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Munster Final beckons

Wednesday, 28th June, 2017 4:27pm

At various stages in the games against Waterford and Tipperary, it looked unlikely that we would get a Cork vs Kerry Munster Final in 2017.

However, the Kingdom easily kept up their part of the bargain and eventually, so did Cork.

For manager Peadar Healy, it’s a first as coach but he has been there before as a selector under Conor Counihan and is looking forward to the game: “Well, first of all we had hoped it would be in the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh and we were really looking forward to that, but be that as it may, we are ready and hoping for a big display.”

Peadar is a finding it hard to explain the inconsistency the team have shown all year: “It’s hard to put a finger on it, the players are very committed and work extremely hard in training, so no complaints on that score. They, like us, are as disappointed the way the games have gone.”

By the same token, he was delighted at the team’s response, particularly in the semi-final against Tipperary: “The first half was dreadful, we improved in the second and looked to have done enough and then we conceded that goal. But all credit to the lads, they kept their composure and scored a brilliant winning goal – so that was very pleasing.”

The manager also accepts the criticism of the team and that they will be underdogs for Sunday’s final. Indeed, most people are writing Cork off: “Kerry are a very good and experienced team, they beat Dublin to win the league and playing at home is a big advantage.

“We are not going down without hope, we believe we can win, but not if we play like we did in the last couple of games,” says Healy.

Apart from Brian O’Driscoll, who has a long term shoulder injury, all others are available for selection: “We had a A vs B game last Saturday and it went well. Everyone, including Eoin Cadogan, is in the mix for selection.”

For Alan O’Connor, who missed the semi-final through suspension, it’s an occasion he always looks forward to: “Coming from West Cork, Munster Final day in Killarney is special and while we haven’t won there in a while, it’s still great to play there and hopefully we can end the long wait.”

Alan, like the manager, is well aware of the task facing Cork: “We know the enormity of the challenge, Kerry are the league champions and we have not yet played as well as we knew we can; hopefully that will change on Sunday.”

The St Colum’s man feels they need a good start for a number of reasons: “If you give Kerry a lead it will be very hard to reel them in and, even more importantly, if we start well it will give us the confidence to take the game to them. We have trained well and while we know it’s never easy in Killarney, we will give it our best shot.”

There is little doubt that on-form Kerry are overwhelming favourites and while they got a tough 50 minutes against Clare, they were comfortable winners in the end; even with 14 men.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice has real strength in depth in his squad, the 15 that start will be conscious that there are guys sitting on the bench chomping at the bit only waiting for their opportunity.

David Moran should return in midfield, while James O’Donoghue, Paul Geaney, Fionn Fitzgerald, Shane Enright, Anthony Maher and Donnacha Walsh are all set to feature.

What of Cork? Who will play and what way will they set up? One-on-one perhaps, or deploy a sweeper system in the hope of containing a Kerry side that has the ability to rack up a big score – something that Cork struggles to do.

Ken O’Halloran will be in goal and Michael Shields, Kevin Crowley and James Loughrey look set to start in defence but will a place be found for Eoin Cadogan; who may lack match fitness but is the abrasive type of defender that Cork may need?

The midfield pairing should be interesting. Aidan Walsh, Ian Maguire, Alan O’Connor and Ruairi Deane are the contenders; will all four feature in various positions with an eye on dominating around that area?

Paul Kerrigan has played well and picked off some nice points, by contrast Colm O’Neill has been off form of late but is a player for the big occasion.

Luke Connolly was excellent against Tipperary but tends to drift in and out of games. Mark Collins was surprisingly omitted the last day but should start this time as his work rate is invaluable and he can pick off a few points.

Young players Sean Powter and Michael Hurley brought great energy when introduced against Tipperary, while Donnacha O’Connor also offers an option as the Ballydesmond man invariably does well against Kerry.

Whatever 15 the selectors pick will need to be at their best to end Kerry’s reign as champions and on the basis of the respective strengths of the panels, it’s hard to see Cork winning.

Then again, not too many thought the hurlers would beat Tipperary in Thurles - can the footballers pull off a similar result? It’s unlikely but then, it’s when they are least expected to win that the footballers surprise. Could Sunday be one of those days? Let’s hope so.

A big display is needed even if defeated because, irrespective of the outcome, the qualifiers beckon within two weeks of the Munster Final. One win and you’re back in Croke Park, so a lot to play for on Sunday.

County Championships

With the Munster Final dominating the weekend, the championship programme is limited.

Midleton and Glen Rovers return to Caherlag at 7.30pm on Friday for their Intermediate replay. Since the cracking drawn encounter, both sides have lost players to the senior sides and holidays, so whichever team can adjust better should win, but it’s a Round 2A tie so all is not lost for the losers.

Similar position for Mayfield and Aghabullogue when they meet on Saturday in Blarney at 7pm.

There is a double-header of Junior B games in Pairc Ui Rinn on Friday. At 6.30pm Lough Rovers, fresh from their victory in the ‘C’ football final (congrats to all involved), play White’s Cross in the hurling semi-final replay and at 8pm in the football final, it’s Kilbrin vs Argideen Rangers.

Camogie

With two wins in their group in the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Championship, Cork will be in confident mood when they entertain Wexford on Saturday in Páirc Uí Rinn at 2.30pm.

The manner in which they hammered Limerick last week would suggest they are hitting top form as the season gathers momentum.

Their play was crisp, sharp and direct and the points scored were top drawer. If repeated, Wexford will struggle to contain Cork.

Orla Cotter, Orla Cronin, Amy O’Connor and Catriona Mackey were brilliant in attack. Ashling Thompson delivered brilliant ball to an attack that thrived on its quality; while at the back, Chloe Sigerson, Rena Buckley and Gemma O’Connor were as efficient as ever.

A third win would secure Cork a place in the play-off stages of the championship, which is in a nice position to be in with a couple of games to go.

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