Waterford and Galway take part in the 2017 All-Ireland hurling final in a novel pairing.
Perhaps unusually, Galway enter this year’s final as the experienced side, having played in finals in 2012 and 2015. Waterford, on the other hand, haven’t reached the decider since 2008 – where they were heavily beaten by Kilkenny.
But will that experience stand to them this Sunday?
Three teams have been consistently making final this decade: Kilkenny, Tipperary and Galway.
Unfortunately for the Tribesmen, they’re yet to take Liam home in any of these deciders.
In 2012 Galway turned a leaf as they trounced Kilkenny in the Leinster final. But the shock was the consistency they showed in the games that followed.
After their Leinster final triumph, Galway rather easily accounted for Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final before facing the Cats once again in the final.
The Tribesmen ran Kilkenny to the pin of their collar and when Joe Canning forced a replay, the men from the west were optimistic once more.
Unfortunately again for Galway supporters, they were rather easily brushed aside in the replay as Kilkenny were once again crowned All-Ireland champions.
Galway’s second All-Ireland final appearance was less dramatic. Kilkenny once again rather nonchalantly breezed past Anthony Cunningham’s side.
For all the criticism directed at Galway’s consistency, their championship record in the 2010’s tells a different story.
In each year bar one, only the All-Ireland finalists have eliminated the Tribesmen from the championship. Kilkenny in 2012 and 2015, Tipperary in 2010, 2014 and 2016 and Clare in 2013.
So who were the only team to knock out the Tribesmen not to reach the final? It was of course, this year’s final opponents Waterford.
In 2011, having suffered a humiliating seven-goal Munster final defeat to Tipperary, Waterford bounced back to hammer Galway in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
Waterford didn’t reach the 2011 All-Ireland final, but it does keep track with a different Galway record. The Tribesmen have never defeated the Déise in championship hurling.
Add to this the fact that both Waterford’s recent minor and u-21 All-Ireland victories came at the expense of Galway, Derek McGrath’s side will hold confidence.
However, that’s not to say Waterford don’t face issues of their own. Waterford’s sole All-Ireland final appearance in living memory ended in disaster.
Way back in 2008, the men from the south-east reached their first All-Ireland final appearance in 45 years and the hype in Waterford went into overdrive.
This proved an issue as Kilkenny blew their opponents out of the water with a 23-point victory.
It’s almost ten years since that All-Ireland final appearance, just Kevin Moran and Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh remain part of this year’s panel.
Almost every Galway hurler this Sunday will have experienced this occasion previously. Even Conor Whelan, the sides youngest player, has All-Ireland final experience.
Yes, Waterford have claimed All-Ireland titles at minor and u-21 recently. Unfortunately for the Déise, these hold no comparison to the occasion that is the senior final.
The experience Galway have gained from 2012 and 2015 may yet just prove a substantial factor this Sunday.
Kevin Daly, Pundit Arena
Check out the latest episode of The 16th Man where we spoke to Micheal O’Donoghue ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland final between Galway and Waterford.