Tipperary Defence Forces personnel based at Stephen’s Barracks, Kilkenny
Two of hurling’s titans will take to the battlefield this Sunday, with one primed to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
To the backdrop of over 82,000 supporters, the colosseum of Croke Park will host a gallant Tipperary side, spearheaded by Liam Sheedy.
Standing in Tipperary’s way are a driven Kilkenny force, with manager Brian Cody eyeing up his 12th Liam MacCarthy Cup triumph.
Crossing the boundary line into antagonistic territory every day, Tipperary Defence Forces personnel based at the 3rd Infantry Battalion in Stephen’s Barracks, Kilkenny, are setting the tempo on the week of the All-Ireland senior hurling final.
In association with Tipperary Pure Irish Water
Clonmel’s Andrew Kelleher says there is always craic between Tipperary and Kilkenny soldiers ahead of clashes between the counties. “There must be 50 of us from Tipperary in the barracks so we’re well able for The Cats. We’re confident that Tipperary will do the business by five points,” he tells TipperaryLive.ie.
Thurles’ Anthony Halloran says there is a “great buzz” about the barracks ahead of Sunday. “The lads and I are always back and forth slagging. I can’t wait to watch the game in Lar Corbett’s pub in Thurles,” he smiles.
Thurles’ Dale Loughnane is predicting a seven-point win for Tipperary. He has been “taking the piss” by wearing his Tipperary jersey around the barracks. “My best moment between the two teams was back in the 2009 All-Ireland final when Benny Dunne did what every Tipperary lad wanted to do - turn around and hit Tommy Walsh with the hurl,” he laughs.
Thurles’ Darren McGuire is in the thick of the banter at the barracks. “It’s right good. The sergeant has a Tipperary flag hanging in our office and I don’t think the Kilkenny lads like that,” he laughs.
McGuire is heading to GAA headquarters for the final, boldly forecasting that Tipperary will have Kilkenny beaten in the first half.
Carrick Swan’s Eoghan Harris is predicting a repeat of 2010 and 2016. “The build-up is good craic, there’s a good bit of roasting and slagging going on here about who’s going to win,” he says.
His club compatriot Luke O’Dwyer is on standby for army duty on Sunday, but that won’t stop him sporting the blue and gold. “It’s an All-Ireland final, we don’t usually run away with them and Kilkenny are coming good. Tipperary will take the win but it’ll be tight enough,” he says.
Thurles’ Luke Ryan is hoping that Seamus Callanan will repeat his 2016 All-Ireland final man of the match performance. “There’s a fierce rivalry here in the barracks. Anyone coming into the office has to genuflect to the sergeant’s Tipperary flag,” he laughs.
Thurles Gaels’ Paul Murphy says tickets are like gold dust for the match. “The first All-Ireland I went to was Tipperary and Kilkenny. The first match was the rematch and I remember Paddy Stapleton, who used to teach me in school, scoring the point from Tipperary’s 45 to draw the game,” he recalls.
“It will be a close game up until the last 20 minutes, but Tipperary will take it away from there. Kilkenny are hit and miss.”
Carrick Davins man Philip Cronin grew up on the border. “I was raised to hate Kilkenny. The rivalry is brilliant - top class! There’s bridges into Faugheen and as soon as they get into the semi-final they get painted, so painting the bridges is a big memory for me,” he says.
He says the team that works the hardest on the day will lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup. “They are two teams based around work rate and it’s hard to call. TJ Reid is going to be hard to mark, so they’ll probably put Brendan Maher on him and do a man-marking job. Tipperary are the more skilful team, so in the last 15 minutes I can see them taking it. I would call it 60/40 for Tipperary,” Cronin adds.
Carrick-on-Suir’s Roseanna White “blissfully” recalls Tipperary halting Kilkenny’s famous quest for five-in-a-row. “There’s great banter here in the barracks. I put on a Tipperary jersey this morning and people were stopping in their tracks. In this barracks we cover five counties across the South East and have people from all over, so the rivalry isn’t just between Tipperary and Kilkenny - it’s across all of the hurling counties,” she says.
Ahenny native Martina Cronin has lived on the border all her life. “It has been known after many a Tipperary win for horns to be deliberately beeped outside Delaney’s and Maloney’s pubs,” she laughs.
She is heading to Croke Park with her family to cheer on the Premier County. “Both sets of fans are being a bit cautious with the banter this time as the final will be very close to call. I think it will be fiercely contested, but Tipperary for a three-goal win,” she adds.
Thurles’ Murt Larkin says the Tipperary-Kilkenny rivalry is in his DNA. “My mother hailed from a large family in Threecastles, County Kilkenny,” he says.
He is soaking up the “brilliant atmosphere” in the barracks ahead of the final. “Banter is everywhere and good-natured. Neither side is claiming that victory in imminent,” he continues.
Larkin will watch the game in Croke Park and says that Tipperary must perform in “sixth gear” to win. “We can expect no mercy from a talented Kilkenny side, but I believe this group of Tipperary players have the passion, drive and skill to bring the Liam MacCarthy Cup home,” the officer commander of the 3rd Infantry Battalion adds.