Cork and Galway likely to progress to quarter-finals

All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers – Round 4A previews

Cork manager Brian Cuthbert rings the changes for the meeting with Sligo. Photograph: Inpho

Cork manager Brian Cuthbert rings the changes for the meeting with Sligo. Photograph: Inpho

 

SATURDAY Cork v Sligo O’Connor Park, Tullamore, 5pm Sky Sports There were two ways Brian Cuthbert could deal with Cork’s Munster final capitulation to Kerry: (1) keep the faith and presume it was only a bad day in the office; or (2) put the faith in other players and presume they can only do a better job.

It’s more the latter, it seems, as Cuthbert effectively redesigns his team with six changes in personnel from the team that started in the 12-point loss to Kerry at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on July 6th – their worst defeat to Kerry at the venue, in a sequence stretching back to 1976.

Cuthbert had already warned “everything is on the table for review” in the aftermath and this week suggested their main motivation here was to “prove to each other, more than anyone else, that they are good enough to get the win, and reach the August Bank Holiday weekend in Croke Park”.

There’s little doubt Cork’s near-humiliation was partly their own doing; as good as Kerry were, especially James O’Donoghue, hardly any Cork player even established parity with their opponent. Cork had been expected to overwhelm Kerry around the middle third, but surrendered to the overwhelming dominance of Bryan Sheehan and Anthony Maher.

Into Cork’s starting team come brothers Brian and Colm O’Driscoll for their first championship starts, plus under-21 standout Ian Maguire, along with Mark Collins, Colm O’Neill and Donal Óg Hodnett.

Dual player Damien Cahalane drops down to the bench, along with Fintan Goold, Patrick Kelly, Daniel Goulding, Barry O’Driscoll and John O’Rourke.

Cork’s other two dual players, Eoin Cadogan and Aidan Walsh, do keep their places, but the dropping of the likes of Goold, Kelly and Goulding reflects Cuthbert’s desire for something more potent up front.

O’Neill is likely to add some of that, and Maguire’s pairing with Walsh at midfield could improve the overall dynamic.

Walsh wasn’t himself the last day, after a knock of some sort early on, and given Cork’s season effectively hinges on this performance there will be no shortage of motivation.

No one is more aware of this than Sligo manager Pat Flanagan, who has been slowly restoring the faith in his team since their Connacht semi-final defeat to Galway.

‘Very difficult’

Sligo have been playing more cohesive football since losing to Galway, limiting Wicklow and Limerick to just 0-10 in their two previous qualifiers. They have a bit of momentum too, but not nearly enough to resist Cork.

CORK: Ken O’Halloran; James Loughrey, Eoin Cadogan, Noel Galvin; Michael Shields, Thomas Clancy, Brian O’Driscoll; Ian Maguire, Aidan Walsh; Paul Kerrigan, Mark Collins, Colm O’Driscoll; Colm O’Neill, Brian Hurley, Donal Óg Hodnett. SLIGO: Aidan Devaney; Ross Donavan, Johnny Martyn, Neil Ewing; Charlie Harrison, Brendan Egan, Keelan Cawley; Kevin McDonnell, Adrian McIntyre; Brian Curran, James Hynes, Pat Hughes; Mark Breheny, Adrian Marren, David Kelly.

Galway v Tipperary O’Connor Park, Tullamore: 7pm, Sky Sports 3

If that midsummer evening against Sligo at Markievicz Park already feels like a long time ago then so too does the optimism about Galway football that followed. Galway had five points to spare on Sligo, were into their first Connacht final in five years, and seemingly on the rise again.

Then came the fall, not hammered by Mayo like last summer, but comfortably beaten nonetheless, calmly buffeted by the strength and experience of the champions.

Meanwhile, Tipperary were rising again after their heroically narrow Munster semi-final defeat to Cork; after taking out Longford by a whopping 17 points, they blasted 3-17 past Laois, all but two late points of it from play. Ithe game offered an unequivocal demonstration that Peter Creedon’s young team are anything but pushovers.

So, who will rise to the challenge of making the All-Ireland quarter-finals? Galway haven’t been there since 2008, and Tipperary have never got that far, and it promises to be a wonderfully absorbing battle.

Creedon has stuck with the team that beat Laois and it’s a dangerous proposition for Galway. The full-forward line of Conor Sweeney, Barry Grogan and Philip Austin hit Laois with 3-9, and rising star Colin O’Riordan (no relation) will also be a constant threat from wing back.

Galway manager Alan Mulholland has made four changes: Tomás Healy takes over in goal from Manus Breathnach, Joss Moore comes in at corner back, former Kildare star James Kavanagh is at left half forward, with Michael Martin starting in the right corner.

Kavanagh and Martin will have to liven up the attack alongside Paul Conroy and the excellent Shane Walsh, because Galway’s real first challenge will be to outscore Tipp.

As Mulholland pointed out after their 3-14 to 0-16 defeat to Mayo in the Connacht final, “it was 16 scores to 17 scores in the end”. The problem, obviously, was rather than scoring the goal the required,tthey rather coughed them up to Mayo.

If they let Tipp score goals – which they clearly can -– Galway will be in trouble, but if experience counts for anything, it should see them through. Just about.

TIPPERARY: Paul Fitzgerald; John Coghlan, Paddy Codd, Ciarán McDonald; Colin O’Riordan, Robbie Kiely, Ger Mulhair; Steven O’Brien, George Hannigan; Michael Quinlivan, Brian Fox, Peter Acheson; Conor Sweeney, Barry Grogan, Philip Austin. GALWAY: Tomas Healy, Donal O’Neill, Finian Hanley, Joss Moore, Gareth Bradshaw, Gary O’Donnell, Paul Varley; Fiontan O Curroin, Tomas Flynn; Michael Lundy, Shane Walsh, James Kavanagh; Michael Martin, Paul Conroy, Danny Cummins.

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