The inclusion of O’Keeffe at left half-back is one of three changes made by manager Declan Ryan to last year’s All-Ireland winning team. David Young comes into the team at right half-back while Seamus Callanan will start at right half-forward. That duo both featured as substitutes during last September’s success against Kilkenny in Croke Park. Declan Fanning has retired since that clash, Brendan Maher is sidelined through an ankle injury and Conor O’Mahony is the third player to make way. Shane McGrath has shaken off a knee injury to start at midfield alongside Gearóid Ryan.
Billy Joe Padden will make his championship debut in Armagh colours in tomorrow’s Ulster SFC quarter-final against Down in the Morgan Athletic Grounds. The former Mayo star switched allegiances to the Orchard County at the start of this season and has been named at centre-forward in Paddy O’Rourke’s starting lineup. Armagh have made four changes from the team that exited the All-Ireland qualifiers at the hands of Dublin last July with Kevin Dyas, Tony Kernan, Padden and Micheal O’Rourke coming into the team at the expense of Vinny Martin, Finian Moriarty, Gareth Swift and Brian Mallon.
Wexford hurling boss Colm Bonnar has handed out two championship debuts for Sunday’s Leinster SHC quarter-final tie with Antrim in Wexford Park. Niall Breen from the Tara Rocks club has been given the nod to start in goal while 19 year-old Matthew O’Hanlon has been selected at full-back. Ciarán Kenny starts at centre-back in the absence of injured captain Darren Stamp.
Wexford football manager Jason Ryan has also drafted in two new championship newcomers for their Leinster SFC opening round trip to Tullamore to face Offaly on Saturday night. Clonard’s Rory Quinlivan will star at midfield with Ben Brosnan from Bannow-Ballymitty selected at wing-forward. Colm Morris, a recognised defender, is selected at corner-forward.
Meanwhile Galway free-taker Ger Farragher is regarded as a major doubt for Saturday week’s Leinster SHC tie with Westmeath after damaging his knee in a club game on Wednesday night. The sharpshooter limped off after Castlegar’s 2-22 to 3-7 loss to St Thomas in the Galway SHC. Farragher was in superb form hitting 2-6 in that game but a troublesome knee injury has flared up and he is in a race against time to be available.
(SH v Cork): B Cummins; P Stapleton, P Curran, M Cahill; D Young, Padraic Maher, J O’Keeffe; G Ryan, S McGrath; S Callanan, N McGrath, Patrick Maher; E Kelly, J O’Brien, L Corbett.
(SF v Down): P Hearty; A Mallon, B Donaghy, K Dyas; A Kernan, C McKeever, P Duffy; K Toner, C Vernon; T Kernan, BJ Padden, M Mackin; M O’Rourke, S McDonnell, J Clarke.
(SH v Antrim): N Breen; P Roche, M O’Hanlon, K Rossiter; L Prendergast, C Kenny, M Jacob; W Doran, D Redmond; PJ Nolan, H Kehoe, S Banville; R Jacob, E Martin, J Berry.
(SF v Offaly): A Masterson; J Wadding, G Molloy, B Malone; A Flynn, D Murphy, A Doyle; R Quinlivan, D Waters; S Roche, C Lyng, B Brosnan; C Morris, E Bradley, R Barry.