Yesterday, we looked at the key men for Tipperary if they are to beat Kilkenny. Today, we look at the most important players in the Kilkenny side. Who do Kilkenny need to play well in order to secure three All-Ireland titles in a row? Here are our thoughts.
1. Richie Hogan
He is an obvious choice, but Hogan is vital to Kilkenny’s chances. He is their scorer in chief and has been orchestrating things for Kilkenny’s attack on return from injury. He started at midfield against Waterford before returning to centre-forward. The accuracy of his shooting is exceptional. Each game will only increase his fitness levels and whether he lines out at midfield or at centre-forward, he will be very important to Kilkenny’s chances.
2. TJ Reid
He has not been at his best this year so far. He has still played an important role in Kilkenny’s run to the final with excellent free taking and high work rate around the middle third, but he has been a long way short of his Hurler of the Year form of 2015. Will the All-Ireland see Reid save his best performance until last? It looks like he will start at midfield and it would not be unlike Reid to save his best performance for the biggest day.
3. Walter Walsh
In the absence of Michael Fennelly, the physical presence of Water Walsh is going to be more important then ever. Outside of his obvious quality, Fennelly is a momumental loss in terms of presence and physicality. Walter Walsh has been the unsung hero of Kilkenny’s season so far. It was not just about his goal in the drawn game with Waterford. His work rate and general hurling brain has developed. He will be a key figure in the battle around the middle third.
4. Conor Fogarty
It is hard to know if he will line out at centre-back or midfield but Fogarty is one of Kilkenny’s key men regardless of where he plays. The loss of Michael Fennelly may see Fogarty revert back to his midfield role. In this position, he is a hugely influential player for the Cats. His workrate is phenomenal and his assistance in both attack and defence helps Kilkenny to link both ends of the field in a very effective manner.
5. Colin Fennelly
With injury to his brother, there will only be one Fennelly in the Kilkenny starting line-up this Sunday. With Brian Cody being the master of the curveball, it will be interesting to see how Colin Fennelly is used. His two goals from full-forward were vital to Kilkenny getting to final. Will Cody place him on the edge of the square again? Or will he go back to the half-forward line and bring energy and workrate to the middle third. Whatever role he is used in, he will be a big player in the final.