Kilkenny v Tipperary, Sunday 8th April, Nowlan Park, 3.30 pm
Sometimes you just don’t know if you know anything. I mean, ok, you might think you know some things. You may know your name, your age, or where you come from. You may know that there’s nothing as certain as death and taxes. You may know you should never touch the live wire. So you may know certain things.
You may also know for instance that in life, in general, betting is a bad idea. We’ve all heard it multiple times. It’s in the Bible, if you’re interested in that sort of thing, that games of chance are forbidden by Deuteronomy 7. It’s prohibited in several countries. You may have heard many stories, from Cathal McCarron to Oisin McConville, to that guy from Carlow who stole 10 million from the post office and blew it all. The bookies are seldom wrong. The house always wins. We know. We get it.
But sometimes you can’t help yourself. Sometimes, no matter how much you may know gambling is a bad idea, you can’t help yourself. I will confess that I have a Paddy Power online account (I’m down a bit in case you’re asking) and I occasionally look at the odds. And being a hurling fan, if not necessarily a hurling man, you may cast an eye over the betting for the upcoming inter-county games, and see if anything takes your fancy. So I took a quick peek at the odds for the upcoming National hurling league final and I found out that according to PP, Tipperary are 8/13 on favourites, while Kilkenny are 13/8 against.
So I looked at the odds and I blinked and then I looked again. I’m sorry, what? WHAT? This is Kilkenny! In Nowlan Park! Against Tipperary! In a National Final! The one game that Brian Cody would rather be impaled on a stick than contemplate losing. And you’re telling me that Kilkenny are not only underdogs in this fixture, but massively so? Am I seeing this right? Are my eyes deceiving me? Are we waking up in a world, where everyone is driving on the right side of the road in Ireland, and suddenly 13/8 means 8/13 and what I previously thought of as underdogs now means favourites? Well apparently not. Apparently we can pinch ourselves and smack ourselves in the face and look at the odds again and it’s still real. Tipperary are favourites against Kilkenny in Nowlan Park. Jaysus.
But the argument could easily be made “Ah yeah, but Tipp have better hurlers. Sure Jason Forde is flying it, he’s scoring goals every week. They’ve got Michael Breen, they’ve got Bubbles, John McGrath. They’ve got Seamus Callanan and Bonner to come back in. Then they’ve got Paudie Maher lording it in the backs and Ronan Maher scoring points from sidelines from 85 yards out. And Kilkenny are missing Richie Hogan and Colin Fennelly and Paul Murphy. It’s obvious. Tipp are a better team than Kilkenny”
And that’s all very well and good, but it ignores the fact, that when it comes to hurling games on a knife-edge it’s never so much about the size of dog of fight, but the size of fight in the dog. It doesn’t take into account, that when it comes to playing against Kilkenny, the players on the pitch are only part of the problem. Sure, when you were coming up against Tommy Walsh, JJ Delaney and Henry Shefflin it seemed impossible, and now against Joey Holden, Enda Morrissey and Mossy Keoghan it seems more manageable, but you need to acknowledge that these guys are better than you think they should be.
It forgets that no matter how well Jason Forde has been playing in the last couple of months, (and he has done superbly) you’d still rather have TJ Reid leading the line for you. It glosses over that it’s Cody, and just like Alex Ferguson was able to make Park Ji Sung and Phil Jones look like world beaters, this man can seemingly work the oracle with anyone wearing a black and amber striped jersey. It ignores the fact that since he took over as manager in 1999, Kilkenny have won 22 games against Tipperary while their opponents have won only 8. It ignores the fact that Tipperary haven’t beaten Kilkenny since the 2016 All-Ireland final, and that they haven’t done so at all in Nowlan Park since 2008.
And no, it doesn’t mean that Kilkenny are necessarily better than Tipperary, and are favourites to win an All-Ireland, but this is a one off game between the two biggest rivals in the game and it’s in Nowlan Park. Where Tipperary don’t beat Kilkenny. And you can call me an idiot all you like (you wouldn’t be the first person to do so) and maybe Paddy Power will be laughing their head off reading this but, even given all of that, my money is on Kilkenny.
PREDICTION: Kilkenny by 1