SportsJOE Analysis: Kilkenny need Murphy's Law to protect Joey Holden
Richie Hogan may be missing for the All-Ireland champions on Saturday night but a less glamorous addition at the back should soften the blow.
Paul Murphy's return will be vital to the defending Leinster and All-Ireland champions Kilkenny overcoming Dublin in O'Moore Park.
The four-time All-Star corner-back was missing for the Allianz League semi-final defeat to Clare, when John Conlon tormented the exposed Joey Holden in Thurles.
Full-back Holden was tremendous last year as he filled the acclaimed boots of JJ Delaney, but looked a shadow of himself as the Banner hit Kilkenny for four goals back in April.
However a very well-informed individual told SportsJOE that Holden's manic Sunday in Thurles owed an awful lot to Danesfort clubman Murphy's absence.
Delaney (above) should know, as he credits the 27-year-old with making his life on the edge of the Cats square a lot easier once he broke into the Kilkenny team in 2011.
Delaney, considered one of the best full-backs in the history of the game, was an interested spectator as Holden was exposed by Clare's one-man full-forward line.
The nine-time All-Ireland winner has no doubts Brian Cody will have learned from the defeat and the return of Murphy will help the Kilkenny manager plan for a Dublin full-forward line of Mark Schutte, Eamon Dillon and David O'Callaghan, who are unlikely to set-up similarly to Clare.
"You have to learn from defeats. I remember looking at the game and Eoin Murphy was pucking out the ball and the camera was following the flight of the ball and there was 30 or 40 yards of space in a loop around Joey Holden and John Conlon as well," Delaney told SportsJOE.
"What I like about John Conlon is he stayed in at the 14. A lot of full-forwards at the moment stay at the 21 and then when they're making their run out the field they are cutting down their own space. But he stayed in at the 14, so when he was receiving the ball, he was 21 yards out from the goal.
"That is where he needs to be , the way they play the game. He is their spearhead, their target man. There is no point him being 30 or 40 yards from goal when he receives the ball. You seen two goals came off that, regarding the confusion between Joey and Eoin Murphy," explained Delaney.
When you look back at Clare's 4-22 to 2-19 win you can see how leaving Conlon one-on-one with Holden caused all manner of problems.
The first goal sprung from just such a one-on-one situations, which goalkeeper Eoin Murphy turned into a two-on one.
The goalkeeper came through the back of Holden and Conlon, but it was the Clare man who reacted quickest to score the opening goal.
If you only have two players within 40 yards of your goal, it is a problem when they both end up on the ground.
Clare's second goal came from another one-on-one aerial duel that Conlon dominated. As he taps the ball into the path of the onrushing Aaron Cunningham, the importance of a sweeper such as Murphy becomes immediately apparent.
Holden did his level best to get back and get a hook on Cunningham, but he had too much ground to make up and the Clare attacker netted his first goal of the game.
There were echoes of Conlon's opener in Cunningham's second goal. A long ball into the Kilkenny large rectangle caused a moment of confusion between Holden and Eoin Murphy, who both go for the ball without securing possession.
It broke for Cunningham, who finished to the vacant net.
Delaney is confident the return of Paul Murphy and the lessons learned from that nine-point defeat will serve Kilkenny well in Portlaoise.
"The big issue that day is Paul Murphy was missing and, from playing with Paul, he does a lot of sweeping, he does a lot of hurling in around full-back.
"He hits a lot of ball for a corner-back as well. He will be detailed. I guarantee you Brian will have been looking at that video for the last 3-4 weeks and studying it to ensure, to the best of his ability, that that doesn't happen again."
Michael Fennelly's return may be garnering the headlines, but the return of the defender's defender Murphy may be the real key.