There is one positional change however, Alan Leech and Paul Callanan switching places in the full back line.
The Connacht side are the All-Ireland champions after beating Kilkenny in a replay by a point in a classic final in Tullamore last year, and tonight’s team includes seven of that winning combination - Paul Loughnane, John Hughes, Ciaran O’Donovan, Keith Kilkenny, Andrew Keary, Kevin Coen and Joe Canning (brother of Ollie).
On their way to last year’s triumph Galway beat Cork by five points in the semi-final and the Munster champions field six of that team tonight, Ger O’Driscoll, Thomas Murray, Peter O’Brien, Cathal Naughton, Eoin Murphy and captain Patrick Cronin.
Galway showed their potential in overturning an eight point deficit against Wexford to win by five and will start as favourites. However, this Cork side is considered one of the best the county has produced in years. Certainly their form in the Munster final against a Limerick side which destroyed favourites Tipperary was outstanding.
Without underestimating either Dublin or Limerick, who meet in the other semi-final, Cork coach Denis Ring is of the view that the winners of tonight’s clash will take some beating in the final.
“With almost half of last year’s winning team, combined with the manner in which they defeated Wexford, Galway deserve to be favourites, but if we reproduce our Munster final form we’ll take some beating,” said the Blackwater College School Principal.
Mattie Murphy, his opposite number, has enjoyed a lot of success at minor level and, like Ring, is in the teaching profession. He certainly has had the Indian sign over Cork at this level, steering Galway to All-Ireland success in 1994 with a team that includes current seniors Alan Kerins and Kevin Broderick. Cork senior captain Sean Óg Ó hAilpin was full back on that losing minor team.
“There has been very little between the counties at minor level over the years“, said Murphy. “We’ve had only one championship outing against three for Cork and this is a plus for them, but we have a lot of work done and have no intention of giving up our hard earned title.”
Cork have made one change from the team which won the Munster championship. Alan Brady has not recovered from injury and is replaced by Stephen Moylan whose father Pat won All-Ireland honours at minor, U-21 and senior in his time.
While the champions will start slight favourites, they’ll earn their scores off what is a very solid Cork defence and for that reason I expect the Munster champions to shade the issue.
: J. Skehill; A. Leech, P. Loughnane, P. Callanan; J. Hughes, C. O’Donovan, K. Kilkenny; A. Keary, F. Kerrigan; C. Coen, S. Glynn, S. Howley; C. Kavanagh, J. Canning, B. Murphy.
: R. O’Keeffe; E. O’Sullivan, E. Dillon, G. O’Driscoll; S. White, P. O’Sullivan, T. Murray; P. O’Brien, P. O’Driscoll; P. Cronin, E. Murphy, J. Halbert; P. Horgan, C. Naughton, S. Moylan.