The return of the 2005 All-Ireland winning captain to the half-back line and Sarsfields man Kearney’s positioning at midfield are two of three changes to the team that beat Wexford last Saturday week.
Ó hAilpín, who also appeared as a substitute last day out, takes William Egan’s spot at left half back, while Kearney comes into the midfield at the expense of Lorcán McLoughlin.
Dropped for the Wexford game, Stephen McDonnell comes in for Damien Cahalane at full-back. Christopher Joyce remains unavailable with a broken thumb.
In all, Cork have just six of the team that started in the 2010 Munster final replay defeat to Waterford — Ó hAilpín, Shane O’Neill, Brian Murphy, Tom Kenny, Eoin Cadogan and Niall McCarthy.
Waterford themselves have nine of the team that began the game in Semple Stadium.
Thomas Ryan is the only change in the Déise team that lost to Tipperary in the Munster final earlier this month.
Ryan comes in for Gavin O’Brien at left full forward in what is his first Championship start.
Like Waterford, Limerick go with 14 of the team that lined out in their last game.
Declan Hannon, who came on as a first-half substitute against Clare for Brian Geary, starts instead of his veteran team-mate at centre-forward.
Tom Condon has been named at left corner back but is expected to face a late fitness test before the game.
JJ Delaney is expected to take his place in the Kilkenny line-up for the game.
There were fears earlier in the week that a hand injury would keep Delaney out of the crunch game but Kilkenny management have confirmed since then that the experienced defender will be fit for action on Sunday.
CORK (SH v Waterford): A Nash; S O’Neill, S McDonnell, B Murphy; T Kenny, E Cadogan, S Óg Ó hAilpín; D Kearney, P Cronin; C Lehane, C McCarthy, N McCarthy; P O’Sullivan, L O’Farrell, P Horgan.
Subs: D McCarthy, C O’Sullivan, D Cahalane, K Murphy, W Egan, J Gardiner, L McLoughlin, C Naughton, D Sweetnam, J Coughlan, S Moylan.
WATERFORD (SH v Cork): S O’Keeffe; S Daniels, L Lawlor, N Connors; T Browne, M Walsh, K Moran; S Molumphy, Philip Mahony; Pauric Mahony, S Prendergast, M Shanahan; J Mullane, S Walsh, T Ryan.
LIMERICK (SH v Kilkenny): N Quaid; S Walsh, R McCarthy, T Condon; W McNamara, D O’Grady, G O’Mahony; J Ryan, P O’Brien; S Dowling, D Hannon, D Breen; G Mulcahy, N Moran, S Tobin.