Cork midfield can supply enough ammunition to edge Tipperary shoot-out

Expect the scores to flow in an open encounter but powerful engine room can tip the balance for Rebels

“Midfield is  another area of big improvement for Cork this year,” says Nicky English. “They were comprehensively outplayed by Clare at midfield in last year’s All-Ireland final so they went away and produced Aidan Walsh (right)”. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

“Midfield is another area of big improvement for Cork this year,” says Nicky English. “They were comprehensively outplayed by Clare at midfield in last year’s All-Ireland final so they went away and produced Aidan Walsh (right)”. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Sat, Aug 16, 2014, 12:30

Last week’s semi-final was hard enough to predict, depending on where you came down on the balance between the dynamism and enthusiasm of Limerick and the craft and experience of Kilkenny. It’s just as hard to make a call this weekend but for different reasons.

Last week was always going to be a physical battle and with conditions and everything else, it turned into a war. If tradition is anything to go by, tomorrow is going to be more of a carnival because both teams will be happy enough to let the other get on with the hurling.

There’s huge confidence in Tipp, which I find puzzling but not surprising. Cork may be Munster champions but Tipperary are looking forward to this after turning around their season to get to the last three and now finding themselves up against opposition they feel they can manage.

They’re also entitled to look at their year in a different way. In 2013 they lost the league final to Kilkenny and ultimately neither county went very far. This year Tipp had a bad period in the league but turned it around and lost the final, again to Kilkenny but after extra-time.

The difference now is Kilkenny are once more Leinster champions and back in an All-Ireland final.

Limerick could have been there instead and Tipp might well have beaten them in the championship. Eamon O’Shea is entitled to feel the form stacks up more encouragingly this year.

Shoot-out

This won’t have the physicality of last week’s semi-final because temperamentally both teams are more comfortable with a shoot-out, which on the face of it would suit Tipperary’s forwards.

But they’re not great circumstances for a defence that hasn’t settled. If successful, the tactic of letting defenders pick up individual players – as happened against Dublin – can look like a stroke of genius. I’m more apprehensive about that because I feel it’s disconcerting not to have a settled full back.

James Barry will play there because Pádraic Maher doesn’t like it but Barry doesn’t look comfortable there either and it isn’t his natural position. None of this is great for Darren Gleeson who has enough on his plate stepping into Brendan Cummins’s shoes without having to adjust constantly to whoever’s playing in front of him.

While an unchanged team suggests stability I’m also very surprised that Michael Cahill, who has been back in training, hasn’t been included because he has been the team’s most consistent defender and appears ideal for the threat of Alan Cadogan.

That doesn’t mean I can’t see Tipp doing well because they have the potential to score freely. Still, I have Cork as favourites.

They played back in April in the league quarter-final and although Tipperary led by 2-4 to no score after about 10 minutes Cork were ahead at half-time.

Both sides are bound to cut down on the amount of space available that day but that’s still the sort of game we may well see tomorrow.

Improved greatly

I have fancied Cork for the All-Ireland since the start. They have improved greatly in this championship. You can argue they have the same issue at full back as Tipp because Damien Cahalane has been playing on the wing, leaving Stephen McDonnell to fill in but at least he’s relatively happy to do so and has picked up plenty of experience.

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