|With only just two weeks to the trip to Tipp to take on Munster Champions, Tipperary, and most peoples opinion of the nearside side to threaten Kilkenny’s four in a row, what is Cork’s best 15 to take on Tipperary?
The bookies would easily give you id say 100/1 if you could read Denis Walsh’s mind and pick all his starting fifteen . With the damage limitation of relegation avoided in a best forgotten League Campaign . Cork management normally treat the League as a means of blooding players with an eye for the Championship and with the uncertainty regarding the future of many of the Senior player’s futures, this seemed even more important this year than ever.
In an unprecedented situation for Cork Hurling with the Rebel County having to change management towards the end of the League and an experienced panel of ex Cork Hurlers coming up with Denis Walsh as the man to steer the ship out of stormy waters. To be honest the Imokilly man came in under the radar as far as Cork Supporters were concerned but to be fair a man who has no baggage from previous turbulent times may prove a wise and maybe the only choice they had.
The Premier County blew hot and cold in a very strange League, it seemed they may have preferred to have kept a low profile and not qualified for a League Final, but with Galway missing their Portumna players, particularly Joe Canning, it meant Tipp’s victory in Galway qualified them for a crack against the Cats. If the National League Final had been held in any other venue than Tipp’s home sod of Thurles, Tipperary may preferred to have gone through the motions and just tried to put up a brave effort and hold back a little with the Championship in mind but no Tipp side would ever lie down in Thurles as Cork found out in a dead rubber qualifier game in 07. They asked serious questions of Kilkenny in all fronts which no side has even got close to since Galway beat them in 2005.
What of Cork , until the ball is thrown in, it is unknown how Cork will be able to cope with the ferocious tenacity and speed that is Munster Championship Hurling. Also how much has the dispute at the start of the year taken out of them. Lots of people believe that 2009 is already a write off for our hurlers and our best chance of seeing success in Croke Park this September and in the future Septembers lies with the Footballers .
Now to picking the team
The goalkeeper position is again a very close call, Donal Og has the experience and Martin Coleman has the hunger . With The Rock retired does that it make it a little easier to possibly drop Donal Og. Martin Coleman’s performance against Galway means playing him is no gamble but with the side having also to find a full back experience may win out over hunger.
The Full Back line has to find two new faces from side that lost to the Cats last August. Full Back continues to take up all of the debate on Leeside. It seems it may come down to Eoin Cadogan, John Gardiner or Shane O Neill. With Tipp showing an insatiable appetite for a physical battle against Kilkenny, it may be a little much for Cadogan but if Sean Og fails to make it, it may mean Gardiner maybe needed to bolster up the half back line. Brian Murphy’s early retirement sets up possibly Shane Murphy Chris Murphy or Conor O’Sullivan for a corner back slot.
In the Half Back Line Ronan Curran would look certain to take up his usual number six slot even if he was ordinary enough for the Barrs against Midleton in the Championship. Injury permitting, Sean Og also looks nailed on for a spot and the last wing back slot could be between Eoin Cadogan, Kieran Mc Gann, Kevin Hartnett or John Gardiner, the latter is certain to be there or at Full Back. I’d say midfield is a non starter for the Current Cork Captain as needs must in Defence for Cork.
Tom Kenny is critical to Cork at Midfield and the partnership with Jerry O Connor looks most likely to continue for another year. The Selectors have played Jerry in the forwards in the last two League Games and played Cathal Naughton at Midfield. They may decide to rotate the two Newtown men in games.
The Half Forward line is critical to any success the Rebels may have in 2009. It looks as if the Selectors have little choice at number eleven but to go for Niall McCarthy and many Cork fans would have no issues with that either. Patrick Cronin’s ball winning ability puts him very much in the frame for one of the other Half Forward Slots with Cathal Naughton, Ben O Connor or Timmy McCarthy getting the last slot depending of course who they decide on inside them in the Full Forward Line. The Castlelyons man was treated very shabbily last year and one could have forgiven him for calling it a day. He continues to be Dirt Kuyt or Park Ji Sing of the Cork Hurlers.
Full Forward like Full Back is another problem position for the Selectors and it is ironic the same positions are proving difficult too for the Football Selectors. Amazingly it is possible that Eoin Cadogan could do a job for both sides at Full Back while Michael Cussen could do likewise at Full Forward. They are at least seven possibilities for the three Full Forward Positions and only the Selectors know who really are in contention as they are the ones seeing at first hand, what is going on in training. Reading between the lines it looks like Full Forward is between Aisake O’ Hailpin and Fintan O’Leary and with either Ben O’Connor, Patrick Horgan or Paudie O’Sullivan in the corners. It looks if Neil Ronan and Kieran Murphy of Sars will have to make do with a place on the bench.
How close is this to the starting fifteen for the trip to Tipp.
1. Donal Og Cusack
2. Shane O Neill
3. John Gardiner
4. Eoin Cadogan
5. Kieran Mc Gann
6. Ronan Curran
7. Sean Og
8. Tom Kenny
9. Jerry O Connor
10. Patrick Cronin
11. Niall Mc Carthy
12. Cathal Naughton
13. Ben O Connor
14. Fintan O Leary
15. Patrick Horgan.