|Tipperary's Patrai Maher feels force from Richie Power.|
There's a growing belief in Kilkenny that the team which won an eighth All-Ireland title for manager Brian Cody on Sunday is their best ever.
That’s quite a statement when you consider all the Kehers, Brennans, Comerfords, Careys, Carters and Fennellys who have played for the Cats down the years.
The manner in which this Kilkenny team destroyed Tipp from the first whistle -- it was 16 minutes before the defending champions scored - adds fuel to the best ever fire.
So does the way in which Tommy Walsh controlled the half-back line from start to finish, the ease with which Henry Shefflin picked off passes where once he picked off points, the manner in which Michael Fennelly clinically scored his first half goal.
They are all pointers to a great team, but Sunday’s win wasn’t all about skill as far as this current Kilkenny team was concerned. It was just as much, if not more, about hunger and pain.
The hunger came from a burning desire to prove, as players, that they were good enough to win another All-Ireland title. Some have doubted Kilkenny in the 12 months since they lost to Tipp in the 2010 final, a desire heightened by their defeat to Dublin, of all teams, in the 2011 National League decider.
There was a theory abroad, and closer to home, that Kilkenny’s four-in-a-row stars were past it, ancient heroes lost in a new era for hurling. How wrong those theorists were.
The pain that drove the Cats on last Sunday came from a similar source. A year earlier they stood on the pitch at Croke Park as Tipp lifted the McCarthy Cup and deservedly so after they ripped Kilkenny’s so called “drive for five” apart.
The Liam Sheedy-inspired Tipperary team were never in doubt as winners in the 2010 finale as they tore the form book, the history book and the bookie’s book asunder with a performance that cut to the bone as far as Kilkenny were concerned.
To be blunt out, Tipperary outplayed Kilkenny at their very own game in September of last year, and that probably hurt the Cats more than anything.
It would have been easy for Hickey, Shefflin, Hogan and Walsh to drift off into the sunset, retire from the game with their four-in-a-row reputations intact and take up life on Easy Street.
But nothing is ever easy when it comes to Kilkenny hurlers and the desire to be the best in the land.
There were times on Sunday when their hurling was pretty, and there were times when it was ugly as sin.
There were moments in Sunday’s final when their stick work was artistic, other moments when it was brutal and shocking. Again, that didn’t matter.
What mattered on Sunday for Kilkenny was a desire to get the job done, to ease the pain of a year earlier, to prove themselves as great players once again.
Brian Cody’s team did all of that and more against Tipperary on a September Sunday.
And that’s why they are the All-Ireland champions they deserve to be this morning. Class, as they say, is permanent.