When Jackie Tyrrell decided to write his autobiography 'The Warrior's Code’ in 2017, Tyrrell’s story was, by extension, always going to be Kilkenny’s story too. 

Kilkenny were a machine but the machine was driven by great characters like Tyrrell. Kilkenny just never publicly revealed that character. That mystery and silence added more layers to their mystique as a group but Tyrrell finally lifted back the visor and gave a face to the machine.
For years, Kilkenny operated like a crowd of crazed Terminators – wiping out all before them. They buried, humiliated and broke teams but Tyrrell, and Kilkenny, always took their greatest satisfaction in ransacking Tipperary. 

Prior to the 2002 All-Ireland semi-final final, one of the most extraordinary statistics in hurling was that Tipperary had only lost once to Kilkenny over the previous 80 years. 

Tyrrell was raised on stories from his father of Kilkenny-Tipperary matches, most of which were won by Tipperary. 

"When our fathers and forefathers carried that hurt in their hearts, you had to hate Tipperary," wrote Tyrrell. "If you hurled for Kilkenny and you didn’t hate Tipperary, there was nearly something wrong with you." 

Throughout his career, Tyrrell’s attitude and mindset towards Tipperary was brimming with malice and intent. "It was as if they (the Tipperary players) couldn’t help themselves from exercising their birthright to piss off Kilkenny," wrote Tyrrell. 

"When they were showboating, we felt it was purely just to piss us off. We also believed it was a front, that it was them trying to convince themselves that they were better than us. We didn’t think they ever fully believed it."

Tyrrell admitted that Kilkenny probably fabricated a lot of that stuff in their own minds. They made Tipperary out to be worse than they were, as much for Kilkenny’s own motivational gain as the historical prejudices which created that mindset. But Kilkenny could still find a cause anywhere. 

"Their fluid attacking game was designed so they didn’t have to physically engage us up front but we contrived a different picture of it in our minds," wrote Tyrrell. "We viewed all this moving and switching as a means of disguising that they couldn’t take us on, that they hadn’t the balls to really go at us. It always felt like they were scared to beat us."

Jackie Tyrrell in action against Tipperary's Gearoid Ryan

As expected, Tyrrell’s comments caused consternation in Tipperary. A public forum on one website nearly went into meltdown with the heat – and vitriol – generated from the backlash. 

Some Tipperary players were annoyed with Tyrrell’s comments. The general Tipperary public felt it was even more of a slight considering that no other team had fronted up to Kilkenny more than Tipperary during the decade.

There was even some talk of the Kilkenny county board offering an official apology to the Tipperary county board over the comments

The detonation was so intense that there was also a fallout in Kilkenny. Many within the county felt that Tyrrell had gone too far, and that he had handed Tipperary decades of motivational speeches to pin on their dressing-room walls. 

There was even some talk of the Kilkenny county board offering an official apology to the Tipperary county board over the comments. That was just loose opinion but, however anyone from Kilkenny tried to distance themselves from the book, it would have still been logical for Tipperary to believe that Tyrrell’s views largely expressed what Kilkenny always thought of Tipperary. 

Tyrrell certainly stirred a boiling pot but that only added more spice to the brew in Kilkenny. Tyrrell’s views may have been extreme but when did Kilkenny ever really care about what Tipperary thought of them? 

The notion that Tyrrell had handed Tipperary more petrol than is in the entire Persian Gulf to ignite a bonfire of retribution was never really entertained. 

This is Brian Cody's 21st season in charge of the Cats

Kilkenny have never forgotten the decades when Tipperary walked down on top of them. Despite Kilkenny’s domination of Tipperary during this era, the diehards haven’t forgotten that the last time they met in the championship, Tipp hammered Kilkenny by nine points. 

Tyrrell’s comments were always going to appeal to the extremists within the county but, despite that deep-seated history, there was still a deep level of respect for Tipperary in the county, and how they kept coming back at Kilkenny during their glorious era of domination.

Some felt that if Tyrrell had been more gracious, and more complimentary towards Tipperary and their resilience, that it would have made Kilkenny’s achievements look even more impressive again. 

Kilkenny were always aware of Tipp's capacity to floor them with their firepower

Kilkenny may not have liked Tipperary. The Kilkenny players may have always felt that they had Tipp’s number but much of that confidence stemmed from a fear and deep-rooted respect for Tipp. It put Kilkenny even more on guard because they were so afraid to let Tipperary get ahead of them. 

Kilkenny were always aware of Tipp’s capacity to floor them with their firepower. Tipperary did the last time the sides met in the championship but it still doesn’t matter what Tipperary come at Kilkenny with anymore – because Kilkenny feel they are programmed to deal with it. 

Tipp’s 2016 All-Ireland final victory was deemed to be a landmark moment in their modern history with Kilkenny. The nine-point margin of defeat would have been far greater only for an outstanding goalkeeping display by Eoin Murphy. Tipp’s age profile that afternoon also looked far more positive than a Kilkenny machine which was slowing down. 

