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Attractive double-header in Páirc Uí Chaoimh

Wednesday, 24th January, 2018 5:58pm

It’s an earlier start to the Allianz Leagues and a unique double-header on Saturday night when the new stadium hosts its first game under the newly installed top-of-the-range floodlights.

 

Cork vs Tipperary

It’s a tough opening game for Ronan McCarthy’s side as they bid to get their campaign off to a winning start against a team that will almost certainly be their championship opponents a few months from now.

Tipperary gained promotion from Division 3 last season, and despite the departure of a few high profile and quality players, Liam Kerins has enough talent at his disposal to make them contenders in what is a very competitive division.

Unlike Cork, they opted not to play in the McGrath Cup, opting instead for the challenge game route, and no doubt some serious training.

Cork will be without a number of players through injury, and of course the club commitments of Kanturk and Nemo Rangers, so the starting 15 will be based on the players that featured in the pre-season competition.

The management team are around long enough not to read too much into the McGrath Cup but they will be pleased at the wins, particularly the manner in which they defeated Clare in the final when it looked as if was Colm Collins' side would prevail.

The composition of the team will be interesting but it is likely to be a mix of experience and youth as they begin the process of developing a squad for the tasks ahead.

Mark Collins, Sean Powter, Jamie O’Sullivan, Ian Maguire, Colm O’Neill and John O’Rourke should all feature while the likes of Sean White, Stephen Sherlock, Cian Kiely and Michael Hurley may also be included in a the team that will be named tonight (Thursday).

Tipperary will look to the likes of Liam Boland, Evan Comerford, Conor Sweeney, Michael Quinlivan, Jason Lonergan and Robbie Kiely, who plays his club football with Carbery Rangers, and the returning Stephen O’Brien.

Like Cork, they do have a number of injury worries, but there is enough experience in the squad to really make it a difficult test for Cork.

Home advantage is a help and a win would be the ideal start, as it will set the tone for the rest of the campaign, where promotion to Division 1 must be one of the teams priorities, and they might just get over the line.

Cork vs Kilkenny

It’s hard to believe that the previous six league meetings between these great rivals have all been won by Kilkenny, incentive enough to end that losing sequence.

Of course that will be the furthest thing for the players' minds, their sole focus will be on getting off to a winning start in a group where there is little margin for error.

Yes, four teams do advance to the quarter-finals, but there is very thin line between that and relegation.

Cork had what can only be described as a disappointing Munster League campaign but that should be put in context as the management opted to mix and match their teams, affording everyone an opportunity to stake a claim for inclusion on the panel.

By contrast, Kilkenny enjoyed a good run in the Walsh Cup, they lost the final to Wexford in a shoot out after extra-time, so they are maybe a bit sharper in terms of match practice and that will give them a slight edge.

It’s rare in the Brian Cody era that they have gone two years without an All-Ireland title and there is no doubt that this is a period of transition in the county.

The retirement of a number of players, the most recent that of Michael Fennelly, and injuries too - among others to Richie Hogan - denies them a wealth of experience.

Cork, of course, will be without Anthony Nash owing to Kanturk’s All-Ireland semi-final, the suspended Patrick Horgan and there is a doubt about the fitness of Damien Cahalane.

Kilkenny will be able to call on Eoin Murphy, Joey Holden, Ollie Walsh, Alan Murphy - who scored 1-13 last Saturday against Wexford, Conor Fogarty, Walter Walsh and Richie Reid who are all excellent operators and will enjoy the challenge that Cork on home soil will present.

As with the footballers, John Meyler will not announce his team until this evening, but he still has a lot of quality at his disposal and he could also include Eoin Cadogan who impressed in the recent game against Clare.

A number of players will have played with UCC in a midweek Fitzgibbon Cup game and the selectors will hope they come through unscathed.

Mark Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Christopher Joyce, Seamus Harnedy, Conor Lehane, Luke Meade, Alan Cadogan and Patrick Collins are likely to be included for a match that Cork will be determined to win, as they travel to Wexford Park a week later and that’s never an easy place to get a result, even more so when you need one badly.

It should make for a smashing occasion in ‘the Park’ on Saturday and let’s hope the weather gods oblige and entice a big crowd to support both teams.

If you cannot get down, then both games are live on C103 in the first of our Saturday Night Sports Specials.

Kanturk vs Middletown Na Fianna

For the second time in the space of seven days, the hurlers of Kanturk make the trip to St Conleth’s Park, Newbridge on Saturday as they bid to get to Croke Park a week after their Duhallow neighbours Knocknagree qualified for the Junior Football Final.

It’s a match that Kanturk will be fancied to win, but they certainly would not want to take the Armagh champions for granted who will have Nathan Curry, Kieran McKernan, Ryan Gaffney, Tiernan Nevin, Odhran Curry and Paul Gaffney in their side.

Kanturk have a concern about the fitness of free taker Liam O’Keeffe who has a hand injury, but they have a wealth of experience in Anthony Nash, John McLoughlin, Darren Browne, Lorcan McLoughlin and Aidan Walsh and it would constitute a major shock were they to lose.

The famed, well off the field anyway, St Patrick’s Ballyraggett from Kilkenny await in the final on Sunday week.

Harty Cup semi-finals

Two Cork schools remain in contention as they bid to end a long wait for this very prestigious title to once again find a resting place on Leeside.

Of the two, CBC face the more searching of tests as they face favourites Ard Scoil Ris in Mallow on Saturday at 1.30pm, and the Limerick side showed their intent by demolishing the North Mon in the last round.

CBC have several class players in their team, and with Donal O’Mahony guiding their fortunes, they will not fear the Limerick side.

Robert Downey who scored 0-4 in the quarter-final, Killian O’Donovan, Iarlaith Daly, Kevin Finn, Owen McCarthy, Brian Hartnett, and Anthony Cronin are all well capable of producing big displays that could upset the favourites, but it’s a tall order.

Midleton CBS make the trip Clonmel, also on Saturday at 1.30pm, to meet Our Lady’s Templemore in the second semi-final and are fancied to edge this one.

This is a very balanced Midleton side, and like CBC, have quality players in their line up including Ger Mellerick, Aaron Walsh Barry, Liam O’Shea, Joe Stack, Alan Power and Arthur Nganou.

Of course, at this time of the year, weather conditions will also be a factor in determining the outcome as the physically stronger sides normally win out. Could we have an all-Cork final? Now, that would be something - best of luck to both schools.

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