Last weekend, that same experimental Cork side had another hard-earned and gritty win over another high-flying college, UL, a team packed with experienced inter-county stars, and again, several players impressed. Could it be that we’re witnessing a renaissance in Cork?
A far more experienced Waterford side, meanwhile, made a fantastic comeback against a strong Clare team, and in Sixmilebridge to boot, coming from 11 points behind at the break to win by one. Waterford manager Davy Fitzgerald — made a number of astute switches in that game, and with a host of players still to come back to this squad, will have been more than pleased with that performance. He now faces something of a dilemma at Pairc UI Rinn today (throw in-2pm), however; given that Denis Walsh is sticking to the team that got Cork to this final, does Davy go for broke and field his strongest available side, or does he match like with like, do a little more experimenting himself?
The pressure, then is all on Waterford. If Davy goes for an experienced team and loses, it will be a setback. Nothing major, but a setback nevertheless. He is still without his most experienced players, Tony Browne and Ken McGrath, both of whom will undoubtedly strengthen the team when they return, and he has a number of college-tied players, including All-Star Noel Connors, while the De La Salle lads — John Mullane, another current All-Star, included — are club-tied, awaiting their All-Ireland semi-final against Clarinbridge. If he stays with the kind of team he’s been picking, then Waterford are almost in a must-win situation.
Walsh, on the other hand, can’t lose. They have already exceeded expectations — that UL team, remember, is already qualified for the Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-final, would give most top county teams a run for their money. If they lose here, well, so what — Cork have already unearthed a few gems, not least teenage forward Conor Lehane. And if they win, well, who’s to know what will come from it? Watch out for those Cork youngsters — Lehane, Cooper, Coughlan, Hartnett, Eoin ‘Bear’ Murphy finally getting his chance to impress, forwards all; for Waterford, well we know most of the team, but young Brian O’Halloran is ready.
CORK: M Coleman; P O’Leary, C Fogarty, S Murphy; C Joyce, M Ellis, R Ryan; G Callinan, B Lawton; T Murray, B Cooper, C Lehane; J Coughlan, E Murphy, B Hartnett. Subs: A Nash, G Moylan, P O’Mahony, C McCarthy, S Harnedy, L O’Farrell, M Cussen, J Wall, B Johnson.