Defensive frailty to play key role in Cork-Tipp decider

High-scoring game likely in which back lines set to play decisive part

Patrick Maher: will give Cork’s Marc Ellis a real test. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Patrick Maher: will give Cork’s Marc Ellis a real test. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Fri, Aug 15, 2014, 10:00

I was working with TG4 in Semple Stadium on the last Sunday in March this year. Cork and Tipperary were in opposition in the league quarter-final. As is the usual pre-game format, the two analysts are on the sideline under the new stand with able presenter Micheál Ó Dómhnaill.

After the national anthem, the analyst doing the co-commentary heads down the sideline in all his finery, across behind the goal, halfway up the other sideline, up the steps of the old stand, up on to the walkway to the broadcast area. It’s a bit of a trek.

On this particular occasion I was to make the odyssey. As I passed behind the goal Cork goalkeeper Anthony Nash was picking the ball out of the net and muttering words, sometimes referred to as soldiers’ words. By the time I made it to the broadcast area Tipperary had added on a few points.

In fact eight minutes into the game they had 2-4 on the scoreboard and Cork had yet to register. So there we had it, concrete evidence of the gulf in standard between Division One and Two. Cork had stumbled their way at the lower level while Tipperary didn’t perform much better up among the top teams but it had to be an advantage playing in the top level we thought.

There wasn’t much time for development of that particular theory because Cork did all the scoring in the next number of minutes and went in at half-time leading in a game which Tipperary eventually won on a score line of 3-25 to 4-19. Shootout is a word that springs to mind. Cork played in several games last year that could be similarly classed.

Prolific play

The previous year the same sides opened the 2012 league on a really cold night in Páirc Uí Rinn when Cork went on a point-scoring spree, leading by 14 points to two at half-time and adding 12 more to that in the second half.

So what are the chances of a high-scoring spectacle in the wide expanses of Croke Park this Sunday? Every, I’d say.

At this stage in both teams’ development under their respective managements one would assume that they have a fair idea as to their best 20 available players. Both teams have sets of what might be described as quicksilver forwards. On any given day both of these forward lines have the ability to be almost unmark able.

On both sides there are questions about the make up of the back lines.

I don’t think that Damien Calahane has enough hurling for a wing-half back. He’s a full back if he’s to start. Mark Ellis at six is meeting the best in the business in Bonner Maher.

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