THERE was mixed reaction on Leeside yesterday following the omission of Nemo Rangers pair James Masters and Derek Kavanagh from the Cork side to face Limerick in Sunday’s Munster championship semi-final.
Ephie Fitzgerald, who coached the club to the All-Ireland club final earlier this year, expressed disappointment and hopes Conor Counihan and his selectors don’t come to regret their decision.
Said Fitzgerald: “Whatever people say and think about James Masters, he is a player for the big occasion. He is a natural scoring forward something Cork don’t have too many of, and in the last two championship outings against Limerick he was the top scorer.
“I was in his house earlier this week and was amazed at the amount of man-of-the-match awards he had received both at club and county level.
“He rarely has left Cork down in Munster championships over the last couple of years.
“The selectors are reported as saying they picked the team from players in form.
“Form in my view, is based on the championship and as this is Cork’s first outing, there is nothing to go on.
“Inter-county championship is a different level of football to challenge and club games, and I would have opted for experience.
“I’m disappointed for the two lads but there is a long season there and I’ve no doubt they’ll have a part to play in it.”
But he admitted: “It hasn’t come as any great surprise to me or the lads that they are not starting.
“From reports, they were not figuring in recent challenge games or in training games among themselves.
“To be fair Derek has been struggling with an injury, but James is too good a scoring forward to be left out.
“If I was picking the team I would have Derek in at full back and Graham Canty who is an excellent player, further out the field where he would be far more effective. I know Alan O’Connor is playing great football at midfield but I still think both James and Derek should be on the team for Sunday. I sincerely hope there won’t be any regrets at leaving them out”.
However former Cork stalwart Niall Cahalane has a different take on the decision.
“The selectors may have looked at this situation two ways,” said Cahalane. “Both players have played an awful lot of football over the last three years during which time Nemo have been going almost non-stop at club, provincial and All-Ireland club level.
“It’s only three months since they were involved in the All-Ireland club final and the selectors may have felt they deserved a good long rest.
“On the other hand they (selectors), and I have no first hand knowledge of their thinking, may have felt that Sunday’s game is the one where they need to know about the character of a number of their players.
“They may have decided to see if they have the necessary qualities for what undoubtedly will be far tougher games ahead.
“There is no doubt in my mind that both James and Derek will feature big time in the championship with Cork sooner rather than later.
“In James’s case he may have lost a bit of the edge but you must remember he’s been going almost non stop for three years.
“You don’t become a bad footballer over night for a player of Masters’ calibre. He’s still a relatively young man.
“Age is very much on his side, and being left off the team for Sunday, may be the best thing that could happen to him.
“If you are going to have a serious look at players and see what you have, maybe the selectors have decided Sunday’s game is as good as any to have a look.
No, I don’t think the alarm bells have gone off just yet,” he added.
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