A great, great win but the final is all that matters now

That was some win for Kilkenny. There were some aspects of the game that I didn’t like, they were downright stupid, but you couldn’t fault Kilkenny for that. They were fantastic. Their attitude was brilliant as usual.

That was some win for Kilkenny. There were some aspects of the game that I didn’t like, they were downright stupid, but you couldn’t fault Kilkenny for that. They were fantastic. Their attitude was brilliant as usual.

I won’t say they surprised anyone because we all know they are hugely talented, but we as stupid pundits were wondering had they still got it, is it coming near the end of the line for some or what. Then they turn around and give a super performance.

They were going stronger at the finish than at the beginning. There is no letting up there.

It is very difficult to know and understand how amateur athletes can have this sort of hunger day in and day out. We the public see it when they go out in matches, but they have it in training and in club games too. What Kilkenny are bringing to hurling now is phenominal.

They simply blew away Tipperary. With all due respects to the losers, Kilkenny were a bit unlucky not to be five or six points up at half-time. That is the way hurling can go. There was never much between these teams, and that didn’t change for the first half at Croke Park.

What impressed most about Kilkenny? It was the way they kept hurling, hurling, hurling. They go out with the same attitude every day and that is that thou shall not pass, too easily, anyway. The work-rate amazed again, and that was from front to back, or back to front, whatever way you want to look at the team. No one slackens off, ever.

Things worked well

I wondered why Tipperary didn’t change their tactics. They must have felt things worked reasonably well during the first half. I didn’t think so. I thought that by taking two forwards out of the game they were hindering themselves and with a lot of ball pouring down on their backs they were always going to conceded.

The same could be said of any set of backs having to deal with too much pressure and ball coming down on them. The same could be said of the Kilkenny backs. The less ball your defence has to deal with the better. Eventually the Tipp defence just couldn’t keep Kilkenny out, it was a simple as that.

People have been suggesting Galway won’t want to be meeting Kilkenny in the final. Galway were happy to meet whoever came along. They are on a high. They feel good about themselves, and they don’t fear anyone.

They have heard all the talk that they caught Kilkenny, that it was a fluke and they won’t catch Kilkenny again. Galway have a point to prove in the All-Ireland final. No team goes into any game without hope. Don’t forget the Leinster final.

The pre-match talk was much the same as we heard after Sunday’s great win, but Galway turned Kilkenny over, and very impressively at that.

They have a point to prove now. They won’t have any problem motivating themselves again to face Kilkenny. Indeed, all the talk that took from their tremendous Leinster final victory will help motivate them.

Kilkenny would be foolish to fall into the trap of getting over confident, although I don’t think Brian Cody will let that happen, especially in light of the way the Leinster final went.

No one was over confident facing Tipp, and looked how the team performed? That is when Kilkenny are at their best, when they have to perform big, when they have to dig deep in terms of physical and mental effort. I could see them saying ‘let’s worry about this Galway team because it is a very, very good Galway team.’

Galway will be better

I honestly think that Galway will be better than Tipperary. They have more match winners in their team than Tipperary have. It was no attident they blew Kilkenny out of the water the last day. They have the players to do that, to any team.

In the Leinstter final Galway beat Kilkenny physically, in a hurling sense, fitness wise and for speed. I know when things go bad for you, that that can happen. But if you look at that final coldly, they beat Kilkenny in every section - speed, skill, strength - in all the places you expect Kilkenny to be strong.

Part of the challenge in the final will be for Kilkenny to win back the ground they surrendered to Galway, be that in a hurling sense or in the physical exchanges.

After such a strong showing in the semi-final, casual talk will suggest there is not much Kilkenny have to do in terms of work for the final. Of course there is. The All-Ireland final is a big, big day.

I won’t say Kilkenny have to improve, but they have to improve on the performance they put in against Galway. The performance Kilkenny put in in the Leinster final wouldn’t have been good enough to beat Tipperary on Sunday. Absolutely not! Absolutely not!

Kilkenny now have to put two good performances back to back. People say that about other teams and suggest it is not easily done. It is not easily done with Kilkenny either, although consistency is a strong element of their play, especially since Brian Cody took charge.

Galway were able to sit back and examine happenings in Sunday’s semi-final, and they will take every aspect of it asunder. They will see the mistakes Tipp made and they will learn from them. Of course, they have a way of playing Kilkenny, and as we know, it is a very effective one so maybe Kilkenny have more work to do on Galway than vice-versa.

Bigger effort needed

Psychologically there is a big, big difference between playing Galway than Tipperary. The final will be very different, but the same massive effort will be required from the players if they are to win. An even bigger effort might be needed, because Sunday’s semi was over with about 10 minutes to go.

I don’t see Kilkenny being in that position in the final, no way. In the final Henry Shefflin and Noel Hickey will chasing a 9th winners medal which is extraordinary. Both have suffered bad injuries during their career, yet they are as enthusiastic as ever. I really admire them.

Henry is still the main man in attack, whether he scores or not, but others like Aidan Fogarty, T.J. Reid and Eoin Larkin are taking some of the burden from him.

Nothing can be taken for granted. Sunday’s was a great, great performance and we will all celebrate it, but once the players get back into training that will be forgotten about. The semi-final is yeterday. Tomorrow is what is important now, because it is the All-Ireland final.