Present strengths to help Cork make history

Munster champions have steadily improved over recent years – it’s harder to tell with Tipp

Cork’s Alan Cadogan is  the epitome of a young and fearless corner forward who is mad for ball and wants to take on his marker. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Cork’s Alan Cadogan is the epitome of a young and fearless corner forward who is mad for ball and wants to take on his marker. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Tomorrow is as good a time as any for Cork and Tipperary to export their long-running and legendary Munster rivalry to Croke Park. The teams are reasonably well matched and the winners will be optimistic about the final even allowing for the latest manifestation of Kilkenny’s will to power.

Cork’s advantage is their progress is incremental and direct after three years of improvement (accepting this championship isn’t yet over) whereas Tipperary’s has been more erratic.

When the teams met in the league quarter-finals a shoot-out resulted, with Tipperary from the higher division winning in the end but whereas that precedent might help predict the mood both teams are much changed and improved since March.

Cork, in particular, have grafted on a significant new bunch of players in time for the championship and if they are being tested more strenuously with each passing round so far they’ve held up.

Damien Cahalane may be under most pressure but it’s worth noting he is the one who did play in the league.

His claims on the number three jersey may have been loosened in the championship but he didn’t acquit himself badly, even if Séamus Callanan got four points from play – it was that kind of match.

Cork may of course want to exert more pressure than that on the Tipp full forward.

In the absence of Patrick Bonner Maher, Noel McGrath played at centre forward and had a good match. If Tipp can draw his best Croke Park form – from 2009 and ’10 – out of him he’ll have a significant part to play.

The central problem for Tipperary is the amount that needs to be taken on trust. Persuasive voices in the county were advocating root-and-branch reform of the team at the start of the year.

Remained loyal

Galway

Can they maintain their rising graph against a team that has looked competent and resourceful in all of their matches?

In the top eight, Cork have brought in Aidan Walsh who has managed to improve his hurling while continuing to exhibit the phenomenal athleticism and power that made him a football All Star in his rookie year, Bill Cooper, whose solidity at centre forward has settled Séamus Harnedy and Conor Lehane on either side, and Alan Cadogan, the epitome of a young fearless corner forward who is mad for ball and wants to take on his marker.

Experienced

Tipperary have more defensive difficulties than Cork anyway because although their listed full back is equally unlikely to start there, the improvised alternative is James Barry, who must think it a poor reward for some really good performances at wing back to be dispatched to the square.

In the league Brendan Maher dropped back from centrefield to do some screening and helped mitigate the damage caused by Cork’s early ball successes in the first half. He lines out in the half backs tomorrow and it will be interesting to see who mans the pumps if Tipp start to ship water.

Cork’s bench also looks stronger, with the prolific Paudie O’Sullivan kept in reserve by Patrick Cronin’s recovery from leg injuryHe had some really good spells in the forwards in last year’s All-Irelands and will give a decent early ball option if back in the full of his health.

There looks too much required of Tipp in terms of performance levels given the evidence of this championship even if they have improved on last year. Cork aren’t perfect but the Munster champions have done enough to look a better bet.

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