It’s finally All-Ireland hurling final week. With just six days to go until the big one next Sunday, Pundit Arena will be building up to the match every day between now and then. To kick things off this Monday, we look at a combined team. If Tipperary and Kilkenny were the one county, what would the starting XV look like?
Of course, this is just our opinion. Make sure to get in touch on our social media channels to let us know what changes you would make.
1. Darren Gleeson (Tipperary)
Goalkeeper is one of the few positions that we can say that neither Tipp nor Kilkenny boast the best in the country. Nonetheless, Gleeson and Eoin Murphy are capable net-minders.
We give Gleeson the nod here.
2. Cathal Barrett (Tipperary)
The Holycross man has excelled this season, and has established himself as one of the country’s elite defenders. Barring a catastrophe on Sunday, he is a shoo-in for an All-Star award.
3. James Barry (Tipperary)
This writer has been thoroughly impressed with Barry throughout the summer. When there is a job to be done, he has stepped up and done it. One of the real failings of the Eamonn O’Shea era in Tipp was the lack of a dominant presence on the edge of the square. The Upperchurch-Drombane star has been immense this year.
4. Paul Murphy (Kilkenny)
Surprisingly, it takes until the number 4 jersey for a Kilkenny man to feature on this team. Nobody can have any doubt about Murphy’s credentials here.
5. Padraig Walsh (Kilkenny)
The Tullaroan star will not be stepping out from the shadow of his brother any time soon, but is slowly becoming one of Brian Cody’s most important backs. He can push forward too; two points from play in the Waterford replay is a testament to that.
6. Padraic Maher (Tipperary)
There were several question-marks surrounding the elder Maher brother following 2015, and he has answered them emphatically.
Big game players make big game plays. Maher sent Joe Canning out over the sideline with a thundering shoulder in the semi-final, and set the tone for the rest of the game.
Throughout the Munster Championship, he was the engine for the Tipperary machine.
We have switched him into the centre for the tactical purposes of this side.
7. Cillian Buckley (Kilkenny)
Buckley was not at his imperious best against Waterford in the semi-final battle, but his ability is unquestionable. If Kilkenny are to complete yet another three-in-a-row this weekend, they will need him to be back to the top of his game.
8. Conor Fogarty (Kilkenny)
The Cats’ midfield is arguably the best around, and Fogarty is at the heart of it. He showed nerves of steel to send over the equaliser against Waterford.
9. Michael Breen (Tipperary)
Injury to Michael Fennelly means that he is out of the final, and consequently not considered for selection in this side. Breen has been one of the players who have made a difference for the Premier this year. Sunday will be a big test of character.
10. TJ Reid (Kilkenny)
Most of these forwards spots pick themselves. We’re starting with perhaps the easiest call of the lot.
11. Richie Hogan (Kilkenny)
After a disappointing showing in last year’s final, Hogan has gone about setting the record straight this year after recovering from injury. He was the main reason Kilkenny were able to salvage a draw against Waterford.
12. John O’Dwyer (Tipperary)
‘Bubbles’ is one of the finest forwards in the country, and Michael Ryan almost paid the price for ignoring that when excluding him from the starting team against Galway. His influence was clear when introduced.
13. Colin Fennelly (Kilkenny)
Arguably his most underrated forward in the game right now, Fennelly is Mr Consistency for the Cats. He bagged a brace against the Déise in the replay, and oozes class.
He also featured high up on our list of the top forwards in hurling.
14. Seamus Callanan (Tipperary)
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Can Callanan produce what he is capable of on Sunday? If he can, Kilkenny are in trouble.
15. John McGrath (Tipperary)
The last spot on this team was a real shoot-out. Jonjo Farrell performed well throughout the Leinster Championship, Eoin Larkin has his merits, while Noel McGrath is back to his best.
We’ve gone for John McGrath. The young star is continuing to rise, and Cody will be keeping tabs on him for the final.