Cork v Wexford
Tomorrow: Semple Stadium, Thurles, 5pm, Ref: Johnny Ryan, Tipperary
Latest from the medics and the management…Cork have made four changes to the team that beat Offaly last week. Damien Cahalane makes his championship debut at full-back. Eoin Cadogan also returns to the side at wing-back after representing the footballers last week while Niall McCarthy comes back from injury to start at centre-forward. Pa Cronin plays in midfield alongside Lorcán McLoughlin, and Luke O’Farrell starts at full-forward. Jamie Coughlan, Conor O’Sullivan, William Egan and Darren Sweetnam have all been named on the substitutes bench.
CORK: Anthony Nash (Kanturk); Shane O’Neill (Bishopstown), Damien Cahalane (St. Finbarr’s), Brian Murphy (Bride Rovers); Tom Kenny (Grenagh), Christopher Joyce (Na Piarsaigh), Eoin Cadogan (Douglas); Lorcán McLoughlin (Kanturk), Pa Cronin (Bishopstown); Conor Lehane (Midleton), Cian McCarthy (Sarsfields), Niall McCarthy (Carrigtwohill); Paudie O’Sullivan (Cloyne), Luke O’Farrell (Midleton), Patrick Horgan (Glen Rovers).
Wexford have made three changes to the side that beat Carlow recently. Stephen Banville comes in for Harry Keogh at full forward, Jack Guiney replaces PJ Nolan and Paul Roche takes the place of Eoin Moore.
WEXFORD: Eanna Martin (Sarsfields, Cork); Paul Roche (Oulart-the-Ballagh), Matthew O’Hanlon (St. James’s), Keith Rossiter (Oulart-the-Ballagh); Richie Kehoe (Faythe Harriers), Ciaran Kenny (Buffer’s Alley), Darren Stamp (Oulart-the-Ballagh); David Redmond (Oulart-the-Ballagh), Diarmuid Lyng (St.Martin’s); Jack Guiney (Rathnure), Garrett Sinnott (Oulart-the-Ballagh), Diarmuid O’Keeffe (St.Anne’s); Paul Morris (St.Aidan’s), Stephen Banville (Shelmailers), Rory Jacob (Oulart-the-Ballagh).
Checking the odds…Cork are warm favorites at 1/10 whereas Wexford are the outsiders valued at 13/2. The handicap betting has Cork (-7) at 10/11.
Clues from the form guide…In the wake of their league final hammering to Kilkenny, Cork needed a response and they got just that with the level of performance that challenged Tipperary all the way in the Munster semi-final. Last week against Offaly proved a different proposition as Cork struggled to shake off their opponents before eventually winning by 1-26 to 2-16. They did not achieve the same level of intensity in their performance albeit the change in atmosphere and competition meant that was always going to be difficult. The scale of changes in their team reflects the Cork’s management desire to tap into better form.
Wexford have picked themselves up after the disappointment of their Leinster championship exit to Offaly, a game where they vastly under-performed during the midway stages. They have disposed of qualifier opponents Westmeath, 3-22 to 2-9, and Carlow, 4-12 to 0-14, in a routine fashion. But those tests were not the most stringent and this game will certainly be a step up in quality. In a championship setting Cork and Wexford are an unknown quantity to each other with their last meeting occurring in the 2004 All-Ireland semi-final when the Rebels triumphed by 1-27 to 0-12. It’s notable that Brian Murphy, Tom Kenny, Niall McCarthy, Diarmuid Lyng and Rory Jacob are the only players from tomorrow’s starting fifteens that featured in that game.
Wexford’s Rory Jacob and Cork’s Brian Murphy in action in the 2004 All-Ireland semi-final. Pic: INPHO/Tom Honan
The game breakers are…There is a sense that both teams are still a little unsure of their best starting fifteens with Jimmy Barry-Murphy and Liam Dunne opting to make personnel changes again here. How the new faces settle in will be interesting, particularly the spine of the Cork defence which features the U21 duo of Damien Cahalane and Christopher Joyce. Cahalane has the comfort of experience nearby in his corner-back comrades Shane O’Neill and Brian Murphy but the physique of Stephen Banville poses a challenge. Joyce grew into the game last week and has Eoin Cadogan alongside him on this occasion in a defensive reshuffle that sees Conor O’Sullivan particularly unlucky to lose out.
The shifting of Patrick Cronin to midfield could be a shrewd move by Cork while Niall McCarthy will bring a vital level of aggression and forcefulness to their attack. Inside that trio of Paudie O’Sullivan, Luke O’Farrell and Patrick Horgan is packed with scoring potential as they demonstrated in the league semi-final win over Tipperary last April. They will bring a level of firepower that the Wexford rearguard have not faced in recent games.
Given Horgan’s form last week, the Model County need Keith Rossiter to try to nullify his threat but their back line showed signs of shakiness against Offaly and must be convincing that they have rectified those difficulties. It’s notable that Wexford have switched Diarmuid Lyng back out to midfield for this game following his attacking sojourn. He is required to steady the ship in that sector while the onus in attack will be for Jack Guiney to place Joyce under pressure in the half-back line and funnel ball into an inside line where Rory Jacob is the key man if Wexford are going to post a winning total on the scoreboard.
Gazing into the crystal ball…Given that both teams have faced Offaly in championship action this year, and endured contrasting fortunes, the evidence points to a Cork success in this clash. They should achieve just that given that their attack has been in fine point-scoring form, clocking up 50 points over their last two matches, albeit that they could do with discovering a goal-scoring touch. It’s difficult to see Wexford being able to raise their game to stem Cork’s advances and adjust to the increase in tempo that this match will hold in comparison to their recent encounters. Liam Dunne’s men will be competitive and this game could remain interesting for a time. But just like last week’s victory over Offaly, Cork have the nerve to steady matters heading down the straight and the figures to spring off the bench to enable them to pull clear on the scoreboard.