BIG MATCH PREVIEW: Experience of two battles against Wexford will see Kilkenny quash the rebel-lion
By COLIN BARTLEY
THE TALK all week has been of a great Kilkenny – Cork rivalry. Despite protestation from Tipp folk everywhere, the stats don’t lie – these two are the flag bearers of the ancient art in their respective provinces.
That rivalry came about from forcing your way out through the on the day knock-out intensity of the provincial hurling championship.
And still, Black and Amber parallel to the Blood Red behind the Artane boys band is All-Ireland final day’s most frequent sight.
It’s been a decade and a half since we have witnessed that sight, and the fact the Cats are meeting Cork in an All-Ireland quarter-final points to where these teams currently sit.
If we look at the bare facts, Kilkenny only beat Carlow and Dublin this year, and we saw what Laois, under Eddie Brennan’s tutelage, did to Dublin last weekend.
You wouldn’t call that the form of Championship contenders.
But what of Cork? What do two wins and two losses in Munster say about the rebels?
Ok, Cork beat the All-Ireland champions Limerick well, but they owed the Treaty county after last year’s semi-final. If we are brutally honest, the provincial round robin is not the place to exorcise those demons three months from the ultimate prize.
Tipp gave the rebels a trimming in Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Waterford matched Cork for most of the game before running out of appetite, while Clare dispatched of Cork easily in the final round.
Cork was lucky to escape Munster this year!
Kilkenny has gotten more out of two games with Wexford than Cork got from their win over Westmeath and that chastening defeat to Clare.
Against Kilkenny, Davy Fitzgerald’s set up to smoother space out the field and deprive any good ball getting into TJ and Adrian Mullen.
Those battles around midfield and the half-lines, despite not winning them, gave the Cats two games of white-hot hurling, and that will stand to them.
Cork, on the other hand, beat a Westmeath team that possibly didn’t want to play after the disappointment of losing the Joe McDonagh the week before.
If we take the Limerick victory out of the equation, has Cork done anything in this championship to scare us?
On the flip-side, has Kilkenny done a lot to scare them?
Kilkenny can win this game if they get on top between the half-lines, the areas they marginally lost to Wexford. Cork are a big, fast team that like to transfer the sliothar through the lines.
The three Maher’s on Tipp’s half-back line shut Cork down, Kilkenny will have to replicate.
The experience of the two tough battles with Wexford may have battle-hardened the Cats sufficiently. I’m giving the nod to the Cats, but only just.