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Game On

Daunting task for Cork

Thursday, 18th May, 2017 1:00am

It’s the first big game of the summer and what better way to start then a Cork and Tipperary Munster Championship clash in Thurles?

Tipperary are the reigning All-Ireland champions and firm favourites to consign Cork to the qualifiers for the third year in-a-row and it’s hard to disagree with that assessment.

Cork had a decent league campaign, although the loss to Limerick in the Quarter-Final was a disappointment, especially when the game was in Páirc Uí Rinn.

Selector Diarmuid O’Sullivan, who played in many Cork vs Tipp matches, is really looking forward to the game: “These are great occasions, especially in Thurles and while we know full well we are underdogs, as a team we are looking forward to the challenge.”

Diarmuid had an interesting observation on the league and emphasised the positives: “For a start, it was much better than last year, we were in relegation and this time we made the last eight with some good wins along the way but, of course, we had a few poor displays as well.”

As for the Limerick match: “I think it was the amount of games we played in a short period of time that caught up with us; tiredness, as we were training hard in between games, we were very flat that day in Páirc Uí Rinn.”

The introduction of new players was also key and these lads all impressed, says O’Sullivan. “It’s very important going forward, a lot of them are Under 21 this year and they got plenty of game time and that can only be good for their and the team’s development.”

Tipperary captain Paraic Maher is also relishing the challenge, but first things first, his thoughts on the league final loss to Galway: “It was very disappointing, we set out every year to win the League and we had prepared well but on the day we had no complaints. Galway were clearly the better team and we have to take the lessons on board and work on them.”

There is a view abroad that the result against Galway was the worst possible outcome for Cork, but Maher does not agree: “I am not so sure about that, if we play as poorly on Sunday the outcome will be the same, but since then we have worked hard and hopefully we will be fully tuned in.”

Like Diarmuid, the Tipperary captain relishes the prospect of Cork in Thurles in the Munster Championship: “They are great occasions, we were reared on them here and it is also an honour to play in big games and I am really looking forward to it.”

Maher accepts that, as champions, they will enter the game as favourites but once the match starts that will count for very little: “Once the referee throws in the ball you are responsible for your own position and your own man, while still having to bat for the team. Once we all do that, we should be OK but we are well aware of Cork and we are taking nothing for granted.”

Maher’s opposite number, Cork captain Stephen McDonnell, is also ready for the fray: “Last year was very frustrating for me with the injuries, I missed some big games, but this year there are no such concerns and I’m really looking forward to Sunday.”

McDonnell has no injury concerns this time around, saying: “Thankfully no, I have had a good run, we (McDonnell’s club Glen Rovers) got our championship off to a good start and now the focus is all on Sunday.”

As for the prospect of facing the All-Ireland champions on home soil?

“Look, that’s they way it is. We have played enough times in Thurles so we have no issues with that, what we need to do is be at the top of our game from the start and once we do that I am confident we are well capable of getting a positive result,” he says.

Interestingly, the majority of the panel were involved in club championship in the last few weeks and O’Sullivan had no problems with that, saying: “It was a conscious decision on our part that we felt it would help the lads to play championship as the bulk of our training was done and thankfully all come through unscathed.”

Cork face a huge task on Sunday. Tipp, league final apart, are the form team and will also be determined to maintain their dominance over their old rivals in championship of recent years.

Cork are also bidding to avoid a third successive loss in their opening game of the Munster Championship for the first time in...well it’s been a while.

The composition of the Cork team will be interesting and the likelihood is that the majority of players that featured during the league will have done enough to merit inclusion.

Anthony Nash will have McDonnell, Cahalane, Joyce and Ellis among others in front of him, and they will be tasked with keeping tabs on an attack that has an eye for goals.

Seamus Callanan looks set to be fit and he will be joined by the McGraths and John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer. If not contained, they can inflict serious damage.

As it stands, Jason Forde’s one match ban rules him out of the equation but that will only give Captain Pauric Maher and his defenders, if it’s needed, extra motivation.

Cork’s attack will include Patrick Horgan, Conor Lehane, Seamus Harnedy and Alan Cadogan; while battling for inclusion are Luke Meade, Dean Brosnan, Shane Kingston, Darragh FItzgibbon and Bill Cooper.

Whatever 15 are chosen, they will be well prepared for the task ahead. Training has gone very well, including a very productive session in Clonakilty last weekend, so the stage is set.

Cork will certainly need a good start, or at the very least deny the champions a start that would leave Cork chasing the game, because Tipp have proved that when they have you in a vice-like grip, they do not let go. Just look at last year’s Munster Final demolition of Waterford; or indeed, the ease at which they won the corresponding fixture last May.

On form, it’s hard to see Cork winning but they are under little or no pressure apart from the need to deliver a performance that, even if defeated, will give them some degree of confidence heading into the qualifiers.

So, Tipperary to win, but not without a severe test from an improving Cork team who might actually benefit from a positive run in the qualifiers.

Elsewhere

It’s a relatively quiet weekend on the club scene, with just two games down for decision.

On Friday, in Kinsale, it’s Carrigaline against Clonakilty at 7.15pm in Intermediate Football; while in hurling, on Saturday at 5pm, it’s Dripsey vs Glen Rovers.

In Charleville, on Saturday at 3pm, Cork meet Limerick in the Munster Senior Camogie Championship Final. Having lost the league decider, Cork will be keen to win this title as it is their last competitive outing before the All-Ireland campaign gets underway.

On Monday, the semi-finals of the Senior League are due to be played in Castle Road and it’s St Catherine’s vs Courcey Rovers; while Glen Rovers face Sarsfields in the second game at a venue to be announced. Both games have 7.30pm starts.

 

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