Kilkenny legend DJ Carey believes that the Cats can still win the All-Ireland this year - even though they are behind leaders of the pack Tipperary and Galway.
Tipp defeated Kilkenny in last year’s All-Ireland final and in turn they were well beaten by the Tribesmen in Sunday’s Allianz Hurling League Division 1 decider.
The Cats would appear to be a bit off the pace, but Carey feels they will still have a major say in where the Liam MacCarthy Cup goes in September.
"I think they will and that’s not a cockiness coming from Kilkenny," said the five-time All-Ireland winner.
"Look at Galway, Tipperary, Waterford, Clare at the moment and they’re coming for a number of years. Kilkenny have been up there and if they are to be down for a year or two, and I’m not saying they will be, they’ll still be in the top three or four teams in the country.
"There are a lot of very good players coming on," said Carey, speaking on the RTÉ GAA Podcast.
"Tipp, to me, were absolutely phenomenal in some of the games during the League and the final was a bad day. Kilkenny aren’t at that stage yet, but hopefully they can be during the summer.
"I don't think they are at the level yet that Galway and Tipperary are at at present. The Wexford game is a massive game."
Kilkenny begin their campaign with a Leinster semi-final in June, most likely against Wexford, who must get past one of the round-robin group qualifiers in the quarter-final first.
Carey admits that he was very impressed by Galway in their 3-21 to 0-14 win over Tipperary in the League final at the Gaelic Grounds, but feels the big thing for them now is to reproduce that form consistently.
"Galway are physically huge, very strong. I saw them first-hand, albeit in a Walsh Cup semi-final with Carlow IT, and they are very imposing and very good hurlers," he said.
"I don’t know should we be overly surprised by this performance from Galway, but the question is ‘can they be consistent?’
"Galway are a little unlucky not to have two All-Irelands behind them in the last few years - they were in a (final) replay, Tipperary won an All-Ireland last year after beating them in a semi-final that could have gone either way.
"They just haven’t been able to get it over the line and when it looks like we’re in for a big one for them it doesn’t happen."