- Tomás Mulcahy feels that Tipperary might have enough to pip Kilkenny to the League title
- Kilkenny's Martin Fogarty says their players are in great shape at this time of year
- Tipp selector Michael Ryan says his players know what to expect from Kilkenny
- Kilkenny's JJ Delaney tells Brian Carthy that it is different without Brian Cody in the dressing room
Kilkenny v Tipperary, Nowlan Park, Sunday 3.30pm
By Micil Glennon
Traditional hurling powerhouses Kilkenny and Tipperary meet in Nowlan Park on Sunday bidding for the Allianz National Hurling League Division 1 title.
While no team could be written off early on, given the narrow parameters of a five-game league, both of the finalists got off to inauspicious starts.
The sides then met in round 2 with the Premier County recording a one-point win in Semple Stadium.
Eamon O'Shea's men could still afford to lose to Waterford before topping the table, while Kilkenny won their three remaining fixtures to finish second.
Dublin, having already secured promotion from Division 1B, provided meek opposition for Tipp in the semi-final, while Galway, despite a positive start, were overrun by Kilkenny in the other game.
So the last two All-Ireland champions have meandered their way through a much-maligned league to its decider.
However, there is little point in pretending that either side will be over excited by the idea of being league champions.
While both camps have been making the right noises about taking all games seriously and giving no quarter against their bitter rivals, they'll move swiftly on from Sunday, whichever way the result goes.
Kilkenny’s JJ Delaney says he hopes they “can get over the line”, with an eye on their 9 June clash with Offaly in the first round of Leinster, while Tipp’s Brendan Maher says it’s “the type of game you want to be involved” in, as they build up to the trip to Limerick on the same date.
In team news, Tipperary corner-Back Paddy Stapleton broke his hand in a club game and misses out, Padraic Maher is named to start, but there was concern over an arm injury, while Carrickshock duo Richie Power (ribs) and Michael Rice (groin) are doubts for the Leinster side.
For the last 14 years Brian Cody has moulded a team in his own humourless image so his loss, as he recovers from heart surgery, for the end stages of a league campaign was never going to be acutely felt.
The Cats, with Martin Fogarty and Michael Dempsey running the line, all know the drill and, despite the advances made by the Premier County in the last two months, can be expected to do the business, in front of an expected 23,000 crowd, and for their absent leader.
Tipperary: Darren Gleeson, Michael Cahill, Conor O’Mahony, Paul Curran, Kieran Bergin, Padraic Maher, Conor O’Brien, Brendan Maher, Shane McGrath, Seamus Callanan, Lar Corbett , Patrick Maher, Shane Bourke, Eoin Kelly, Noel McGrath.
Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy, Paul Murphy, J.J. Delaney, Jackie Tyrrell, Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan, Kieran Joyce, Lester Ryan, Michael Fennelly, Cillian Buckley, Michael Rice, Eoin Larkin, Colin Fennelly, Richie Hogan, Aidan Fogarty
Live radio coverage of the Allianz NHL Final, Kilkenny v Tipperary, from 14:00 on Sunday 5 May on RTÉ Radio 1, RTÉ RnaG and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide).
Highlights of all the weekend’s action on League Sunday on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only) from 20:00.