Experience can swing it way of wily Rebels

Ask any of Cork’s long-serving footballers which All-Ireland final win ranks sweetest of the eight, and all will provide you with the same answer — 2009.

Not so much daylight robbery, but Cork rode their luck that afternoon. Outplayed for more than three quarters of the decider, Eamonn Ryan’s charges edged Dublin with a devastating burst at the death. It stands as Cork’s sole final victory where the player of the match award did not also return Leeside, as Dublin’s Mary Nevin got the nod.

Indeed, it is Dublin who have given Cork most grief in recent years and when the Rebels fell at the quarter-final hurdle in 2010, it was the Sky Blues who capitalised to lift the Brendan Martin Cup that September.

In 2012 and 2013, it was Cork who ended Dublin’s championship involvement at the quarter-final stages, on both occasions the Rebels overturned significant second-half deficits to advance.

Kerry, Monaghan and Armagh have all asked questions of the game’s standard-bearers in recent years, Dublin, however, have consistently provided the stiffest examination.

The two teams collided in this year’s league final, Cork winning 1-9 to 2-4 — Dublin’s sole competitive defeat of 2014. The capital side’s stock is forever rising, the gap to the champions closing.

Absent from Cork’s armoury this weekend is the presence, attacking quality and leadership once provided by Juliet Murphy. How much of a psychological boost is that to Dublin, how much will it play on the mind of the Cork players? Calling a spade a spade, Murphy dragged Cork across the line in one, if not two, All-Ireland finals.

In the scoring stakes, the bulk of the responsibility will again fall on Valerie Mulcahy, not least because the forward unit has undergone a makeover this summer — Orlagh Farmer, Orla Finn and Grace Kearney earning selection ahead of experienced campaigners like Norita Kelly and Nollaig Cleary. The Cork management could well be forced to introduce the latter pair earlier than they might like tomorrow.

And so to a verdict. Cork have never lost at Croke Park, Dublin, meanwhile, have capitulated on three occasions — 2009, ’12 and ’13 — when almost out of sight of the red and white. Experience, know-how and Cork’s ability to outlast rather than outplay their opponents may tell again.

* Verdict: Cork

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