NO team should play injured or half-fit players. End of argument.
To do so with a central defender in an All-Ireland final against high-quality forward opposition is an exceedingly high-risk strategy. It is not as if Cork have been picking up All-Ireland football titles with ease over the past two decades. Given their recent heartbreaks, it is imperative Cork win on Sunday and the team management and medical team have to be ruthless in their decision- making to ensure that happens.
You can pick exceptions where picking injured players worked to a degree, like Peter Canavan back in 2003 for Tyrone, but that was a different situation.
He was their free-taker, their team needed him the field at the start and crucially it was an ankle versus a hamstring injury. You can take a jab and strap an ankle. You cannot do that with a hamstring. If you do, you’ll be found out.
Everyone acknowledges the leadership, inspiration and drive that a fully-fit Graham Canty brings to Cork.
However that is not what they have at their disposal currently.
Seven weeks have elapsed since he pulled the hamstring against Roscommon and was severely hampered by the problem in the semi-final against Dublin. A more experienced, self-confident player than Eoghan O’Gara could have made Cork pay a high price for the decision to start their talisman. There were chances in that first half for O’Gara to really take on the Cork captain and run at him but didn’t.
Do you think Danny Hughes, Mark Poland, Benny Coulter or Paul McCumisky would be so forgiving? If Cork start Graham and he breaks down early, they will have one sub used and a psychological advantage handed to Down.
Look at the impact on the teams when Henry Shefflin limped out of the All-Ireland SHC final after 13 minutes.
It lifted one side and deflated the other.
The other factor is that Eoin Cadogan if a fine replacement for the Bantry Blues man. I saw Cadogan do a fine job on Bernard Brogan in the NFL clash with Cork, and he impressed too when he came on in last year’s final against Kerry.
I would have no fear of throwing him into the battle. His ball handling and kicking skills should have improved over the past few weeks, since the hurlers exited, and he should be close to a starting role.
The best way for Cork to look at the decision on whether to start Canty or not is to do a “risk v return” analysis.
The risks in starting him are colossal. His ongoing injury could lead to him being leaden-footed, and by the time you get him off, real damage has been done.
Remember how Down started against Kerry? His lack of football and training over the past seven weeks leave him very susceptible to been cleaned out by the Mourne attack.
On the flip side of the coin, you could play him and he lasts 60 minutes, but there are no guarantees to what standard he will play.
For me, the decision is an easy one. If he is not perfect, he does not play.
If he is almost fully-fit, and Conor Counihan still wants a gamble Sunday, he could bring him in with 10 minutes to go, to rally the troops and try and get them over the winning line.
It would be tough if Cork win the All-Ireland and their best player from the past decade has to miss out.
But it would be much crueller if he was to play and they lose.
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