The Dromid Pearses clubman is recovering from the shoulder injury which kept him out of the senior final and replay, and it means Colm Cooper is the only senior player on the starting 15. The game is a repeat of last year’s final, which Waterford won to claim their first title in the grade.
Kerry will relish the chance to avenge that defeat and barring an absolute catastrophe, should win.
Waterford received a thrashing from Limerick in a challenge game last week and with eight of last year’s winning team, shouldn’t pose problems for Kerry.
Waterford’s chances have been considerably reduced by the withdrawal of county senior hurling star Michael Walsh.
Named on the team earlier in the week, Walsh has informed selectors he is injured.
Coupled with the loss of Shane Walsh, who picked up an injury with his club last weekend, it’s a massive blow for the Decies.
Kerry’s challenge will be led by the towering figure of Brian Sheehan, an excellent freetaker, Dan Doona, Ronan Ó Flatharta and Kieran Donaghy.
Cork are badly in need of a win tonight against Limerick in the other semi-final.
Football in the county is at a low ebb and an U21 success would be a step in the right direction to raise spirits.
Team coach Tony Leahy and his selectors have put in a tremendous effort in preparing the team, but it will be difficult as this is their first outing against a Limerick side who looked very impressive in disposing of Tipperary in round one.
It’s hard to believe Cork will field only one city player on the starting 15, but a combination of injuries and players opting out, has robbed them of John Gardiner, Setanta Ó hAilpín, Brian O’Regan and David Cunningham.
Home advantage could be worth a couple of points to Cork, but Limerick are coming with no fear and full of confidence that they can repeat their 2000 win at the same venue.
B Keely (Kilcummin); A O’Connell (St. Michael’s/Foilmore), B O’Mahony (John Mitchels), F Griffin (Glenbeigh/Glencar); P Sheehan (Dromid Pearses), R Ó Flatharta (An Ghaeltacht), S O’Neill (Rathmore); K Donaghy (Austin Stacks), P Kelly (Ballylongford); D O’Sullivan (Lispole), D Walsh (Cromane), S Foley (Laune Rangers); D Doona (Beaufort), B Sheehan (St. Mary’s), C Cooper (Dr Crokes). Subs: D Dineen (Ardfert), M O’Mahony (Ballydonoghue), J McGillicuddy (Glenbeigh/Glencar), J Coffey (Laune Rangers), A O’Donovan (Dr Crokes), P Madden (Kerins O’Rahillys), D Kelliher (Milltown/Castlemaine), R McAulliffe, (Gneeveguilla), A O’Connor (Glenbeigh/Glencar), K Quirke (Duagh).