Tipp's Tommy Dunne and Derek Lyng of Kilkenny in the 2002 All-Ireland semi-final

After appearing to shove Kilkenny into a shallow grave in that 2016 final, Tipp were expected to keep trampling down on Kilkenny ever since. But they haven’t. Tipperary have now failed to beat Kilkenny in their four league meetings since that 2016 final. 

Kilkenny’s modern history has largely been defined by their defiance, and their stubborn refusal to yield, to any team. Winning an All-Ireland with this team would be Brian Cody’s greatest achievement. And beating Tipp in the final would make it one of Kilkenny’s most cherished All-Ireland wins. 

And yet, despite all the bad blood between the counties, the rancour and edge between Kilkenny and Tipp during this decade has been nowhere near as raw as Kilkenny’s rivalry with Cork between 2003-’10. 

Prior to the 2002 All-Ireland semi-final final, one of the most extraordinary statistics in hurling was that Tipperary had only lost once to Kilkenny over the previous 80 years

Familiarity has never fathered harmony in the Kilkenny-Tipperary relationship but familiarity between the teams now hasn’t bred anything like the same contempt and poison which strained relations between the players in the past. 

Prior to the 2002 All-Ireland semi-final final, one of the most extraordinary statistics in hurling was that Tipperary had only lost once to Kilkenny over the previous 80 years. 

There had only been seven championship meetings between the counties but one victory in that time-span was like an open wound that wouldn't close. 

For decades, Kilkenny were forced to listen to the taunt, "Kilkenny for the hurlers, Tipperary for the men." 

Tipp hammered Kilkenny in the 2016 All-Ireland final

Kilkenny were hurling purists whereas Tipp favoured a more robust style which was effective against Kilkenny. They always resented the notion of Tipp’s facility for aggression and Kilkenny’s own perceived inability to deal with it. 

Yet Kilkenny developed that harder, physical edge in the 1960s in order to stand up to Tipp. "It was a conscious thing on our part," Eddie Keher once said. 

The corollary was that the rivalry went to a whole new level in the latter half of the 1960s. Some of the sides meetings during that time were vicious. Kilkenny beat Tipp in the 1966 league final. Kilkenny also prevailed in the 1967 All-Ireland final. 

Tom Walsh, the Kilkenny centre-forward, lost his eye in an accidental clash in that match while Keher’s arm was broken by a malicious stroke. When the sides met again in the 1968 league final, Croke Park exploded in a frenzy of violence 15 minutes into the second half. 

Relations between both sets of players were strained afterwards. Tipp beat Kilkenny again in the 1971 All-Ireland final but hurling changed afterwards and then Tipp disappeared for nearly two decades. 

When Tipp and Kilkenny finally met in the championship again after a 20-year-hiatus, Tipp won once more in the 1991 All-Ireland final. And then Kilkenny completely altered the culture and history between the two counties in the new Millennium.

When the sides met in the 2002 All-Ireland semi-final, it was the first time since the 1960s that Kilkenny and Tipp had a really good team at the same time. Yet Kilkenny had strode ahead by the time they met in the 2003 All-Ireland semi-final and Tipp were left in Kilkenny’s slipstream as they set off on their quest towards immortality. 

Kilkenny keep getting the better of Tipp in the league

When Tipperary finally caught up with Kilkenny by the end of the decade, stopping them from winning five-in-a-row in 2010, that success allowed a share of Tipp supporters to flaunt their historical prejudices towards their neighbours once more. 

Kilkenny ruthlessly responded to that challenge by defeating Tipperary in their next four championship matches, two of which were All-Ireland finals. 

The dynamic of the historical rivalry had changed dramatically by then but the modern Kilkenny-Tipp relationship has been further crystallised and magnified by the immense standards that they have both set. 

Kilkenny have been the dominant force in this millennium but Tipperary have – indirectly - helped frame a large part of that dominance over the last 10 years

When the two teams clashed in the 2011 All-Ireland final, it was the first time in hurling history that two teams had met in an All-Ireland final for the third year in a row. On Sunday, it will be the first time in GAA history that two teams will clash in five All-Ireland finals in one decade. 

Kilkenny have been the dominant force in this millennium but Tipperary have – indirectly - helped frame a large part of that dominance over the last 10 years. 

And yet despite Kilkenny's iron grip on the game, this decade has still witnessed another hurling revolution, with Clare, Galway and Limerick winning All-Irelands. The game is in the midst of another golden age but, given Kilkenny and Tipperary’s brilliance during this era, another old-firm All-Ireland final still seems a fair way to bring such a glorious decade to a close. 

Follow the All-Ireland hurling final between Kilkenny and Tipperary (Sunday 3.30pm) via our live blogs on RTÉ.ie and the News Now app, watch live on RTÉ2 or listen to radio commentary on RTÉ Radio 1 and RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta.