The days keep passing by and the 2016 All-Ireland Hurling Final between Kilkenny and Tipperary draws closer and closer. In our continuous look ahead to hurling’s biggest day, we take this opportunity to focus on Tipperary and who will be their potential match winners on Sunday.
1. Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher
We pick the Bonner at number one for one reason and one reason only, physicality. It has become very clear that Bonner is Tipperary’s most physical player and a big performance has always been needed by their bustling half-forward whenever they have played Kilkenny. The Cats will look to turn this game into a physical battle, they did so in the 2014 replay and a clearly unfit Bonner was a monumental loss. If Tipp are to win, this man must be on form.
2. Padraic Maher
His form has been very good this year and he has answered a lot of questions, but this is another test of a different level for Padraic Maher. Brian Cody has always targeted the, at times, colossal half-back. In 2011 he placed Eddie Brennan on him, in 2012 Maher resorted to reckless use of the hurley and in 2014, it wasn’t until Richie Hogan went to centre-forward in the drawn game that he began to run riot. This game is a huge test for Maher and one can expect Cody to target him again.
3. Ronan Maher
Ronan Maher has had an excellent year so far, but like his brother this test will put Ronan Maher in positions he has not been in before. Will Brian Cody look to target not one Maher, but two. Richie Hogan has been shooting the lights out from centre-forward since his return from injury. Will he push up and mark Kilkenny’s key man or will he look to hold the centre of the defence. Either way, Ronan Maher’s response to the challenges thrown at him in his first All-Ireland final could have a big bearing on the result.
4. Michael Breen
Breen is another man making his All-Ireland final debut. We all know good Kilkenny are at crowding the middle third and preventing teams from building a platform, without Michael Fennelly, this will be a difficult task for the Cats. Breen’s attacking and scoring has been valuable for Tipp all year and the loss of Fennelly may give Breen more freedom. It will also be interesting to see how he performs in his first All-Ireland final.
5. Seamus Callanan
The full-forward is an obvious choice, but he is a player with big scope for improvement on his semi-final performance. Callanan was unerring in his free taking and showed a moment of class to set up John McGrath’s goal but other then that, he was quiet and was beaten by Daithí Burke. If Tipp are to win this Callanan will need to strike form from frees and from open play.