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Dublin: 11°C Sunday 18 April 2021
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Our writers give their predictions for today's All-Ireland hurling final

The42 team reveal how they expect things to pan out between Kilkenny and Tipperary.

Jackie Cahill

1. Who is the key player for Kilkenny?

Richie Hogan is key for Kilkenny. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Richie Hogan, particularly if he plays at centre-forward and is given the licence to roam. His direct marker, Ronan Maher, is an All-Ireland final debutant and Kilkenny might see this as a potential area to exploit. Hogan has caused plenty of problems for Tipperary in the past and the problem for Tipp is, if he roams, is he then man-marked or picked up zonally?

2. Who is the key player for Tipperary?

Michael Breen. In the absence of Michael Fennelly at midfield, Tipp will feel this is an area where they can get on top. In many ways, Breen’s most admirable characteristics as a player mirror those of Fennelly — strong, powerful, direct and capable of taking a score. Kilkenny will have given plenty of thought to how they’ll pick Breen up when he’s making those marauding runs from deep and he’s already a recognised goal-scorer.

3. A key factor on the day will be…

The match-ups all over the field. There are so many possibilities, for example, will Tipp put ‘Bonner’ Maher on Pádraig Walsh a la 2010, when the Tipp man nullified Tommy Walsh? Similarly, Kilkenny will be looking to nullify the influence of the Tipperary half-back line in an attacking sense. Pádraic Maher has the ability to play as almost a quarter-back for Tipp and Kilkenny may well decide to leave Walter Walsh at number 10 in a direct duel. But Kilkenny will have noticed that Tipp struggled under aerial balls dropped in on top of their corner-backs in the Galway semi-final. We could go on and on here…

4. What’s been your favourite hurling moment of the summer?

When Jennifer Malone consoled Pauric Mahony at the end of the Waterford-Kilkenny replay. A few days later, Jennifer received Mahony’s signed jersey in the post, a signed hurl and a framed picture of the moment. Top class gesture from the Waterford man.

5. Who will win the Liam MacCarthy Cup and why?

As a Tipperary man, I’ve got to go with the Premier County but it will take a massive performance to stop Kilkenny. Even in 2010, Tipp had to be at the peak of their powers to see off a Kilkenny team that lost Henry Shefflin with a recurrence of his cruciate injury, while John Tennyson played through the pain barrier with a similar problem. Brian Hogan was out injured too and that left big holes down the middle for Tipp to exploit. Kilkenny’s survival instincts are strong, as evidence in the Waterford replay, and it will take a Herculean effort from Tipp to get the job done.

6. Who will win Hurler of the Year?

Patrick Maher Patrick 'Bonner' Maher. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Our hurling analyst Tommy Dunne has highlighted the massive influence of Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher in the Tipperary set-up. He’s an unsung hero in many ways and if he comes up with a big one on Sunday, the Lorrha-Dorrha man could well be in the running for the individual accolade.

Fintan O’Toole

1. Who is the key player for Kilkenny?

Paul Murphy. It was no coincidence that the Danesfort man was absent when the roof caved in on the Kilkenny defence in the league semi-final against Clare in April. Since shipping four goals that day, Kilkenny kept three clean sheets before conceding two against Waterford last time out. Murphy radiates confidence in the inside line, quietens troublesome attackers and is on course for a fifth All-Star in six years.

Paul Murphy Kilkenny's Paul Murphy. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

2. Who is the key player for Tipperary?

Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher‘s huge work ethic continues to be critical to the fortunes of the Tipperary attack. There are more dazzling scoretakers around him but Maher makes things happen in prising apart rearguards. The second-half of the Galway game demonstrated his worth.

3. A key factor on the day will be…

Tipperary’s ability to get goals. Those strikes have shaped their last three wins, enabling a 14-man team to stave off Limerick, securing the crushing victory over Waterford and ensuring they came with a late charge to unseat Galway. To see off Kilkenny, the sense is that raising green flags is essential for Tipperary and holding out the Premier in that department would go a long way towards securing the spoils for Brian Cody’s men.

4. What’s been your favourite hurling moment of the summer?

The high drama at the end of the Thurles thriller between Kilkenny and Waterford. The fine margins were exposed with Pauric Mahony almost landing a brilliant leveling point only for Eoin Murphy’s courage to see him leap to deny the Ballygunner man.

5. Who will win the Liam MacCarthy Cup and why?

Kilkenny are the champions and the team with the more consistent trait of getting the job done against Tipperary. But the loss of Michael Fennelly — a proven performer in these games — could be significant and Tipperary‘s will to win must be huge. For a core of their team — Maher (x3), Seamus Callanan, Noel McGrath and Michael Cahill — this is a pivotal game considering Kilkenny have pushed Tipperary towards the championship exit door six times in the last eight seasons.

6. Who will win Hurler of the Year?

Tipperary's Cathal Barrett. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

A Tipperary victory and a solid showing by Cathal Barrett could see the defender rewarded for a season of brilliant consistency.

Niall Kelly

1. Who is the key player for Kilkenny?

Conor Fogarty. Midfield is expected to be the same defining battleground it typically is when these counties meet, and with no Michael Fennelly there alongside him, Fogarty’s work in winning and distributing possession will be vital for the Cats. On the basis of his season so far, there’s no reason to doubt that it will be.

