EVERY game, and especially Sunday’s All-Ireland hurling semi-final between two of the greatest rivals in the sport, is a 50/50 shot. And any player who thinks otherwise is in for a rude awakening.
Tipperary attacker, Noel McGrath, lived through the drama of the past three All-Ireland finals when Kilkenny and the Premier County tossed the McCarthy Cup between them. Little divided them! It will be the same this time.
“This will be no different,” said the relaxed Loughmore Castleiney clubman at the Tipp press day. “It is an All-Ireland semi-final, a knock-out game. There is no second chance.
“Both teams will be going out to do the best they can, to get to the All-Ireland final. What has happened so far this season won’t have any bearing on things. It will be what happens on the day. Whichever team performs the best will get through.”
The Noresiders were shocked by Galway in the Leinster final, but the Tipp attacker saw no vulnerability in Kilkenny afterwards.
A serious team
“We all know how good Kilkenny have been over the last number of years. You don’t become a bad team over night. They are the All-Ireland champions. They are still a serious team with serious players,” he assured.
“We will take nothing for granted. We will prepare as best we can and hopefully we will be ready for the test when it comes. There is no heightened pressure in Tipp/Kilkenny games as some people seem to think.
“Any day you go out you prepare as best you can no matter who you are playing, be it Kilkenny, Galway, Cork, Waterford or anyone. Everyone wants to play in Croke Park on the big days. You enjoy going there.”
When asked, he said Tipp were a bit slow to get going in the League, but since then things have picked up.
“We have worked on things we needed to work on,” he explained. “Any time after a match or training you try and improve on things. Since last year we have tried to improve on things. We are in good shape. We have trained well. Everyone is looking forward to this match.”
The return to the fold of Lar Corbett was huge, a boost to everyone. He said teams always want their best players available, and Tipp know how valuable Corbett can be.
Lar is ready
“He came back in against Cork,” McGrath reminded. “He played in the Munster final. He will be ready.”
Kilkenny were in the same boat, he suggested, trying to improve.
“They are the same; they will be trying to improve,” he continued when he took up the story. “It is hard to know what difference there is with them between last year and now. They had a serious hunger last year in the All-Ireland final.
“They were the better team on the day. This year we saw how good they can be against Dublin, and it was the same against Limerick. The match against Galway can be written off. It was a once off.
“We were disappointed after the All-Ireland final last year, the way it went. We were beaten fair and square. But you like to perform to the best of your ability. Hopefully this year we will be able to get the best out of ourselves in Croke Park.
“It is hard to put your finger on why the final went the way it did. At the time you think you are preparing the best you can, and everyone is giving their best, as they always do. Some days things don’t go right, things don’t happen for you.
“You just have to go back to the hurling field again and try harder and work harder. This year we have. We have worker very hard. Everyone is looking forward to such a big game, to getting back to Croke Park.”