It’s a bonus weekend for GAA fans and hurling lovers as for the third year in succession the All-Ireland Hurling final will be decided in a replay. Liam MacCarthy’s new home will become clear on Saturday night under lights in Croke Park, and, if the replay is anything like the drawn game, another classic is in store.
Sports lovers of all persuasions, but particularly those with a grá for hurling, have been spoiled over the last three seasons with replays in all three hurling finals. Anticipation for the 2014 edition is probably higher than previous years given the nature of the drawn game, and the teams involved.
Speculation is rife as to injury concerns, loss of form, management worries and potential changes in both counties. Add to that the unique management challenge of building the players up for the second “biggest game of their lives” within the space of three weeks and the perils of predicting an outcome are multiplied.
The form all year is now out the window. League and Championship performances by both teams and individuals can be discounted. It’s all about the performance the last day, how to improve for the replay and how the players and management dealt with the additional three weeks on the season.
Whispers from Tipperary suggest Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher will recover from a knee injury picked up in training, but Captain Brendan Maher faces a race to be fit after picking up a calf injury.
Kilkenny don’t seem to have any major injury concerns, apart from the usual knocks, and speculation Noreside is centered around potential changes to the team with talk of Tommy or Padraig Walsh replacing Joey Holden and Aidan Fogarty coming in for Walter Walsh.
If Walsh is to lose out there would be a tinge of irony about it. He was introduced to the Kilkenny starting team just ahead of the 2012 replay with Galway and went on to produce a Man-of-the-Match winning performance.
And that 2012 replay may hold the key for Kilkenny. They are now travelling a path they last took only two short years ago when they beat Galway in a replay, and that experience may well stand to Brian Cody’s men. Tipperary, however, may well have learned more about themselves and their opponents from the drawn game.
Last year’s replay sparkled under the Croke Park floodlights. This has the potential to better that.
Don’t rule out extra time!This Saturday’s All Ireland Senior Hurling Final can be purchased from www.gaago.ie for €14. The replay match is also available as part of the package for GAAGO Season Pass subscribers.
Saturday 27 September (Throw-in 17:00 Irish time) - Watch live and on demand on GAAGO www.gaago.ie.