Kilkenny midfielder Conor Fogarty. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

2. Who is the key player for Tipperary?

Ronan Maher. The expectation is that he will be tasked with shackling the lethal Richie Hogan, and the 20-year-old defender surely won’t need to be shown the tape of the 2014 drawn final. Hogan’s colossal performance that day saw him finish up with 0-6 from play and go on to be named Hurler of the Year, and Tipp’s chances will hinge on their ability to keep him quieter than that.

3. A key factor on the day will be…

The weather. At the moment, my iPhone tells me its a pretty much 50/50 as to whether or not the heavens will open over Jones’ Road this afternoon and, if they do, expect an awful lot of greasy ball. Can any team outwork Kilkenny in those conditions?

4. What’s been your favourite hurling moment of the summer?

One of Austin Gleeson’s many sideline cuts. Pure artistry.

Austin Gleeson takes a sideline cut Austin Gleeson shows off his skills. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

5. Who will win the Liam MacCarthy Cup and why?

Tipp by a nose — but what odds would you give me on another last-puck, HawkEye draw?

6. Who will win Hurler of the Year?

Provided Tipp win and Seamus Callanan doesn’t score 3-8, Paudie Maher probably deserves it on the balance of the season.

Alan Waldron

1. Who is the key player for Kilkenny?

Joey Holden. The midfield battle will be important, as will the roles of Richie Hogan and TJ Reid, but the way Kilkenny deal with a Tipp attack that has scored 10-72 in four championship matches will have a big say in where Liam MacCarthy spends the next 12 months. Seamus Callanan is the focal point of that attack, we’ve seen in the past how devastating he can be if he gets the run on his man early on. It looks like Holden will be the man trusted to curtail his influence and if he can, it will greatly boost Kilkenny’s chances of retaining their title.

2. Who is the key player for Tipperary?

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

John McGrath. McGrath has been a revelation at corner-forward for Michael Ryan’s side this year, taking a lot of scoring pressure and some extra defensive attention off Callanan. But this weekend he’ll be up against arguably the best corner-back in the game in Paul Murphy. If McGrath can get the better of Murphy, Tipp’s forwards will have a serious platform to work off.

3. A key factor on the day will be…

How Kilkenny cope without Michael Fennelly. They’re bound to miss the energy that the 2011 Hurler of the Year gives them in the middle third. And with Michael Breen and Brendan Maher in opposition, the Kilkenny midfielders will have their work cut out to break even.

4. What’s been your favourite hurling moment of the summer?

Seeing Waterford respond like they did after the embarrassment of the Munster final. Some feared that it could take the Déise a long, long time to get over that heavy defeat to Tipp. You’d have to be made of stone not to have felt for a forlorn Derek McGrath after the game, especially when the critics didn’t hold back. But McGrath stuck to his guns, and while Waterford were slow to get back up to speed, they proved that they belong at hurling’s top table, and produced some scintillating stuff along the way.

Derek McGrath Waterford boss Derek McGrath. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

5. Who will win the Liam MacCarthy Cup and why?

Kilkenny. This time last week I was leaning towards Tipp. But the more I look at the stats and the individual battles, the more I’m convinced the Cats will prevail again, even without Michael Fennelly. Both sides conceded two goals in the semi-finals after relatively tight campaigns up to then (Kilkenny had conceded no goals and Tipp just one). This could turn into a point-scoring battle and that’s something you’d expect Kilkenny to edge.

6. Who will win Hurler of the Year?

Richie Hogan. When Hogan is on his game, there are few who can live with him. It’s incredible to think back to the talk around Hogan as a youngster; this incredible talent who was a cousin of DJ Carey’s, and so good he played three years of county minor. And boy has he delivered on that potential. Still only 28 years of age, it’s frightening to think Hogan possibly hasn’t reached his prime yet. He his no longer hamstrung by injury and has proven time and time again he has the head for the big occasion. If Kilkenny win today, he will surely claim his second Hurler of the Year gong.

Steve O’Rourke

1. Who is the key player for Kilkenny?

Eoin Murphy Kilkenny goalkeeper Eoin Murphy. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Eoin Murphy. The key, as Fintan has pointed out already, for Tipperary in their last three wins has been their ability to get goals and the Glenmore club man will be the last line of defence today.

2. Who is the key player for Tipperary?

There are other names that will get the headlines because of their scoring ability but ‘Bonner’ Maher‘s graft all over the field is priceless for Tipperary. If he has a good game today the Premier County will likely come out on top.

3. A key factor on the day will be…

Hard to go against the lads so I’d have to agree that the weather will be huge today. The worse the conditions, the more you’d have to favour Kilkenny. As if they needed any other advantages.

4. What’s been your favourite hurling moment of the summer?

This moment. Forget winning and losing, this is what sport should be.

5. Who will win the Liam MacCarthy Cup and why?

I’m taking 8/1 on the draw and I don’t even care if I get splinters in my arse from sitting on the fence.

6. Who will win Hurler of the Year?

If ‘Bonner’ Maher is good enough for Tommy Dunne, he’s good enough for me.

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About the author:

The42 Team

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