Tyrrell: ‘If there’s any team to die on Sunday it’ll be Tipp’
By John Harrington
Former Kilkenny hurler Jackie Tyrrell believes Kilkenny will win Sunday’s All-Ireland SHC Final against Tipperary if they can make it a physical, gritty sort of contest.
The nine-time All-Ireland winner believes Kilkenny’s game-plan will be to bring the game “into the trenches”, and that if they do that then their greater durability will see them through.
“If they stand and go toe-to-toe, there's no better team that will stand there, take the punches and come back for more than Kilkenny and just wear you down,” said Tyrrell today.
“They found a way to get over the line against Limerick and that's what Kilkenny have, they just don't die and they won't die on Sunday.
“If there's any team to die on Sunday it'll be Tipp.
“I don't think they will because I just think there's a sting in this Tipperary team still but this Kilkenny team are quite durable and will go the distance.
“Tipperary have the ability if it's open and there are balls being zinged around. They'll win if that's the case. If it's tight and tense and in their face, you wouldn't say Kilkenny will definitely win it, but it will be more on their terms.
“Kilkenny like bringing it into the trenches. If you look at Noel McGrath and Conor Browne who I expect to pick him up, who's the better hurler? Noel McGrath. Bring it into the trenches where it's tight and physical, who wins it? I'd be going with Conor Browne everyday of the week.
“I think that match-up really sums it up in the sense that if Noel McGrath has the ball in his hands 10 times, he'll probably create four or five scores and score another two points, if Conor has it 10 times I don't see him having that same influence.
“But if Browne takes McGrath out in a really tight environment then it's advantage hugely to Kilkenny. I think that's a good analogy of that point. Kilkenny need to make it physical and mano a mano and I do think they will draw Tipperary into that because of the bodies in the middle third.”
Tipperary have beaten Kilkenny in two of the six All-Irelands the teams have contested in the last 10 years (2010 and 2016) and on both occasions they had built up a handsome lead coming into the closing minutes.
The three All-Irelands that Kilkenny won in the same period (2009, 2011, and 2014 replay) were tighter, tenser sort of contests.
Tyrrell believes that if Sunday’s match is one of similarly fine margins that goes down to the final few minutes of the contest, then Kilkenny’s greater mental strength will get them over the line first.
“I do think if it's going down the final straight and there's five or ten minutes to go and it's tight, I do think there's a psychological advantage for Kilkenny in that any time Tipperary beat Kilkenny it's in an open, free-flowing game.
“When it's tight and tense, Kilkenny generally win those. You think even the League Final last year where Tipperary had the better pool of players on the pitch but Kilkenny just came out in the second-half and blitzed them and Tipperary had no response.
“If you flip that, if it's the other way around, when Kilkenny are out of the game they have an unbelievable ability to hang in there. Instead of the other team getting 3-3, they'll just get 1-2. That's that durability, they just won't wilt.”
Tyrrell wasn’t flavour of the month in Tipperary when his autobiography, ‘The Warrior’s Code’, was published in 2017.
In it, he suggested that the Tipperary teams he played against didn’t have “the balls to really go at us”, were “scared to beat us”, and that the Kilkenny defenders believed they could intimidate some of the 'flaky' Tipperary forwards.
Many of those same forwards that Tyrrell came up against are still involved with the Premier County, so does he view the current Tipperary team as similarly vulnerable?
“I would say there's a bit more about this Tipperary team,” said Tyrrell.
“There's a bit of backbone about some of these players.
“You look at what Seamus Callanan is doing, you look at what Noel McGrath is doing. Even Brendan Maher this year. He's a stylish wing-back but he's sacrificing his game to take Tony Kelly out of it, to forget about hurling against Limerick and just marking Aaron Gillane.
“These lads, they're just doing things I've never seen them do before. I think they're mean and I think they're hungry for this All-Ireland.
“I'd say they know that time is against them and that all bets are off.
“I'm sure Padraic and Brendan Maher are saying, 'Lads we're sick of these Kilkenny lads, let's put them to the sword.'
“But then you look at Joey Holden, Padraig Walsh, TJ Reid, the're saying, 'The last time we played Tipperary in an All-Ireland final look at what they did to us.'
“So it probably balances itself out in a sense. Emotion is definitely hugely part of it. I think there's a bit more pressure on the ageing profile of the core of that Tipperary team.
“I do think their chances are probably getting slimmer and slimmer. The (likes of the) Noel McGraths and Padraic Mahers.
“I'm sure they'll be looking to draw a line in the sand and say, 'Lookit lads there's been years where we didn't really get the very best out of ourselves. We find ourselves in an All-Ireland final, what better way than to put Kilkenny to the sword and to really go after them.'
"Kilkenny have gone after Tipperary for years and I think Tipperary need to go after Kilkenny and go after their key players.
“Brendan Maher needs to take TJ Reid out of it and Bubbles O'Dwyer needs to take Padraig Walsh out of it, Callanan needs to be an assassin inside.
“That's the mentality they need to have to bring to this game.”
Tyrrell expects a seriously competitive match on Sunday, but is convinced that Kilkenny will find a way to win this All-Ireland Final.
“I would say Kilkenny just by a margin of a few,” he said. “I don't think it'll be open at all. And I do think two things - that when Tipperary have their spell, Kilkenny have the ability to claw in and not concede big scores when they're totally out of the game.
“And also I just think if they do put Brendan Maher on TJ Reid, how the rest the rest of the defence will shape up around that? Who will cover that centre?
“I just think Kilkenny might be able to create a mis-match up there and that they could hammer the hammer and the likes of Adrian Mullen could be a real assasin at the weekend.”
Jackie Tyrrell today launched Littlewoods Ireland Collaboration with O’Neills #StyleOfPlay
Style icon and hurling legend Jackie Tyrrell has collaborated with Littlewoods Ireland to design a bespoke O’Neills jersey ahead of the 2019 All-Ireland Hurling Final. The jersey is to celebrate the launch of a range of official GAA county jerseys available on LittlewoodsIreland.ie in partnership with the GAA and O’Neills.