As many had predicted at the start of the year, Kilkenny and Tipperary will battle it out for All-Ireland hurling glory this afternoon, throw-in 3.30pm at Croke Park (live on RTÉ One).

These old foes have been to the fore since they meet in the classsic final in 2009. Tipperary's only victory in that time came in the 2010 decider when, inspired by a hat-trick of goals from Lar Corbett, they stopped Kilkenny's ‘drive for five’.

Today the Premier will set their sights on stopping the Cats' quest for a hat-trick of titles.

Much of the talk during a somewhat low-key build-up to the final has been about how Kilkenny will cope without Michael Fennelly.

Depending on who you talk to, the loss will hit the reigning All-Ireland champions hard or it will inspire them to even greater heights as they strive for a 12th All-Ireland in the Brian Cody era.

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And while Cody will no doubt rue the fact that a major piece of his jigsaw will not be on view at Croker, he nevertheless has been keen accentuate the Black and Amber collective.

Speaking to RTÉ Sport, he said: "You could list any hurler from any era and Michael Fennelly is up there. He brings everything to the game, he has all the qualities needed.

“He obviously is a big man, physically very, very strong, with huge skill levels - great composure, and  a leader as well.

“It’s a huge personal blow to Michael. He had a huge influence on us getting to the final and now he can’t play in the final – that’s tough, that’s cruel and that’s sport.

"Unfortunately that’s the down side of sport.

"We’re a panel, we always have been a panel and always will be a panel and the panel takes over and we drive on."

Under new manager Michael Ryan, there is the perception that Tipp have added more brawn to their play. One thing for sure is that he has brought in players that can cover serious distance.

Seamus Kennedy and Ronan Maher have really excelled in the half-back line, while there's also a lot to like about Michael Breen in midfield and Dan McCormack in the half-forward division.

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Five of the Tipperary team are starting in their first All-Ireland and there's a pressure of sorts on those to above deliver on the biggest day of all against the likes Conor Fogarty, Paul Murphy, TJ Reid and Richie Hogan.

The Munster champions excelled when retaining their provincial crown against but weren't near as fluid against Galway in the semi-final three weeks ago.

Kilkenny, on the other hand, had a stern test of their credentials before finally seeing off Waterford in a replay to book their final date. Will that extra game bring them on?

RTÉ analyst Michael Duignan is tipping the Cats to prevail and goes against the view that Cody's side are on the wane.

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

"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.

"It's that self belief that I think will get them over the line in the end."

Duignan's fellow analyst Anthony Daly is opting for Tipp and added: “Tipp had to peak in Munster where they dismantled Waterford in the final.

“We then saw how good Waterford were against Kilkenny.

"Tipperary didn't set the world on fire against Galway the last day but they got there. I think they are in that slightly better position going into the final even though the whole Kilkenny thing is a huge barrier for them.

"I think they are ready to shake off that barrier and to say this is our time now to make a statement and beat Kilkenny"

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 RTÉ2.