ALL conquering Kilkenny are gearing up to charge further clear of the rest of the field as they continue to rewrite the record books in hurling.
The cunning Cats are the market leaders in the All-Ireland series, and they are by far the biggest winners in the Leinster senior championship also.
The Noresiders currently lead the All-Ireland rankings with 33 wins to their credit, three ahead of long time leaders Cork, with Tipperary (26) running third in the Roll of Honour.
Kilkenny are even more dominant in Leinster, where they have scored 68 victories, over double the take of their nearest rivals, Dublin, who have 23, followed by Wexford with 20.
And Brian Cody’s stormtroopers have their sights set on winning another Leinster title this Sunday which, if attained, would be a remarkable eight in-a-row. The only time the county was beaten in the province over the past 14 seasons was in 2004 when a late goal earned Wexford victory.
They face Galway, who are still chasing their first success in the province, in the decider in Croke Park and the bookies are confident there will only be one outcome.
The Cats are roaring 1-6 on favourites, with Galway at a hard to credit 5-1 in a two horse race. The betting on a draw is 12-1.
“No team is ever without hope in any match,” insisted defiant Galway manager, Anthony Cunningham. “We respect Kilkenny. We admire what they have achieved, but we don’t fear them.”
During the past week Kilkenny have had a procession of players in and out of the treatment room. J.J. Delaney (fractured finger), Michael Rice (knee) and Michael Fennelly (broken bone in foot) are the cause of most serious concern.
Kilkenny haven’t given up hope that Delaney might play. A decision will be made later in the week after consultations with a specialist. Delaney picked up the injury in the last match against Dublin.
The odds are against Rice featuring, although he has stepped up training after working his way through a tendonitis problem that was more serious than first thought. A lack of match practise could go against him.
Likewise with 2011 Player of the Year, Michael Fennelly, who, although ahead of schedule after suffering the injury in the National League final against Cork, appears to need a little more time to recover fully.
Colin Fennelly, Tommy Walsh, Paul Murphy, Eoin Larkin and Jackie Tyrrell have all taken a break from training at one time or another during the past week as they bid to shake off slight knocks.
However, come show time, most if not all are expected to take the field in Croker.
“The prize for winning is to get to the All-Ireland semi-final,” Brian Cody said when he spoke to the ’People. “The losers go to the Qualifiers.
“It is obvious which is the better option. Galway want the better option, but so do we.”