Dublin face Cork in Croker showdown
All-Ireland SFC quarter-final Group Phase Round 1: Dublin v Cork, Saturday July 13, Croke Park, Dublin. Throw-in at 7pm
Games don't come any bigger than facing Dublin in the All Ireland SFC series at Croke Park. So what a way to reach the Super 8s than playing the reigning holders, Cork head to the capital in upbeat mood, their season changed around in dramatic fashion following advancement to the business end of this championship.
Just a few short months ago, negative vibes surrounded relegation to the third tier in Division 3 yet away from the competitive action, Cork utilised the downtime to work behind the scenes and recharge the batteries.
Matters turned around following a run of success on the challenge circuit, at times, those type of contests fail to translate in the real heat of battle. So far pretty good , even on a Munster Final defeat, Cork have taken on a new lease of life and Rebel fans look in anticipation to the Super 8 series of three games.
Saturday evening sees Jim Gavin's Dublin side officially starting their bid for an unprecedented fifth All-Ireland senior football championship title in-a-row. The Dubs relinquished their Division 1 crown earlier this year, after they failed to reach the Division 1 decider for the first time since 2012.
Three defeats in the league put question marks on their well being yet it may well had been managed to allow Gavin's charges focus on the latter stages towards ensuring Sam Maguire remains in the capital.
The pressure of completing a five-in-a-row is centre to multiply from this weekend onwards with all and sundry wanting to better the Dubs. Obviously, they were unbackable to land a massive ninth consecutive Leinster SFC title, the quality of opposition meant little or no competition.
Cormac Costello led the destruction of hapless Louth, bar the 25th minute dismissal of Paul Mannion, Costello took the frees in the absence of Dean Rock and helped himself to 1-12 while Con O'Callaghan, Brian Fenton, Michael Darragh Macauley and Philly McMahon also netting.
The loudest cheer of the evening arrived when Rory O'Carroll returned to action after a four-year break. Next time out, Dublin easily overcame Kildare, Mannion, a late addition after his one-game suspension was overturned, kicked seven excellent scores from play.
Kildare did cause enough problems for Mick Fitzsimons and Cian O'Sullivan in the full-back line to give All-Ireland challengers hope come July and August. Against Meath in a tense final, Dublin eventually found the right gear to run up a sixteen-point winning lead and complete the opening leg of the journey.
Word from the Dublin camp is Philly McMahon is expected to replace the injured Jonny Cooper. McMahon missed out on the entire league while David Byrne is another returnee, absent from the 2018 championship owing to a broken bone, he may well hold off O'Carroll for a starting place.
The powerful James McCarthy limped out of the Leinster Final with a knee injury, likely to miss out on the opening games in the Super 8s.
With a disappointing Alianz NFL behind them, Cork experienced little difficulty in dismissing a weak Limerick challenge to their initial outing in the Munster campaign. Laying down a marker, Limerick endured a nightmare opening, stunned by the concession of three goals inside the opening 12 minutes from Brian Hurley and Ruarí Deane.
That placed Cork in a low key provincial decider, Kerry won the corresponding fixture by 17 points last year and were expected to have plenty to spare. However, a revitalised Cork refused to read the script, Hurley again amongst the goal scorers until injury-time points brought relief for the Kingdom
Normally a loss to the auld enemy would had been a morale sagging experience for Cork yet on this occasion, they certainly recovered and for the best part, they impressed against Laois.
Of course, punters will say that bar playing Kerry, Cork haven't played none of the top teams to date. On that basis, Cork will be considered the least experienced and maybe the weakest in their Super 8group.
That's sure to provide Cork with a real incentive of winning over the public and with a new found confidence, they will not be undaunted on facing the Dubs. Sure Cork will undergo a searching examinations in the coming two weeks yet they are equipped to match Dublin's powerful physical presence in the centre.
Cork took a time to settle against Laois, the O'Moore men landed the opening few scores and might well had goaled, that start will not suffice in the Croke Park cauldron.
On the plus side, Cork attacking forays have reaped dividends , and with Hurley and Collins in sueperb form, Cork will be tempted to exploit a lack of height in the Dublin defence. A Cork team named on Tuesday night sees Tomás Clancy replace Kevin O'Donovan yet that side may well be updated before Saturday.
Be sure Dublin have planned a journey on what they expect to be an eight step leg to completing a historic voyage. Still, the pressure is on the Sky Blues, Cork have nothing to lose, they hold the facility to create goal chances.
One or two green flags could unravel the Dubs yet the champions have built up quite a momentum. The Super 8s opening series are geared to favouring each of the provincial champions with home games.
Of course Dublin will strive to get the maximum from two games in Croke Park before making a journey to Tyrone. Cork enter this encounter as rank outsiders, they may lose here yet a creditable showing may provide the fuel for their showdown with Tyrone.
Dublin's experience in Croker is likely to win a competitive contest yet if Cork maintain their goal taking form, it could make for intriguing contest.
Great to see Cork in the Super 8s , Dublin to win by a few points.
Tomás Clancy starts in place of O’Donovan as O’Hanlon being monitored after head injury
Fermoy's Tomás Clancy is the only change to the Cork starting team for Saturday's Super 8s game against Dublin in Croke Park.
Clancy was introduced as a second half substitute in Qualifier win over Laois last weekend, and he comes in to the centre-back position. Kevin O'Donovan drops out of the starting team.
There is, however, a concern over Killian O'Hanlon fitness, and though the Kilshannig man is named at midfield the indications are that a final decision on whether or not he starts won't be made until quite close to throw-in at 7pm on Saturday.
O'Hanlon was withdrawn from the Laois game with a head injury and is being monitored in accordance with the return-to-play protocols.
Cork team to play Dublin
1. Mark White (Clonakilty)
2. James Loughrey (Mallow)
3. Thomas Clancy (Clonakilty)
4. Kevin Flahive (Douglas)
5. Liam O'Donovan (Clonakilty)
6. Tomas Clancy (Fermoy)
7. Mattie Taylor (Mallow)
8. Ian Maguire (captain, St Finbarrs)
9. Killian O'Hanlon (Kilshannig)
10. Kevin O'Driscoll (Tadhg MacCarthaigh)
11. Sean White (Clonakilty)
12. Ruairi Deane (Bantry Blues)
13. Mark Collins (Castlehaven)
14. Brian Hurley (Castlehaven)
15. Luke Connolly (Nemo Rangers)
16. Michael Martin (Nemo Rangers)
17. Aidan Browne (Newmarket)
18. Kevin O'Donovan (Nemo Rangers)
19. Peter Murphy (Bandon)
20. Stephen Cronin (Nemo Rangers)
21. Cian Kiely (Ballincollig)
22. Ronan O'Toole (Eire Og)
23. John O'Rourke (Carbery Rangers)
24. Paul Kerrigan (Nemo Rangers)
25. Michael Hurley (Castlehaven)
26. Stephen Sherlock (St Finbarrs)