The focus of the latest Cork-Kerry clash will undoubtedly be on David Moran and Tommy Walsh, the senior stars who already have U21 All-Ireland medals in their collection.
That duo are expected to give the Kingdom a real edge in terms of steel and experience in Páirc Ui Rinn tomorrow, and what’s most worrying from a Cork perspective is that midfield, where Moran lines out, and the full-back line, who face Tommy Walsh, and the gifted Barry John Walsh, are perhaps Cork’s most untested lines.
There are just five players from last season’s starting 15 in the line-up, and in stark contrast to Kerry, none have any senior experience, though Shane McCarthy would be on the fringes of Conor Counihan’s panel and Colm O’Neill is likely to be involved by the summer.
This is a huge game for John Cleary, who despite being involved as a selector for the Munster four-in-a-row, will be desperate to land a provincial title as manager. Cork didn’t perform to their maximum capacity down in Kerry last season, and Cleary will be hoping this year’s unit are more clinical and hit harder against a tough, robust Kerry.
The Rebels will possibly need to keep a clean sheet to win this one, and the full-back line, despite the presence of CIT’s Noel Galvin, who makes his inter-county debut after missing out at minor level, could be up against it.
The loss of Brian Lombard through injury is a real blow.
There is talk of Kerry pulling out Alan O’Donoghue and leaving the Walsh brothers inside, and whether or which the key might be cutting off the supply line. That won’t be easy with David Moran in the centre, though Chris O’Donovan might have the bit of muscle needed to at least put him off his game.
Cork do have a potentially outstanding half-back line, even without the injured Sean Kiely. Conor O’Driscoll, who can be a loose marker, should drive the side forward from wing-back, while Aidan Walsh and Bart Daly were good for Duhallow last year.
Cork aren’t short of attacking options and that’s what gives them a decent shot. Paul Honohan is a surprise selection at corner-forward ahead of Barry O’Driscoll, but he might be charged with coming out the field to bolster the Rebel centre-field. In the half line, McCarthy, Sheehan and Colm O’Driscoll should give Cork pace and if they get into the groove could be match winning.
With Barry O’Driscoll, Mark Collins and Eoghan Buckley in reserve, Cork have options, but Kerry might still have too much.
CORK: D Farry (Nemo); S McLoughlin (Kanturk), J O’Sullivan (Bishopstown), N Galvin (Ballincollig); C O’Driscoll (Ilen Rovers), A Walsh (Kanturk), B Daly (Newmarket); C O’Donovan (Valley Rovers), K O’Driscoll (Tadgh MacCárthaigh); C Sheehan (Éire Óg), S McCarthy (Douglas), C O’Driscoll (Tadgh MacCárthaigh); C O’Neill (Ballyclough), D Goold (Macroom), P Honohan (Bishopstown). Subs: B Walsh (Plunkett’s), L Jennings (Ballincollig), R Buckley (Macroom), D O’Sullivan (Ballinascarthy), J Fitzpatrick (Carbery Rangers), E Keane (Barrs), M Collins (Castlehaven), E Buckley (Michael’s), B O’Driscoll (Nemo).
KERRY: Tomas Mac an tSaoir (An Ghaeltacht); Padraig O’Connor (Legion), Stephen Browne (Castlegregory), Shane Enright (Tarber); Jonathan Lyne (Legion), Mike Moloney (Dr Croke’s), Rory Horgan (Ardfert); David Moran (Kerins O’Rahilly’s), Shane Hennessy (Castlegregory); Adrian Greaney (St Pat’s), Gary Sayers (Keel), JB Spillane (Castlegregory); Alan O’Donoghue (John Mitchel’s), Tommy Walsh (Kerins O’Rahilly’s), Barry John Walsh (do).