The Allianz Hurling League final sees Kilkenny and Tipperary collide at Nowlan Park Sunday and here we preview the standout GAA fixture of the weekend.
Sunday, April 8th
Allianz HL Division 1 final
Kilkenny v Tipperary, Nowlan Park, 3.30pm - TG4
Has there ever been a hurling league final with as much riding on it as this one? Possibly not given that the winners will travel Down Under to face All-Ireland champions Galway in November.
There is the small matter, of course, of local bragging rights, too. While Brian Cody's managerial record against the Premier is exemplary, reports of Kilkenny's demise have been greatly exaggerated, too.
Kilkenny, stung by an opening round defeat in Cork and a follow-up defeat against Clare by an identical one-goal margin, bounced back with a good win over Waterford before raising their game on February 25th to beat Tipperary in a 2-22 to 2-21 classic in Nowlan Park.
There followed wins against Wexford, Offaly and Wexford again to seal their place in yet another national final. While some commentators felt the batch of kittens coming on stream around Noreside may have been inferior to what went before, Kilkenny remain in fine fettle and one of the leading contenders for what just might well be the most competitive Liam MacCarthy race of the lot.
They will, needless to say, crave another win over their neighbours, especially on home turf in Nowlan Park, but the suspicion is that Tipp are coming into this one primed to detonate.
Since their opening round loss against Clare in Ennis on January 28, they have been beaten just once - the aforementioned day trip to the Marble City - and had comfortably the healthiest score difference in the group stages.
After a slow start, they filleted Dublin (2-25 to 0-20) in the quarter-final in Croker and put up a whopping 2-31 in beating Limerick by a goal last time out in extra time (it was 0-26 apiece at the end of normal time).
That was an eye-catching tally for the time of year and they are taken to frank the form against the Cats. In Jason Forde - who bagged a handy 2-11 a week ago - they have the stand-out attacker in the country at present. In another shoot-out, Tipp might just have the edge in firepower for a 20th crown.
The hoganstand.com Live Match Tracker will be bringing minute-by-minute coverage of the Allianz Hurling League final between Kilkenny and Tipperary on Sunday.