FOR the first time this season, Kilkenny will have a fully fit squad for a big game. And they don’t come any bigger than the mouth-watering All-Ireland senior hurling semi-final against Tipperary in Croke Park on Sunday.
In what is the most eagerly awaited match of the seasons to date, a repeat of the All-Ireland finals of the past three years, managers Brian Cody and Declan Ryan have their charges primed for the big push towards September 9 and a showdown with Galway.
The big news for Kilkenny this week was that powerful defender, Brian Hogan, is set to return after missing the All-Ireland quarter-final against Limerick with a leg injury.
The O’Loughlin Gaels clubman missed the 2010 All-Ireland final against Tipp, which Kilkenny lost. However, when he was available for the finals of 2009 and 2011 the Cats took home the McCarthy Cup.
The return of Hogan to the heart of the defence is a massive boost to a team determined to prove that the Leinster final collapse and defeat against Galway was a one off.
Richie Power is also fully fit after suffering a heavy knock against the Shannonsiders, but Richie Hogan, who was sent off in that match, is suspended and will sit out the action.
Kilkenny will name their team on Friday night, but few changes are expected, apart from the return of Brian Hogan and the probable inclusion of T.J. Reid, who is said to be flying in training, from the start after being demoated to the sub bench after the provincial final.