Kilkenny will look to the first-half of the 2014 All-Ireland decider between the counties as the template for thwarting Cork’s three-in-a-row bid.
The Cats upset Paudie Murray’s side with a ferocious work-rate and their success in closing down the space afforded to the opposition’s key players is something they would love to replicate.
Kilkenny led 1-6 to 0-4 at the break two years ago and it took the mother and father of second-half displays to swing it for the Rebels. Cork, on the other hand, will look to the second half of last year’s semi-final meeting where their direct running at the Kilkenny defence yielded 3-3. Julia White was integral to that game-plan and her absence tomorrow will be sorely missed.
Crucial to Kilkenny’s chances of landing a first All-Ireland since 1994 - and avoiding a third final defeat to Cork in the space of seven years - is their success in curtailing Ashling Thompson and Orla Cotter at midfield and the wily Gemma O’Connor behind them.
Kilkenny don’t have the experience to go one-on-one with Cork in this department and may try to mirror Wexford’s semi-final approach - withdraw a corner-forward to clog the middle third.
Wing-forwards Denise Gaule and Katie Power are the strongest components in Ann Downey’s attack but expect Murray to have a plan for dealing with both in the same manner Galway’s Niamh McGrath and Ailish O’Reilly were in the 2015 decider.
Cork’s defence, marshalled by O’Connor, Rena Buckley and the superb Pamela Mackey, is somewhat stronger than their attack – as evidenced by the placing of Eimear O’Sullivan (player of the match in the 2014 final at wing-back) in the half-forward line - so it was no surprise to see them grind out a result in the semi-final rather than run away from Wexford. Expect something similar tomorrow.
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