Irrespective of whoever is selected at right and left half-forward on the Cork team, their number one priority at Páirc Uí Chaoimh will be to shadow Tipperary wing-backs Bill Maher and Robbie Kiely.
A key element of Cork’s victory over Kerry — and one that didn’t get half as much attention as Mark Keane’s last-minute contribution — was the manner in which Cork forwards so effectively shadowed the Kerry defenders who had been attacking well in their concluding League fixtures. Mark Collins tagged Tom O’Sullivan, John O’Rourke shadowed Gavin White and Ruairí Deane tracked Paul Murphy. When this trio were not allowed punch holes in the opposing defence, as they had done against Monaghan and Donegal, Kerry found scores harder to come by.
Tipperary’s Bill Maher and Robbie Kiely are cut from the same cloth as Murphy and White, and attack at every opportunity they get. Maher kicked a crucial goal in the Munster quarter-final win over Clare, while Kiely was on the scoresheet against Limerick.
John O’Rourke and Kiely played club football together at Carbery Rangers for many years so don’t be surprised if they renew acquaintances. Curtailing the influence of this pair would force Tipperary to eke out a match-winning score with almost one hand tied behind their back.
On the same evening as Mark Keane’s Munster semi-final match-winning goal, Colin O’Riordan again made contact with his AFL club, Sydney Swans, to seek permission to line out for Tipperary.
Having had an earlier request turned down, we can only assume the request lodged by O’Riordan on Sunday week last was motivated by having watched another AFL contracted player wear his county colours and to such outstanding effect. O’Riordan has not pulled on the Tipp shirt since lining out at midfield during the county’s qualifier defeat to Tyrone on July 18, 2015. But such are Tipperary’s injury problems around midfield and the half-forward line, with concerns hanging over Jack Kennedy and Steven O’Brien, O’Riordan could well be thrown in from the start.
With manager David Power expressing the view that O’Riordan has actually improved as a Gaelic footballer despite being away from the game for five years now, his presence would certainly give Cork something different to think about.
Can he influence proceedings to the extent Keane did against Kerry or will it be the Mitchelstown man picking up where he left off two weeks ago?
Neither Munster finalist shot the lights en route to Sunday’s provincial decider, but is their greater cause for concern in the Tipperary ranks at how little their forward unit has been contributing on the scoresheet. Only one starting forward — Conor Sweeney — scored from play against Clare, while only two — Sweeney and Michael Quinlivan — were on target from play last time out against Limerick.
Four of the starting six forwards didn’t contribute on the scoresheet against Clare, while half went scoreless against Limerick. These stats will need improving, if Tipp’s 85-year wait for Munster football glory is to come to an end on Sunday.