A risky one too considering the possibility Pa Cronin might not make it and Michael Cahill could.
But considering each manager allows their players the licence to hurl with abandonment, it’s salient to boil each line down to its attributes.
Cork have a clear advantage in goal. We rank Anthony Nash, back-to-back All Star winner, as a nine out of 10 and Darren Gleeson as an improving seven.
The presence of the Mahers in the Tipp back line give them an edge but only if Padraic Maher, as expected, is moved from where he has been named. On the 40, Maher is an eight out of 10 bordering a nine. Inside, he’s just a seven.
Mark Ellis has been the lock for the Cork defence but it is paramount for Cork that he minds the area rather than ghost a roaming Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher. For a team that struggles with primary ball retention compared to the opposition who have great fetchers, Tipperary thrive more than most on low, fast ball. If Seamus Callanan is fed it, watch out.
At midfield, Cork’s combination looks stronger having looked the part against a good Limerick duo in the Munster final. Shane McGrath was one of Tipp’s best in the Dublin game but his form prior to it was questionable.
Distinguishing each team’s half- and full-forward line is next to redundant in light of the fluidity of their attacks. The excellent Pat Horgan won’t wander too far from the inside line. Neither will Callanan but it’s open season for everybody else. In Maher and Callanan, Tipperary have two nines. Callanan is no longer as flaky as he was and so dependent on an early score to settle him. John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer has rarely put a foot wrong this season although Noel McGrath has been off the boil. Tipperary’s attack, as they have shown in spurts this year, can pulverise teams but Cork’s is just as potent and better balanced. Where so much is put on Maher’s shoulders to win and off-load ball, Cork share the load around. Seamus Harnedy can do it all.
The five-week break should be a concern for Cork. Munster champions have regularly found it difficult to get themselves off and running. Dual players Aidan Walsh and Damien Cahalane are only back with the hurlers in earnest since last week. Tipperary will expect to enjoy the better of the early exchanges. But don’t discount just what it means for the other Cork players who were there last September to be back at Croke Park. They haven’t spoken much about those games with Clare but this is part one of a redemption process. Weather permitting, it will be what we all think it will be — a shootout. It will be an extravaganza of scores, and, importantly, Cork appear to have got over their goal-shyness. They should grow as the game develops.
The difference? Hurt. Tipp plan. Cork plot. Verdict: Cork