Latest from the medics and management…
Cork have brought Lorcan McLoughlin and Conor Lehane back into their team in the two changes made since the quarter-final success over Waterford. McLoughlin comes in at midfield for Daniel Kearney while Lehane has shaken off the virus that sidelined him for the clash with the Déise to start at right half-forward. Niall McCarthy is the player to lose out here.
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. Pa Cronin (Bishopstown), 9. Lorcan McLoughlin (Kanturk); 10. Conor Lehane (Midleton), 11. Cian McCarthy (Sarsfields), 12. Jamie Coughlan (Newtownshandrum); 13. Paudie O’Sullivan (Cloyne ), 14. Luke O’Farrell (Midleton), 15. Patrick Horgan Glen Rovers).
Galway are set to name their team tonight but the main area of debate at the moment is whether attacker Cyril Donnellan will be fit to play after being hampered by an arm injury in recent weeks.
Checking the odds…
Galway are 4/9 favourites, Cork are 9/4 outsiders while the draw is 10/1. The handicap betting has Galway (-3) at evens while Joe Canning is a decent shout at 4-1 for first goalscorer.
Clues from the form guide…
There have been plenty glowing tributes paid to Galway for their Leinster final dismissal of Kilkenny and it was a seismic result that broke open the whole championship. But after giving hope to so many other teams, what effect will the game have on Galway themselves? Can they get up those levels of intensity and physicality again? Will they be able to reproduce the barrage of early scores to unsettle their opponents? And have all their defensive ills being cured after conceding nine goals during the Leinster championship?
Cork will be satisfied with securing victory against Waterford in the All-Ireland quarter-final, a game which proved they have developed a tougher mentality, have good staying power and a strong bench who can alter the course of a match in the last quarter. They will need to sharpen up on other elements of their play though as it’s unlikely Galway will squander a winning position in the manner that Waterford did.
The game breakers are…
Four years ago Joe Canning poached 2-12 off the Cork defence in a senior hurling championship clash and this summer has provided evidence he is returning to that form. He is the talisman that Cork must quell with Stephen McDonnell handed the onerous task. Outside him though Galway’s wing-forwards Cyril Donnellan and David Burke are formidable striker runners that also need to be stopped. It will be interesting to see if Galway send Damien Hayes roaming again who will be detailed to stop him while coping with Iarla Tannian’s abrasive edge at midfield is another challenge. His potential clash with Patrick Cronin could be fascinating.
Cork’s attack has been a mixed bag this year. Their full-forward line of Patrick Horgan, Luke O’Farrell and Paudie O’Sullivan have looked dangerous with Horgan and O’Sullivan flashing over points while O’Farrell carries a goal threat. The problem is in servicing them frequently enough and Galway’s corner-backs Fergal Moore and Johnny Coen have been the leading players in their positions throughout the country. Getting the blend right in the half-forward line has proved a challenge for Cork with more alterations this time as Conor Lehane comes back into the frame.
Gazing into the crystal ball…
Galway have traditionally found it difficult to follow up a blinding championship display in their next game. Last summer provided graphic evidence of that when they excelled in swatting aside Cork and then mysteriously fell apart against Waterford in their All-Ireland quarter-final tie. The majesty of their Leinster final display means they now enter this game under great pressure. Lose and the relevance of that success will be diluted, and the consensus will be that the county is still incapable of being consistent. That may be reactionary and unfair but it will be the school of thought that will develop amongst pockets of their supporters.
Cork traditionally would be disappointed by an All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Galway but the circumstances are a little different this time around. In Year One of JBM’s second era, reaching a league final and an All-Ireland semi-final would constitute progress for a team that is young and has undergone wholesale changes throughout the summer. Yet now they are here they will be desperate to succeed, particularly the older players in their team like Sean Óg Ó hAilpín and Tom Kenny who do not have many chances left to feature in an All-Ireland final and the mid-twenties core of Shane O’Neill, Patrick Cronin, Anthony Nash and Eoin Cadogan that have been fed a diet of frustration in recent years.
The key issue surrounding this game is can Galway replicate the form they showed against Kilkenny? If they can, then they certainly will win. But the five-week break and the increase in expectations make that task tricky to achieve. Still the vibes from their players are positive and Anthony Cunningham’s management team, who have been rightly praised for their approach all summer, will have worked ferociously hard to get them tuned in mentally. Achieve that and they can progress past a Cork team in what should be a tight game.