The hard work has been done; now is Kilkenny’s time to shine

Jonjo Farrell, seen here in action against Clare's Martin Duggan, is expected to lead the Cats' attack against Tipp in Saturday's intermediate All-Ireland hurling final in Nowlan Park. Photo: Eoin Hennessy/www.ehp.ie
Club games provide entertainment for everyone - unless you’re an inter-county manager on the eve of picking a team for an All-Ireland final!

Club games provide entertainment for everyone - unless you’re an inter-county manager on the eve of picking a team for an All-Ireland final!

Kilkenny intermediate manager Pat O’Grady and his selectors were busy men at the weekend, running the rule over their charges in a series of club games before getting ready to tackle Tipperary.

“It’s a bit nervous, but the great thing is the lads are all playing hurling,” he said. “The club championship in Kilkenny is intense enough, so the lads are able to get good games going into an All-Ireland.”

Thankfully, the Cats reported a clean bill of health in the build-up to Saturday’s final in Nowlan Park (throw-in 6pm). Better yet, those club commitments kept players’ minds off the big day.

“The big thing on an All-Ireland final day is how people are going to react in that game,” the manager said. “Sometimes it can be a bit draining if there’s a lot of hype before the match; it’s hard to keep players away from that. Being with the clubs means their focus has only been on this game since Sunday night.”

Although it’s been a relatively quick championship for Kilkenny (they went straight into the semi-finals and beat Galway a fortnight ago) many hours of work went into preparing for that game.

“We played our first game against Cork in Castlecomer on the same day the seniors played in the League in Nowlan Park in March,” said O’Grady. “We’ve been steadily working on our shape and our personnel for the Galway game, which was knockout stuff - you don’t get a second chance so if you’re not 100% ready then you’re gone.”

And O’Grady is hoping that his side can look forward to plenty of home support on Saturday.

“It’s nice to be able to play in your home ground,” he said. “It gives our supporters a chance to see one of their own teams there. They’ve been on the road for the last 10, 12 years, whether it’s senior, minor or under-21 - hopefully they’ll come out to support these guys as they’ve given a great effort over the last few years.

“Some teams and managers talk about the supporters being the 16th man,” O’Grady added. “It doesn’t do any harm to have a good vocal support behind your side!”

See page 69 for full panel

The power of five

Kilkenny had to wait until 1973 for their first intermediate final appearance but they gained instant success, beating London by 5-15 to 2-9.

Scorers in the final, which was played in Waterford, were Jim Walsh (2-1), Shem Muldowney (1-4), Frank Cleere (1-1), Jack O’Connor (0-4), John Doyle (1-0), Pat Holden (0-2), Tim Murphy (0-1), Pat Kavanagh (0-1) and Dixie Burke (0-1).

The number five has a few associations with Kilkenny in the intermediate championship, but not always in a good way.

Following the revival of the All-Ireland series in 1997, Kilkenny lost the next five finals they appeared in - going down to Limerick (1998), Galway (1999) and Cork (2003, 2004 and 2006).

The slide was arrested in 2008, when the Cats beat Limerick to win their second crown at this grade and the first leg of what proved to be a hurling grand slam for the county. This was the first of five successive final appearances for Kilkenny. This Saturday will be the sixth straight year they’ve competed for the Michael Cusack Cup.

The last five finals have been something of a mixed bag for the men in black and amber, as they’ve only won two (the last being a 2010 victory over Cork).

And which county have they faced the most in finals? The answer is the Rebels - they’ve met them five times!

Roll of honour

Cork (7) - 1965, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009.

Tipperary (6) - 1963, 1966, 1971, 1972, 2000, 2012.

Wexford (4) - 1961, 1964, 2005, 2007.

Kilkenny (3) - 1973, 2008, 2010.

London (2) - 1967, 1968.

Galway (2) - 1999, 2002.

One each: Clare (2011), Limerick (1998), Antrim (1970), Carlow (1962), Kildare (1969).

The finals, year by year

2012 - Tipp 3-13, Kilkenny 1-17

2011 - Clare 2-13, Kilkenny 1-11

2010 - Kilkenny 2-17, Cork 1-13

2009 - Cork 2-23, Kilkenny 0-16

2008 - Kilkenny 1-16, Limerick 0-13

2007 - Wexford 1-11, Waterford 1-9

2006 - Cork 3-15, Kilkenny 1-18

2005 - Wexford 1-15, Galway 0-16

2004 - Cork 2-11, Kilkenny 2-11. Replay: Cork 1-16, Kilkenny 1-10.

2003 - Cork 1-21, Kilkenny 0-23

2002 - Galway 1-20, Tipperary 2-17. Replay: Galway 2-15, 1-10

2001 - Cork 2-17, Wexford 2-8

2000 - Tipperary 2-17, Galway 1-10

1999 - Galway 3-13, Kilkenny 2-10

1998 - Limerick 4-16, Kilkenny 2-17

1997 - Cork 2-11, Galway 1-12

1973 - Kilkenny 5-15, London 2-9

1972 - Tipperary 2-13, Galway 1-9

1971 - Tipperary 3-16, Wicklow 3-13

1970 - Antrim 4-18, Warwickshire 3-6

1969 - Kildare 2-8, Cork 3-4

1968 - London 4-15, Dublin 0-3

1967 - London 1-9, Cork 1-5

1966 - Tipp 4-11, Dublin 2-12

1965 - Cork 2-20, London 5-5

1964 - Wexford 4-7, London 1-11

1963 - Tipperary 1-10, London 1-7

1962 - Carlow 6-15, London 3-3

1961 - Wexford 3-15, London 4-4

Note: There was no championship between 1974 and 1996.