Kilkenny and Tipperary ‘now’ will lock horns in Sunday’s eagerly awaited Allianz National Hurling League final in Thurles.
During the early campaign, both showed off different versions of their true self, but in the semi-finals in Limerick two weeks ago they unveiled combinations that won’t be too far off the mark come championship time.
The Cats, the defending League champions, were slow to get into their stride, but overall they looked pretty convincing in their victory over Galway.
Tipperary, with Seamus Callanan shooting 12 points and Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher snatching two goals, looked fair good too when taking the scalp of All-Ireland champions, Clare, after downing the runners-up Cork in their previous tie.
The undoubted message from both was they are generating a head of steam and they have a definite idea of where they are going in terms of the championship. Barring a disaster on Sunday, the Summer teams will be largely shaped around what is on show now.
Injuries could change things between now and the start of the championship, but managers Brian Cody and Eamon O’Shea have all the main sorting work completed.
The Kilkenny defence against Galway had a new shape, with Padraig Walsh in a new role at wing-back and Brian Hogan returned at No. 6. Things went so well that it would be tough on anyone if they are told on Friday when the team is announced that they are out. The competition is hot.
Three games ago Joey Holden was looking a good bet to become a first teamer. Happenings in Limerick changed that, and he may have to join a queue.
Richie Power and Eoin Larkin missed the semi through injury. Again, the attack did well. Walter Walsh struggled a little, but he has credits in the account after some massive showings earlier. It won’t be easy to bench him.
Tipperary looked to be blossoming too, with Padraic and Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher, Michael Cahill, Brendan Maher, Kieran Bergin, Conor Mahony and Seamus Callanan all going very well.
The League has worked out nicely for both. Neither will want to falter. Losing wouldn’t be a disater, but both want the bonus...a League title.