Home advantage for Kilkenny
Kilkenny enjoy home advantage in this clash which is undoubtedly a huge advantage, especially taking into consideration Tipperary’s extremely poor record in Nowlan Park. In fact, none of the Tipperary panel this weekend have experienced victory in Kilkenny territory before. Seamus Callanan came off the bench in the 2008 league semi-final, but he isn’t part of the panel this weekend due to injury.
Since winning that semi-final in 2008, Tipperary have travelled to Nowlan Park eight times but have won none of those games. They lost to Kilkenny by a point earlier this year in the group stage, but this was with a weakened panel due to Fitzgibbon Cup final commitments. This is a tremendous opportunity to go and banish the Nowlan Park demons once and for all.
Looks set to be a shootout
This Spring, Kilkenny have averaged just over 24.5 points per game while Tipperary have averaged just under 28 points per game. After Kilkenny’s poor start to the league, their scoring rates have increased. Kilkenny have conceded on average just over 22 points per game while Tipperary have conceded an average of 24 points per game. Both teams have conceded a goal or more in six of their seven league game. That’s good news for TJ Reid, Walter Walsh, Jason Forde and John McGrath and all the forwards in action. Whichever defence holds up better will win this game.
TJ Reid v Jason Forde
Two of the best forwards in the game at the moment go head-to-head on Sunday. Reid has been back to his brilliant best this campaign, enjoying a fantastic game against Wexford in the semi-final last Sunday where he hit 0-15 including four points from play. His accuracy from placed balls is vital, as is Jason Forde’s for Tipperary. The Silvermines man has enjoyed an outstanding year so far, helping Tipperary to the league final and UL to Fitzgibbon Cup glory. He has hit 5-60 in the league and established himself as one of the best from placed balls in the country. He did not play against Kilkenny in their league game in February due to the Fitzgibbon Cup final against DCU. The winner of this individual scoring battle could be the difference between victory and defeat.
Players look to stake a claim for championship
Both Kilkenny and Tipperary have used the league campaign to experiment with different players and combinations in certain sectors of the field. Tipperary have used 34 players this league campaign as Michael Ryan looks to increase squad depth ahead of the busy Munster schedule. Kilkenny have not been able to call upon Richie Hogan and Colin Fennelly amongst others, while Ger Aylward is out of the final also. The players starting know that a good performance can seal their place in Brian Cody’s and Ryan’s starting line-up for the championship year ahead.
Winners get a trip to Australia
Another small incentive for both teams is the fact that the winner gets to travel to Australia to take on reigning AllIreland champions Galway in a challenge game. Kilkenny and Tipperary will be focused on winning the league title but the prize of an end of season game in Australia is a fantastic incentive for both sides.