward to. If Kilkenny win Hogan is probably hurler of the year. Will Paul Murphy take Lar or will Jackie renew his rivalry with him? I could keep going! It’s fascinating and I cannot wait for it.”
Watch the All-Ireland final between Kilkenny and Tipperary live on Sky Sports 1 on Sunday from 2.30pm