Sunday 23 October 2016

Kilkenny's need is greater as game's greatest rivalry gets latest airing

Tipperary boss Michael Ryan. Photo: Sportsfile
Tipperary boss Michael Ryan. Photo: Sportsfile

IT has been noted this week that upon their first outing under Michael Ryan in Thurles last Saturday, Tipperary played somewhere in the region of 50 long balls into their attack, depending on your definition of the phrase.

Which, for most teams, wouldn't be particularly indicative of anything, were it not for the silky movement, free-form styling Tipperary played for the past three years under Eamon O'Shea.

Conor Kenny, the former Kildare player, may or may not make it at this level but clearly, on a night like last Saturday's when there are no marks being awarded for artistic merit, he is a useful weapon and a reliable outlet.


That Kenny, John McGrath and Jason Forde were Tipperary's best forwards will please Ryan more than anything given the reliance on Seamus Callanan and 'Bubbles' O'Dywer for scores at the crucial, failed moment in their 2015 season in the All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Galway.

Otherwise, Ryan was inclined to let the night pass without drawing too much attention to his team or their impressive sharpness, even allowing for Dublin's poor show.

Indeed the ease with which Tipp found gaps and scores was in almost total contrast to Kilkenny's first League outing when they found no such room or time against a Waterford defence already displaying the stinginess of last year.

Clearly, both teams in Walsh Park had markedly different levels of preparation done but that doesn't detract from the fact that an opening-day defeat in this League puts any team - even the All-Ireland champions - immediately in danger of being spoken about in relegation terms.

Despite universal expectation, we got no new chapter of the Kilkenny/Tipp rivalry last summer so it's unclear just where the antagonism levels lie but it's probably safe to say that they haven't dimmed hugely either.


Brian Cody's team battled hard last week but clearly hadn't the same work done against a team with a greater reason to be right on the League's opening afternoon.

So we're inclined to think that Kilkenny will win this one because they probably need to a bit more.

ODDS: Kilkenny EVS, Draw 9/1, Tipperary EVS

VERDICT: Kilkenny

allianz hurling league div1A: kilkenny v tipperary

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