Size matters: how the teams compare

For a group of players that feel they haven’t been given enough respect these past few years, mentioning Cork’s size to them is not usually met with the warmest of receptions.

It’s seen as taking away from their football, accentuating their brawn over brains even though it’s their undoubted physicality that has acted as the perfect foil for their more skilful players.

However, the statistics don’t lie: when they beat Down in September two years ago 13 of their 15 players were six foot or over.

Noel O’Leary and John Miskella were the exceptions.

Now, as Conor Counihan announces his team later today, O’Leary at 5ft11in is the odd man out.

Like Cork’s opponents before them, Donegal have been keen to mention the sheer physical prowess of the Munster champions.

Jim McGuinness: “If I had the players with the size, strength and fetching ability that Conor has...”

Paul Durcan: “We know how good they are and they are a big physical team.”

Yet the statistics also indicate that not only are Donegal just a few inches short of them, they have also piled on the muscle to such an extent that they weigh in heavier than Cork.

While Donegal have four players just under six foot, they have three 15 stoners in Paul Durcan, Neil McGee and Neil Gallagher with another five including captain Michael Murphy hitting approximately 200 pounds.

So Sunday may indeed be described as the “biggest” All-Ireland semi-final of all time.

It perfectly illustrates just how the best teams are being conditioned not to mention the size of player the managers want.

Last year, Dublin won an All-Ireland with just five players under six foot, all of them 5ft11in.

Of the last three starting teams to raise Sam in triumph in September, one player — Darran O’Sullivan at 5’10” — from a total of 45 has measured less than 5’11“.

Go back to 2008 and the likes of Ryan McMenamin, Brian Dooher, Brian McGuigan and Colm McCullagh, all men 5’10” or under and with slighter frames, when the Tyrone players were able to prosper at the highest level.

The changes in the height of the player at the echelon on Gaelic football have been matched by the shift in build.

In 2004, Kerry’s starting team weighed in at a combined total of 181 stone and four pounds.

This Sunday, the likely Donegal team will tip the scales at 204 with Cork a couple of stone behind them.

That’s an average of over one stone per player up on Jack O’Connor’s team eight years ago.

If you want to know where Gaelic football is going there you have it.

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