Tomorrow, Semple Stadium, Thurles, 2pm, (Ref: Barry Kelly, Westmeath)
Latest from the medics and management…Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s policy of shaking up his starting 15 continues. For the first time since the league final debacle, Stephen McDonnell comes in at full-back while Sean Óg O hAilpín is an interesting selection at wing-back and Daniel Kearney makes his first senior championship start at midfield. William Egan, Damien Cahalane and Lorcan McLoughlin all feature among the substitutes.
CORK: 1. Anthony Nash (Kanturk); 2. Shane O Neill (Bishopstown), 3. Stephen Mc Donnell (Glen Rovers), 4. Brian Murphy (Bride Rovers); 5. Tom Kenny (Grenagh), 6. Eoin Cadogan (Douglas), 7. Sean Óg Ó hAilpin (Na Piarsaigh); 8. Daniel Kearney (Sarsfields), 9. Pa Cronin (Bishopstown); 10. Conor Lehane (Midleton), 11. Cian McCarthy (Sarsfields), 12. Niall McCarthy (Carrigtwohill); 13. Paudie O’Sullivan (Cloyne), 14. Luke O’Farrell (Midleton), 15. Patrick Horgan Glen Rovers).
Waterford’s changes are more modest with Thomas Ryan coming in for Gavin O’Brien at corner-forward in their only switch.
WATERFORD: 1. Stephen O’Keeffe (Ballygunner); 2. Stephen Daniels (De La Salle), 3. Liam Lawlor (Fourmilewater), 4. Noel Connors (Passage); 5. Tony Browne (Mount Sion), 6. Michael Walsh (Stradbally), 7. Kevin Moran (De La Salle); 8. Stephen Molumphy (Ballyduff Upper), 9. Philip Mahony (Ballygunner); 10. Pauric Mahony (Ballygunner), 11. Seamus Prendergast (Ardmore), 12. Maurice Shanahan (Lismore); 13. John Mullane (De La Salle), 14. Shane Walsh (Fourmilewater), 15. Thomas Ryan (Tallow).
Checking the odds…Cork are marginal favorites at 8/13 with Waterford priced at 13/8 and the handicap betting seeing Cork (-2) at 10/11.
Clues from the form guide…Cork have done what has been asked of them in the qualifiers in taking care of Offaly and Wexford but have not quite extended themselves either. Those games were largely devoid of the intensity that was evident in the Munster semi-final against Tipperary. They have not replicated the performance levels they set in that particular game yet are still on a surer footing than they were in the aftermath of the league final.
Waterford held their nerve to stave off Clare in a tight finish in the Munster semi-final and were closer to Tipperary than the ultimate seven-point margin of defeat would suggest. They created plenty of scoring opportunities in that game but were left to rue the fact their inability to capitalize on them and the greater range of attacking options that their opponents held in reserve.
Waterford’s John Mullane. Pic: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan
The game breakers are…Much will depend on the freedom John Mullane gets to express himself as he is clearly the blue-chip attacker in the Waterford attack. Tipperary paid close attention to him in the Munster final and Cork will do likewise with Brian Murphy expected to be detailed to follow him. Aside from that Waterford must hope that Shane Walsh can replicate his happy knack of bagging goals and that their half-forward line can make more of a scoring impact from play with just six points between them over the last 140 minutes of action.
Waterford’s half-back line of Tony Browne, Michael Walsh and Kevin Moran is a formidable unit but Cork can thrive here with the combative play of Niall McCarthy and the lightning touches of Conor Lehane. Inside Cork pack a goal-scoring threat with Luke O’Farrell looking dangerous of late and captain Patrick Horgan leading by example. The Rebel defence still has issues to resolve and it will be notable to see how Stephen McDonnell, Cork’s third full-back in as many games, fares. On the plus side Anthony Nash has bedded in well between the posts while debutant Daniel Kearney can sparkle in midfield.
Gazing into the crystal ball…Recent meetings between the counties point to nothing but a tight and tense clash. Cork were emphatic victors when they met back in the league in February but the experimental nature of the two teams dilutes the relevance of that tie. Waterford have consistently showed a brilliant ability to bounce back from provincial final losses and chisel out quarter-final wins.
But Cork have been developing over the last few years and their young players have to be at a stage to now deliver on a major championship Sunday. Their recent victories were not too taxing and suggest they have more in the tank. If Mullane’s contribution is nullified, there is enough in the offensive unit at the other end of the field to post a winning scoring total for Cork.