Tipperary’s place at the head of the hurling pecking order is well justified, according to John Mullane, with the former Waterford star predicting a “ding-dong” battle when Tipp head to Walsh Park on Sunday in the Allianz HL Division 1A.
It’s not surprising that All-Ireland winners top the list and Mullane, speaking to RTÉ Sport said of Michael Ryan’s charges: “When the wheels are in motion, they are different to other teams.
“Tipperary scored 2-29 in the All-Ireland final, they could have scored 3-35. They are just that bit ahead of other teams at the moment.
"Beating Tipperary in February is a completely different to beating them in June/July"
That said, the five-time All Star feels Waterford will put it up to Premier County in Walsh Park and believes the outcome of last year’s Munster final, where the Deise were trounced by 21 points, will have little bearing on Sunday’s encounter.
“A lot of people will say it's going to be a grudge match but I don't see it along those lines.,” Mullane predicts.
"It's going to be two good teams going at it. For me they are two best teams in the country.
"Waterford beat Kilkenny last Sunday and made a massive statement by winning in Nowlan Park for the first time in a long time.
"Beating Tipperary in February is a completely different to beating them in June/July.
"Derek [McGrath] knows that there is a gap to be bridged with Tipperary and he’ll be anxious to bridge the gap.”
Listen to live coverage of Laois v Offaly & Cork v Dublin this weekend on RTÉ Radio 1's Saturday Sport Extra from 7pm. Live commentary on Waterford v Tipperary on RTÉ Radio 1's Sunday Sport.