Kilkenny will want vengeance, Dublin to create history. With all the talk of the two division one league finalists, the spotlight has been somewhat deflected from the build-up to the All-Ireland champion’s first game in this year’s Munster Championship.
However next Sunday marks the beginning of a new chapter in the hurling season with the clash of Tipp and Cork in Semple Stadium. It must be borne in mind that Tipperary failed to win the league last year as well, but came good in the latter stages of the All Ireland championship. You can ask any Tipperary supporter, they would gladly swap a fistful of leagues for another All Ireland title.
With all the talk of scrapping the provincial championships, even the most ardent supporter of this measure would have to admit there is something special about Thurles on a Munster Championship day. The atmosphere in Liberty Square, the pre-match banter in the pubs along that main drag, and the roar that will rock Semple Stadium when the first sliotar of this year’s Munster Championship is thrown in on Sunday, all these make for something that would simply dissipate if the GAA do away with provincial deciders. Bragging rights are so much sweeter when its a close rival you beat.
Back to Sunday’s game however, and it remains to be seen which Tipp team will turn up on the day. With the change in management after last year’s success, it was always going to take some time for Tipperary to find top form in 2011, and this was certainly the case with poor displays against eventual finalists Waterford and Dublin coming before things started to click somewhat. What all Tipperary supporters will hope is that the mostly upward performance curve the team has been on since the defeat to Dublin will continue this weekend, and that Tipp will manage a win against Cork to erase the memories of a woeful championship opener last year in Pairc Ui Caoimh. That day the team in blue and gold got scalded by their own red hot favourites tag. This year Cork will be afforded more respect.
Cork too come into this game on the back of a mixed league campaign, putting it up to the likes of Kilkenny and capitulating to Wexford and Dublin amongst others. In the league meeting between Sunday’s competitors back in March, the spoils were shared. Tipperary should have enough momentum to overcome Cork on Sunday, and perhaps then people will pay less attention to Kilkenny and Dublin and sit up and notice that the reigning champions have no intention of relinquishing their title.