TONY CONSIDINE: McCarthy’s placement is pivotal

Munster SHC Final Replay
Cork v Waterford, Tonight 7pm (Thurles)

IT is unusual to have a Munster SHC hurling final replay at 7pm on a Saturday evening; it would have been much better surely to have played the game on a Sunday and at a prime time.

Television, I suppose, is dictating matters now. I can understand the logic to a degree, but still it is a pity – the Munster senior hurling final is one of the showpieces of the GAA and should be treated as such, even for a replay.

Last week’s draw was very entertaining, especially the second half, but that’s not to say it was top-class hurling – it wasn’t, not all of it.

The closeness of the scoring made up for that, however – there was never more than a puck of a ball between Cork and Waterford, and so it was again. The reason we’re back in Thurles is because of the never-say-die spirit of Waterford. They stuck with it to the end.

The free from which the equalising goal came was questionable and in the weekend that was I suppose hurling had to have its own bit of refereeing controversy. But I don’t think anyone can deny Waterford were worth the replay.

Without needing me or anyone else to tell them, Cork are very well aware that when they went five points ahead, they should have kept it going. They didn’t, and maybe that’s areflection of a weakness in this team – they have no-one to blame but themselves that we’re back in Thurles again this evening.

I couldn’t name a single Cork forward that played up to his usual standard. The goalkeeper, most of the backs, the midfielders had good games, but they fell down in the attacking division.

They have named Niall McCarthy at centre-forward and I think that’s a positive move – with his power and strength, he’ll keep Brick Walsh occupied. He is a very different player to the injured Jerry O’Connor, and may not be the greatest scorer in the world, but Niall will break up play.

Brick is one of the inspirational players on this Waterford team in recent years and launches many of their attacks. So if McCarthy can neutralise him, that’s a big plus for Cork, and one position where the Rebels can improve.

Another selection of note is the naming of Michael Cussen at wing-forward on Tony Browne, who had problems last week with Niall McCarthy. Cussen is a much bigger man, offers Donal Óg Cusack a real option for puckouts down that wing and will keep Browne busy for the evening.

The two most disappointing players on the Cork team last week, as I saw it, were Patrick Horgan and Kieran Murphy in the corners. I know they were on two very good corner-backs but that’s what you’re going to come up against at this level, those are the kind of challenges you have to overcome – those two failed for Cork.

I’m sure Waterford will again have Noel Connors on Horgan, Eoin Murphy on his namesake, regardless of which corner they take up – those two will have to rise to that challenge.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to a better battle here and I’m sure that Aisake O hAilpín and Liam Lawlor will also pick up where they left off in the drawn game – it will be interesting to see if Liam can go the whole game this time without getting into card trouble, but I doubt it! Aisake is a handful for anyone, in the air and on the ground; by the way, I can never understand a smaller man trying to intimidate the bigger guy, and trying to intimidate an O hAilpín? No chance!

In midfield, another challenge awaits Shane O’Sullivan – he has to repeat the heroics of last Sunday. The thing is, I believe last Sunday will bring on Tom Kenny a lot after his leg injury. Tom played well, but there’s even more in him.

Up front for Waterford, if they have to depend on John Mullane and Eoin Kelly again they could be in trouble.

Both were in great form last Sunday, did a lot of damage, but you can go to the well only so often. They’re going to need scoring support this evening if Waterford are to triumph, because Eoin Cadogan especially will be really up for this one. A result? I’m expecting another good performance from Waterford, I’m expecting an even better one from Cork, Patrick Horgan to do damage.

Quick word on the other two games: you’d have to fancy Dublin to take Antrim, especially in Croke Park. I would also fancy Tipperary to beat Offaly in Portlaoise. This is a huge game for the Premier County. They were easy winners against Wexford, but if they’re to be a real threat to anyone from here on in they need an emphatic performance, a convincing win. I think they’ll get it – they’re ready to move on.


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