Kilkenny's former All-Ireland-winning captain Eddie O’Connor has openly questioned Tipperary’s “bottle” ahead of Sunday’s Allianz Hurling League Division 1A crunch between the counties at Nowlan Park.
O’Connor famously called Tipp’s mental fortitude into question ahead of the 2013 All-Ireland qualifier at the same venue and he’s stoked the fires again ahead of next weekend’s renewal of rivalries.
O’Connor, who skippered the Cats to Liam MacCarthy Cup glory in 1993, says that Sunday’s tie is “there on a plate” for the visitors – but isn’t sure that they can go to Kilkenny and get the job done.
O’Connor said: “Kilkenny showed last Sunday against Waterford that they haven’t a lot of work done.
“At this stage of the year, Kilkenny are vulnerable and I know from speaking to some of the lads that they haven’t much hurling done, while Waterford had seven or eight matches played.
“Waterford could and should have won by more and for Tipp, under new management, it’s there on a plate but I would question their bottle.
“Do Tipp have the bottle to come to Nowlan Park and beat an unfit Kilkenny team? That’s the 50-million dollar question. I’d say it’s very, very doubtful.
“I would be expecting a response from Kilkenny but with Eoin Larkin away on Army duty and Ger Aylward injured, Brian Cody will need to unearth a couple of new forwards during the League.
“I’m looking out for Kevin Kelly [Ballyragget] and Chris Bolger [Clara] – to me, these two players need to step up to the plate.
“Three-in-a-row will be a tall order for Kilkenny, one is hard enough to do, and they’ll need a couple of forwards to take the pressure off TJ Reid and Richie Hogan.”
The Cats are also without retired forward Richie Power – and O’Connor paid a glowing tribute to the Carrickshock man.
“I would say Richie Power was the most skilful player I’ve ever seen. He’s a huge loss to Kilkenny and unfortunately we hadn’t seen the best of Richie with the injuries and all of that.
“But who am I to doubt the great Brian Cody? He’s done without JJ Delaney, Tommy Walsh, Henry Shefflin, Eddie Brennan, Martin Comerford, you name it, he’s seen them all off and I have no doubt he will unearth new lads.
“One of Brian’s strong points is his ability to bring in young players and turn them into All Stars.”
O'Connor also launched a broadside at Clare senior hurling boss Davy Fitzgerald for his decision to recruit Donal Óg Cusack as team coach.
He said: "I don't agree with that Davy Fitz done. If Clare were going to bring in Donal Óg, they should have brought him in as manager.
"That's my own personal opinion - Davy is there long enough and if they don't win the All-Ireland this year, he has to get the P45."