These great hurling rivals just can’t be kept apart

Pictured at a photocall ahead of the Allianz Hurling League Divison 1 final in Semple Stadium are Paddy Stapleton (left) Tipperary and Eoin Larkin, Kilkenny, with the Division 1 trophy. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE
There is no keeping great rivals Kilkenny and Tipperary apart. On Sunday the counties will blasted into each other for the fifth time in 14 months.

There is no keeping great rivals Kilkenny and Tipperary apart. On Sunday the counties will blasted into each other for the fifth time in 14 months.

Last year a triple helping of the biggest attraction in hurling was served up in Nowlan Park for the delectation of fans, and the place was throbbing on each occasion.

There was another meeting in Thurles in the Allianz National Hurling League in March 2013. On Sunday the pair shape up to each other in the League final in Semple Stadium in what is sure to be another thrilling chapter in this ever fascinating saga.

The 2013 and 2014 seasons - to date - have produced the busiest ever schedule between the counties. And currently the score stands 3-1 in favour of the Cats, although Tipp head the League title strike 19-16.

Last season the counties met in an ordinary League tie and then the final in Nowlan Park. Both were won by Kilkenny. The most compelling clash was in the championship Qualifier, a game and occasion that will be remembered forever by the 23,000 fans who crammed the place. Again the Cats won.

Tipp’s one success in the series was in March 2013 when they won a Thurles meeting by 2-17 to 1-19. That was the visitors second reverse in the competition, having earlier lost to Galway, but they did a Houdini on it afterwards and escaped to win the title.

How the counties arrived at this juncture doesn’t matter much. Kilkenny’s strong home form and three wins there helped them make the cut as results elsewhere went this way and that. Tipp shipped scoring damage of 12-51 when losing to the Noresiders, Clare and Galway during their worst times, yet they are one of the last two teams standing.

The Division IA League is a hard place to survive, yet the same two counties are in the final for the second year running. And Kilkenny are chasing what would be their first hat trick of victories in the League final, a competition that has a history stretching back as far as 1925.

With the start of the Leinster and Munster championships drawing closer, fans will be watching the make up and shape of the teams with thoughts of MacCarthy in mind. Last year neither achieved in the championship, despite the massive promise they showed in what a high quality League decider in the ’Park (2-17 to 0-20).

When Sean Fennelly bulldozed his way through the Tipp defence to score two mighty goals that afternoon we would have said he would set the season alight. An ankle injury suffered later in a club game finished that.

The League final is an interesting occasion, but not a season maker or breaker.