Contrary to the belief that Kilkenny may be on the wane, RTÉ analyst Michael Duignan believes that the current side are as good as anything that manager Brian Cody has assembled in recent seasons and that Tipperary should be wary of the challenge before them in Sunday's All-Ireland SHC final.

Cody's troops are aiming for a hat-trick of titles and while Duignan admits they are not as strong as the side that captured the four-in-a-row from 2006 to '09, he believes that the all-important self belief is there that still makes the 2016 crop a potent force.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1's Morning Ireland ahead of the Liam MacCarthy showdown, the former Offaly star said: "All of us would agree that it's not as good a team as the really great sides from the end of the last decade that included the likes of JJ Delaney, Tommy Walsh, Henry Shefflin, Michael Kavanagh and Eddie Brennan. 

"I think the Kilkenny team this year are playing better than they did over the last two years."

"But they've got to an All-Ireland final and it could be Brian Cody's greatest managerial achievement if he completes a three-in-a-row on Sunday.

"I think the Kilkenny team this year are playing better than they did over the last two years.

"Walter Walsh has been a massive influence on the team, Richie Hogan is still at peak form and then there's TJ Reid. While he hasn't been at his very best, he is still hugely influential. Joey Holden and Shane Prendergast have improved an awful lot.

"Tipperary will need to be wary as I think this Kilkenny team is very, very strong, with a massive self belief."

The two-time All-Ireland-winning Offaly man is also of the view that the Cats' greater experience can again hold sway.

"Tipp have five players playing in a final for the first time and how they handle the occasion is going to be massive against wily opposition," he added.

"There's no better team than Kilkenny to exploit any inexperience. You could see the likes of Richie Hogan or TJ Reid picking up the likes of Seamus Kennedy and Ronan Maher.

"I think the battle of the half-back and half-forward lines is going to be crucial. Padraic Maher on Walter Walsh could also be pivotal. As we know, Kilkenny rotate their forwards, so there is much to look forward to."

On the loss of Michael Fennelly, Duignan, like most observers, states that he is a huge loss, but adds that his absence will inevitably see others up their work rate.

"Fennelly is a huge loss to Kilkenny but they are used to this kind of adversity. They have had massive retirements over the last couple of years - JJ Delaney, Tommy Walsh and Henry Shefflin, Richie Power is gone from last season and Ger Aylward got injured at the start of the year.

"They tend to take adversity in their stride. My experience of having a key man missing is that other players if it's possible will up it another percent or two to make up for the loss. There is a huge motivational factor there."     

Watch live coverage of Kilkenny v Tipperary on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player from 1405 and follow our live blog on RTE.ie. Listen live on RTÉ Radio 1 from 1300 to include coverage of the Tipperary v Limerick minor final and watch highlights of all the weekend's GAA action on The Sunday Game from 2130 on RTÉ Two.