Conor Counihan may have been a man for the dummy team but none of his successors — Brian Cuthbert, Peadar Healy, and Ronan McCarthy — have been known for it.
A look back at the Munster finals under them would reveal as much. In both 2014 and the drawn game in 2015, Cuthbert went with the named team before a couple of late changes for the replay in Killarney. In 2017, Healy introduced Niall Coakley as an 11th hour change and McCarthy went with what he announced 12 months ago.
So what are we to believe about these three late Cork switches — Seán White replacing Thomas Clancy, Kevin O’Driscoll for Eoghan McSweeney and Stephen Sherlock for John O’Rourke? Late injuries have been cited and it hasn’t been in Cork’s nature to bluff. Taking yesterday’s news at face value, those injuries are body blows if not knockout blows.
Sherlock will add some vitality to the Cork forward line but McSweeney would have brought a real surprise element. That being said, Kerry have enough unknowns themselves to throw at Cork with Dara Moynihan making his championship debut while Diarmuid O’Connor plays in his first senior Munster final.
After perhaps reading too much into last year’s win over Cork, Kerry supporters will want to see a meaner defence than any further extravagance from the team’s attack. And yet half of the Kingdom’s back-line just love to get forward. Whether Paul Murphy or Tom O’Sullivan is the spare man, they will want to initiate attacks and make themselves available for offloads a pass or two later.
Kerry supporters do have to be wary of what they wish for — a stronger Cork might sharpen them but they could also bite. Quickly becoming Cork’s best player, Ruairí Deane’s influence has to be curbed and Brian Hurley’s supply cut. Kerry to win with the odd hiccup along the way as Cork get back to being competitive.