Eoin Kelly: I never doubted this Tipperary team would be back in a final

Bring on the Cats!


It’s strange, I don’t know is it because the All-Ireland final is on earlier in the year these days, but the hype has been very quiet in Tipperary.

It’s been fairly subdued down here, I don’t if it’s the same in Kilkenny.

Neither of these teams probably expected to be here at the start of the season. However, any team under Liam Sheedy would know that the goal is to always be in the All-Ireland final.

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For Tipp supporters though, it’s a pleasant surprise – especially, after the manner of the Munster final defeat.

Once you get to the final, you must have the belief that you can push on and win it. It’s just that simple.

Tipperary may not be playing the great Kilkenny team of the 00s, but it’s still a Kilkenny team that won the National League final last year and who knocked out the current champions to get this far. They have key players who would make any intercounty team.

However, when the chips were down against Wexford, Tipperary showed their character. Pure doggedness has both teams in this final.

The 2010 survivors

The way those guys – who are still on the Tipperary panel after winning the title in 2010 – have matured is incredible.

They’ve grown into some of the best Tipperary hurlers that have ever played for the county. Their consistency is no mean feat. For some of them this will be their seventh All-Ireland final – ironically all against Kilkenny with replays and all that.

To contest seven All-Ireland finals from 2009 to 2019 is fair consistency to me.

They didn’t win them all but to even get to the Final over and over again – the maturity they’ve shown, the condition that they’re in and the hunger that they still have – is an amazing achievement.

What they have done for Tipperary is great and they are going to continue to do that.

One memory I have of those young lads is talking with Lar Corbett around 2008, 2009 and saying: ‘We need to hang in here for a few years because these are special players coming along’.

They weren’t your ordinary Tipperary player, they were special and successful players.

They have been the backbone of a serious Tipperary team over the last 10 years.

Now you see them passing on their knowledge to the young guys Liam Sheedy has brought into the dressing room. There’s a nice mix of ages in the squad now.

I never doubted the lads, even when things didn’t go well last year. Especially, when I saw their club form over the winter.

Bench press

Some of the youngsters that came off the bench against Wexford probably got their first Championship score that day. Once you get the first one – you are off to the races after that.

Liam Sheedy has introduced these guys the right way this season.

You are probably going to need 20 players to win an All-Ireland these days. The Wexford game will have done the confidence of Tipp’s subs the world of good though.

When subs come off the bench you want them to make an impact and Sunday’s final could come down to that. Those guys must contribute and hopefully, they will for Tipperary’s sake.

Right to the wire

The hunger is back in Kilkenny’s play now and it’s been driven by their experienced players.

I’m sure someone like Adrian Mullen is loving that environment and being around experienced players like Colin Fennelly, TJ Reid, Richie Hogan and Walter Walsh.

These guys are seasoned campaigners when it comes to All-Ireland finals, and you can’t beat the know-how they have.

The majority of Tipp v Kilkenny matches in the decade or so have been tit-for-tat.

Limerick’s Cian Lynch called it correctly during the week when he said, “it’s so hard to call” and I expect it to go right to the wire on Sunday.

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What do you think?