Experienced Murphy, 30, played a vital role in nullifying rising Clare star Tony Kelly in the semi-final win. But a shoulder injured picked up on club duty against Ballinhassig in the Cork SHC has ruled him out of the Gaelic Grounds showpiece on Sunday week.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Cunningham. “It happened just right at the end of the game he was playing. In the last 30 seconds, he just got caught with a shoulder. It’s a shame for himself first of all. It’s a long-term injury.
“He had a specific job against Clare and no better man to give a specific job like that to in relation to the role that he does. He’s a fantastic defender. He’s played that role very well over the years against John Mullane and Eoin Kelly and these fellas. So he wasn’t phased by it whatsoever.”
Murphy assumed the captaincy against Clare in the absence of Pa Cronin. But ex-goalkeeper Cunningham had good news on Cronin who, after only appearing as a sub against Clare due to a previous bout of pneumonia, is fully fit again and ready to start, if selected.
“Pat’s back in and in full training since the Clare game,” said Cunningham. “It’s taken him a while to recover. But he’s been back in full training and going fine so he’ll be available for selection.”
Cunningham also confirmed that shoulder injury victim Lorcan McLoughlin should be okay.
“We’d be hopeful that he will be fit, the next couple of days now will tell a lot,” he said. “If he was available to us, it would certainly lessen the blow of losing Brian.”
John Gardiner could have stepped in as defensive cover had he not been cut from the Cork panel by boss Jimmy Barry-Murphy. Former colleague Séan Óg Ó hAilpín hit out recently at the omission, claiming it was ‘extremely harsh’.
“That’s Séan Óg’s opinion,” said Cunningham. “He’s entitled to say what he wants to say. Decisions are taken in all shapes and forms when you go to pick teams. That’s the decision really.
“He (Gardiner) played a couple of League games last year and came on against Waterford. That’s just the way it has evolved really.”