And so, a decade of GAA ends as it began, with Kilkenny taking on Tipperary in an All Ireland Hurling final and an old traditional county attempting to stop its great rival from doing an unprecedented five-in-a-row. The only difference being that that five-in-a-row attempt has obviously shifted from hurling to football.
It’s been a strange ten years for Kilkenny and Tipp. Being the only counties to win multiple All Irelands in the 2010s and facing off against each other in no less than five finals, they have undoubtedly dominated the decade, but there have been years, last year included, when it felt like both counties needed a major rebuild and were years from winning an All Ireland.
Yet, both counties ability to bounce back in an era that has seen young teams from Clare, Galway, Waterford and Limerick throw up their hands as pretenders to the throne has been nothing short of remarkable.
Anyway, enough preamble. Down to the betting.
Picking a winner for this one has proven decidedly difficult. Kilkenny’s route to the final has been littered with below-par performances, making them outsiders to lift Liam MacCarthy from the offset.
The Cats stuttered through Leinster, relying heavily on TJ Reid to get them over the line against Dublin before easily beating Carlow. They only picked up one point from their remaining two games, along with losing the Leinster final to Wexford. Even their first-half performance against Cork was uninspiring.
However, their second-half performance against Cork and their semi-final effort against Limerick were nothing short of phenomenal. They fully merited both wins against highly tipped sides and come into the final with great momentum.
Tipperary, meanwhile, blitzed their way through Munster, beating Cork, Clare and Waterford to a pulp along the way. They faltered badly in the provincial decider against Limerick though, and struggled more than they should have done against Laois in Croke Park.
Tipp were lethargic for most parts of their semi-final against Wexford and only find themselves in the decider thanks to a spectacular late scoring salvo that has to be somewhat attributed to poor game management from the Leinster champions.
It feels like Kilkenny have peaked at the right time for this one.
What more is there to say about Seamus Callanan? The man is a freak.
Tipp’s star forward has played in seven championship games this season. He has hit the back of the net in every single one of them.
There has been no containing Callanan this year and he became Tipperary’s top goalscorer in championship history earlier in the season, surpassing Lar Corbett in the process.
It is rare that you see a player odds on to score a goal in any type of GAA match, but such is the ruthless nature of Callanan at the moment that it is entirely justified.
Even if Kilkenny do go on to win on Sunday, they will still afford chances to Tipperary and their goalscorer-in-chief won’t need a second invitation.
Their two games with Limerick aside, Tipperary have been excellent going forward in the 2019 championship. They have broken the 30-point mark in five of their seven games this year and have been by far and away the highest-scoring team in the country.
Kilkenny were the highest scorers in Leinster, struggling only against a miserly Wexford defence in the province. They shot an impressive 2-27 against Cork in the All Ireland Quarter Final before facing similar problems to Tipperary when it came to breaking down Limerick’s defence as they hit 1-21.
The counties’ last two meetings in All Ireland finals have proved to be shooting contests as well, with a total of 61 points being hit in Tipperary’s nine-point win in 2016 and 62 points being struck in thee 2014 drawn All Ireland final.
There have been low-scoring affairs between the two as well, but we’re banking on this one being an old-fashioned “you attack, we attack” kind of final.
Kilkenny would not be in an All-Ireland final were it not for TJ. The Ballyhale clubman is the country’s top scorer this year with 5-72 from seven games and he quite literally hauled Kilkenny through the Leinster championship this year.
Detractors will point to the fact that Reid takes frees, but he has been absolute unerring from placed balls this season. His 3-11 from open play may not be quite as eye-catching as his 5-72, but Reid isn’t a brilliant player purely because of his scoring ability.
In his last three All-Ireland finals excluding replays, Reid has hit 0-11, 1-07 and 1-08. Put simply, he is the man for the big occasion and he will not shy away on Sunday.
*All odds correct at time of posting