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Is another Tipperary v Kilkenny All-Ireland final a foregone conclusion?

It could be the ‘big two’ doing it all over again at Croke Park in September.

Brian Cody and Eamon O'Shea could be set for another September showdown.
Brian Cody and Eamon O'Shea could be set for another September showdown.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

80 MILES OR so apart on Sunday afternoon, the hurlers of Kilkenny and Tipperary blasted out separate but very definite signals of intent.

Kilkenny, despite all of their retirements, haven’t gone away and Tipperary are steeled for an assault on Everest after hitting base camp last September.

Perhaps we over-estimated the effect on Kilkenny after losing so many players.

King Henry abdicated his throne while JJ Delaney, Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan, Aidan Fogarty and David Herity went too.

But of that sextet, only Delaney started in last year’s All-Ireland final replay. The rate of flux wasn’t as dramatic as you might think.

Around the fringes, Brian Cody reconstructed his panel and the results were dramatic at Nowlan Park on Sunday. Forget about the League, this was championship and the big boys came out to play.

Ger Aylward with Mark Fanning Ger Aylward made a sensational impact on his senior championship debut. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Ger Aylward was parachuted in from left field and scored 3-5 on his full championship debut, Mick Fennelly thundered through midfield and TJ Reid looks to have become an even stronger specimen than last year.

On the edge of the Kilkenny square stood Joey Holden, the man asked to fill the space vacated by nine-time All-Ireland senior medallist Delaney.

Conor McDonald was expected to provide some opposition but full-back Holden won the battle hands down.

He makes our team of the weekend and a scan through it illustrates just how good a weekend it was for Kilkenny.

Not even a haul of 4-23, all but four points from play, is good enough for Tipperary to gain more spots than the Cats on our starting XV.

Joey Holden and Conor McDonald Joey Holden had the better of his key battle with Conor McDonald. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Through to another Leinster final next month, Cody’s men will start as favourites against Galway but the Tribesmen have emerged as All-Ireland contenders in their own right.

You can’t exactly fly under the radar if you’ve scored 8-47 in your last two games and boss Anthony Cunningham will be delighted that it’s Kilkenny providing the opposition.

Galway have certainly come a long way in a short space of time but the Noresiders will provide the acid test.

Holden against a rampant Joe Canning is a key match-up and if Galway can stand up to the test, then there will be three in the race for September glory.

Our suspicion at this point in time is that Waterford will fall a little short. It’s been a wonderful season already for the Déise, who won the League and beat Cork to reach a Munster final.

Eamon O'Shea Eamon O'Shea was enthused by Tipperary's display on Sunday. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The future is their’s but the present, and the recent past, belongs to Kilkenny and Tipp.

It might have taken them a while to get going in both halves against Limerick but Tipp were irresistible for the most part.

A manager who prides himself on movement and the creation of space watched his forwards sync in a manner that we haven’t seen for quite a while.

When he was coach from 2008-10, probably the greatest example of fluid attacking movement was seen in the 2009 All-Ireland semi-final against Limerick.

Tipp scored 6-19 that day and some of their link-up play up front was almost telepathic.

Brian Murray can only watch as Lar Corbett scores his 2nd goal of the game Lar Corbett was among the goals for Tipperary in their 2009 All-Ireland semi-final rout. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

On Sunday, Limerick found themselves on the receiving end of another blue and gold blitzkrieg.

Shane McGrath’s post-match interview with RTE was pointed. He spoke about how this one was for Eamon, even if the man himself was having none of it.

O’Shea returned McGrath’s serve, heaping praise on the players instead. The truth lies somewhere in between and O’Shea was surely relieved.

For a coach of such blinding ability, not winning a Munster championship match in three seasons would have rankled.

The three-year cycle is on track once again for Tipp. After replacing Len Gaynor after the 1998 campaign, Nicky English brought Tipp to All-Ireland glory at the end of three full seasons.

Liam Sheedy Liam Sheedy guided Tipperary to All-Ireland glory in 2010, his third season at the helm. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Liam Sheedy did likewise from 2008-10. Eamon O’Shea 2013-15? Quite possible but there’s a road to travel just yet.

Winning a Munster championship would do wonders but Waterford’s tactically astute manager Derek McGrath will find a way to shut down the space in which Tipp operated on Sunday.

He won’t be as naive in his defensive set-up and Waterford have the pace, power and scoring touch to trouble Tipp.

McGrath’s already had a good look at O’Shea’s men in the Allianz League final and came up with answers. Waterford are also unbeaten in League and championship this year.

Ultimately, it’s two from four for the Liam MacCarthy. Forget the rest, the winners will come from this bunch – Kilkenny, Tipperary, Galway and Waterford. That’s the order they deserve to be ranked in at this point in time.

Tipp and Kilkenny again? Quite likely – but next month’s provincial finals will make the picture a little clearer.

Who will contest the All-Ireland final in September? Leave your comments below…

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