By Peter McNamara
Cork v Waterford (4pm today, Semple Stadium, Thurles; Live on TG4)
1 Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s gamble
Aidan Ryan has represented Midleton brilliantly in recent seasons but for Jimmy Barry-Murphy to parachute him in to the starting 15 for a league final today is still a major gamble by the Leesiders’ management.
The likelihood is Ryan, stationed at full-back, will be confronted by Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh and in terms of senior inter-county level experience the latter has far more of such an invaluable entity in his locker than the former does.
Additionally, Walsh’s physical presence could unnerve Ryan.
There are few players that go toe-to-toe with Brick and emerge from the tussle in as rude health as they started a particular clash.
Walsh is a colossus and will attempt to unsettle Ryan from the get-go.
However, it is also possible Ryan will enter the fray shackle-free mentally as this is an opportunity for the defender to display his worth to Cork’s management.
2 More on the line for Cork
Simply put, Cork must win today in Thurles because a victory would probably elevate the group psychologically to where they need to be as the championship looms and dreams of lifting the Liam McCarthy Cup surface again.
Earning a national title of significance will do the Rebels the world of good and they are favourites to be crowned league champions.
Cork, of course, captured the Munster SHC title last year in Páirc Uí Chaoimh defeating Limerick, but JBM’s outfit can lay down a marker on this occasion and must take the opportunity.
Down through the years, Kilkenny have always treated the league as a chance to confirm their place as the code’s top team before the championships began and Cork will send out signals of intent if they triumph today.
In fact, success in Semple Stadium could open the door to subsequent All-Ireland glory.
3 Derek McGrath
It is obvious McGrath is an articulate character and one that can convey a message quite clearly.
The capacity to relay information as efficiently as he can is hugely important at this level and it is obvious each and every one of his players are aware of exactly what is required of them by their boss.
Even though Waterford are the outsiders today I genuinely do not believe McGrath sees it that way.
Throughout his managerial career thus far he has won far more competitions than he has lost and he is consolidating a winning mentality within this group of Déise soldiers as well.
Tactically, McGrath understands the constant evolution of the game better than most and his battle of wits with JBM is the fascinating plot of the tie.