This weekend the hurling giants the Kilkenny Cats and the Premier County go head to head in Croke Park for the All-Ireland Hurlings Final this Sunday. Here we take a look back at their first battle in the 1896 final.

Meetings between Tipperary and Kilkenny are always mouth-watering affairs. The two great foes of the ancient game first met on a dark October's day, in 1887, when the All-Ireland Hurling Semi-Final was held, in Urlingford. Because of a dispute between the South Tipperary Board and the Central Council, the semi-final was moved from a Sunday afternoon to a Thursday afternoon.

Tipperary were represented by Thurles while Kilkenny were represented by Tullaroan who kicked up a fuss before the sliotar was thrown in. Tullaroan officials objected to the number of Thurles players who were not from Thurles parish but were in fact from neighboring parishes. Rules stated that the club representing the county in the All-Ireland Championship had to field players from the parish. The quick-thinking Thurles officials trawled through the large Tipperary supporters at the sideline to find men from the parish who could swing a hurley. Of course, they found little difficulty finding such replacements and the premier county went on to beat the Cats in their maiden meeting 4-07 to 0-00.

The next meeting between Tipperary and Kilkenny would be equally historic. It was the first meeting of the counties in an All-Ireland Final and the first one to take place in what is now known as Croke Park. 

Read more: Kilkenny’s Cody talks Tipperary respect ahead of All-Ireland hurling final

It was March 15, 1896, and the All-Ireland Hurling Final between Tipperary represented by Tubberadora and Kilkenny represented by Tullaroan was played at the City and Municipal Sports Grounds, on Jones road. Some 8,000 people filled the ground to watch the historic occasion, many arrived on special trains from across the country.

Tipperary wowed the spectators with their ruthlessly stylish play and by half time the scoreline was 1-06 against Kilkenny's paltry 0-01. When the second half started the Cats were more or less mauled as they failed to capitalize on their one-point score and when the referee blew the full-time whistle Tipperary won the day 6-08 to 0-01. 

The Freemans Journal stated "the display was a very poor one" as the grounds proved unsuitable for hurling yet, the Tipperary team managed to cut their way through the long grass and stomp across the unleveled soil with ease. The standout player, who in today's game would have been awarded man of the match, was Pat Riordan of Drombane. Riordan scored all of Tipperary’s goals and points. Tipp's record-breaking hurler would later emigrate to the United States where he died, in 1941, at the age of 69, in Long Island, New York.

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The other standout player on that day was team captain Mikey Maher. He led three Tipperary All Ireland winning teams and the famous GAA journalist P.D Meighan described the Tipp captain as "a thundering man, 6ft 2 and 15 stone-hard trained - big Mikey of Tubberadora." 

Big Mikey Maher moved to a farm in Limerick, in 1918, but his remains were buried in his native soil, in St Michael's cemetery when he died, in 1947. 

The Tubberadora team which brought All-Ireland titles to Tipperary broke up at the turn of the century and players went to neighboring clubs but their famous blue and gold sash jersey was carried on through Boherlahan-Dualla. 

A plaque was erected by Boherlahan-Dualla to commemorate Tubberadora while on display in Lar na Pairc GAA museum, in Thurles, there is a Tubberadora cap, resplendent with blue ribbon and gold tassel, which once formed part of the team's playing gear.

We may not see the type of high one-sided score lines that resulted in Tipperary winning All-Ireland glory against Kilkenny all those years ago, but the passion and rivalry remains the same. 

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