Mahers' power and hard running should be vital for the Premier, says Peter McNamara.
Reading through various championship previews and threads, it’s surprising to see just how many commentators are tipping Galway to land the All-Ireland SHC title.
Confidence is high, that by the time Michael Lyster closes the first live Sunday Game offering of the summer on Sunday, those individuals might want to reevaluate their position on the potential champions.
Can Galway prove their supporters’ notions as realistic? Of course, they could. Will they, though? I have doubts.
Earlier in the season, it was illustrated that the Westerners were the most likely side to keep Tipperary thinking.
Such a theory was, to a degree, validated in the Allianz NHL final.
Yet, as was also highlighted then, when it comes down to the brass tacks of a potential knockout clash between Galway and Tipp later in the year, faith will be kept in the Premier repelling Micheál Donoghue’s team.
It might be by one point or eight, but Michael Ryan’s All-Ireland champions still have more in their considerable locker room than Galway possess, for now.
And the reasoning behind that thought process should be recycled this Sunday in Semple Stadium.
Studying between the lines of quotes from members of Tipp’s camp, the forthcoming Munster SHC quarter-final encounter could be extremely taxing for Cork.
As the provincial championship opener draws nearer, the typical Leeside swagger among the masses may decree otherwise.
However, when it boils down to the harsh realities of the situation, Tipp should, technically, be superior to the Rebels by at least eight points.
And, were Ryan’s troops to really unload it could be a margin closer to 12 points.
That is not due primarily to shortcomings on Cork’s part. Obviously, that is a factor.
Nevertheless, the greater element of the tie is simply that Tipp are a more physically imposing, ruthless commodity.
Often, and you will see this for yourselves later in the week, arguments for the defence of the outsiders are made for pig iron.
Column inches have to be filled and all that. Ignore such rubbish.
If we look at this match coldly, Cork 2017 are highly unlikely to win.
Cork 2018 or Cork 2019 might, but not Cork 2017.
Kieran Kingston and his selectors, unlike some other management teams, do not have their heads in the clouds. Kingston and co are aware of where Cork presently stand in the Munster regional pecking order.
The amount of work they and the players are putting into narrow the current gap is exceptional. However, anybody outside of the group expecting minor miracles in Thurles would need to wake up.
Fortunately, for the development of the Leesiders to be maintained in the long-term, the number of those anticipating some sort of Cork senior hurling resurrection this weekend are limited.
What can be expected of Kingston’s side, however? For starters, a finer tuned system of play should be witnessed, one that was becoming more and more apparent as the league evolved.
Additionally, a greater willingness to develop attacking plays was a feature of the Rebels’ performances in the secondary competition.
The likes of Luke Meade and Shane Kingston will be central to these ploys.
However, where Tipp has a distinct advantage over Cork is in the power of their half-back line.
The Mahers, Ronan and Padráic, could have one of their most productive afternoons yet. Their physical strength is documented and will be their most potent weapon on this occasion.
The majority of Cork’s half-forwards are nowhere near as far down the strength and conditioning road as the Mahers are because they are so young and, therefore, logic suggests this sector of the field will be fruitful for the Premier.
Of course, Kingston and Anthony Nash might have a plan in place to try and bypass this area. The problem for the Leesiders will be that even if the visitors opt for short puck-outs Tipp’s inside line are bound to be right in on top of Cork’s players forcing the Kanturk custodian to hit more long-range, 50/50 deliveries than he would like.
Ryan will have noted too how porous Cork’s full-back line was in the league in terms of goalscoring opportunities coughed up, at the least.
The likelihood is the Premier will aim to raise two green flags in the first-half alone in order to bury any notions Cork could have about themselves and their progress in the intervening weeks since the counties fought out the league game at Páirc Uí Rinn.
Séamus Callanan’s broken thumb will be the subject of much debate before Sunday but the Drom & Inch man will be ready to fire, you can be almost guaranteed that.
If Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher fails to prove his fitness it won’t be the end of the world for Tipp, either.
After all, the obvious options Ryan has at his disposal are players of the highest quality and, really, will offset the loss of ‘Bonner’ easily.
While the half-back line and firing forwards have been gaining most of the credit for Tipp this season, there is another man whose form will surely trouble Cork in a critical sector.
Brendan Maher is an imperious figure at centre-field this season.
Interestingly, the fact Pádraic Maher is now the captain of the county seems to have had a subconsciously relieving impact on his namesake.
The Borrisoleigh midfielder never found himself curtailed in any sense, but often, when players are no longer the captain of a team, they are even less inhibited in an attacking capacity if not operating as a forward.
And that is certainly true of Brendan Maher. The man was always capable of slotting over a score or two. However, this term he is driving even further forward, aiming for the jugular.
If he is allowed to make darting ground through the middle of Cork’s defence on Sunday, Tipp will be well on their way to a provincial semi-final joust with Waterford.
Either Maher will find himself in positions to score a goal himself, as was the case against Wexford in the last four of the league, or he will be able to release others to trouble the umpires.
Regardless, the Mahers’ contributions will be decisive.