It’s Jimmy Barry-Murphy v Davy Fitzgerald. It’s Patrick Horgan v Colin Ryan. It’s Cork v Clare. It’s the All-Ireland final. It’s Munster v…well, Munster. In truth, it’s rare that an All-Ireland features just one province, however that’s exactly the case for this Sunday’s hurling final as both sides go in search of glory.
It was Clare who were involved in that final back in 1997 when they took on and beat Tipperary by a solitary point. Undeniably, much has changed since the late 90s – the Celtic Tiger has been slain, Compact discs are gone and baggy jumpers have really lost their appeal.
However, the biggest change to date since then in hurling terms has been just how successfully Kilkenny have ruled the game in that time-frame. Of the 15 titles that have been up for contention since then, the Cats have taken home nine of them, leaving everyone else for dust.
But this final – no matter who wins it – could well see the beginning of the end for the Leinster side’s dominance.
A Munster outfit will get their hands on the Liam McCarthy Cup once more in the hope that the balance of power might shift back in their favour. After all, there have been recent signs of the southern province coming back into form ever since Tipperary wrestled the All-Ireland back from Brian Cody’s grasp three years ago in 2010.
In truth, they’ve been banging at the door for a number of years now, vying to remove Kilkenny’s stranglehold on the game in an attempt to replace it with one of their own, but it’s proven tough. A triumph in 2005, was followed by a loss in the 2006 final, whereas Clare last reached the all-important decider in 2002.
So, there is much to be excited about for Munster hurling aficionados, and the future certainly looks bright for them at the moment, with some of the best hurlers in the country plying their trade down in the Rebel County and the surrounding counties.
Should Cork win, they will have the added bonus of cutting Kilkenny’s lead down to three, whereas a victory for Clare would bring them up to four title alongside Galway and Offaly
As always, the atmosphere at Croke Park will be electric and full of noise when the two teams step out on to the pitch, particularly if the minor match between Galway and Waterford is half as entertaining as it promises to be.
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