Tuesday 21 May 2019

Home comforts should see Rebels home in clash with under pressure Premier

Munster SHC Round 1: Cork v Tipperary, Sunday, May 12, Páirc Uí Chaoimh 4pm

Diarmuid Sheehan

Cork will head back to Pairc Uí Chaoimh for the first time since losing to Wexford in the league hoping for a better outcome, a better performance and almost as importantly, a better playing surface this weekend.

In front of what is likely to be a huge crowd, the two provincial giants will go head to head with neither side capable of contemplating the damage a first round loss could do to their chances of success this season.

From the moment Cork went out to Limerick John Meyler has been extolling the virtues of a bigger and stronger panel and on that score the manager is spot on when it comes to one of the main reasons his side didn't win the All-Ireland last year.

Cork's strength in depth was found out in 2018 and while there hasn't been anything like an influx of younger talent into the squad this time round there has been three significant additions with Cormac Murphy, Aidan Walsh and Stephen McDonnell all returning after breaks from the senior hurling squad.

Breakthrough stars like Shane Kingston, Mark Coleman and Robbie O'Flynn have impressed in the last two seasons however this year is likely to be the big test to see just how far these young guns can take the Rebels.

Up front Cork have strength with Seamus Harnedy back for the first game after a high profile suspension while Patrick Horgan will again be crucial to how the side performs this season.

In the middle we are likely to see Bill Cooper again join Darragh Fitzgibbon after the All Star returned from his epic quest with Charleville earlier in the year.

At the back Cork have issues with some players that have yet to perform to the levels that the Cork hurling public would wish to see. In the full-back line there are again likely to be questions to answer as Cork have looked vulnerable in recent years.

The back three should get more cover this season with the return to form of Tim O'Mahony after a serious elbow injury hindered his displays last season with Coleman and Christopher Joyce likely to play a big part in this season's campaign.

Whether or not there will be sustained periods where Murphy and Walsh secure starting berths in this campaign only time and John Meyler will tell, but just having the duo in the background means that Cork have versatility on the bench with Walsh able to play in quite a few positions from the midfield up while Murphy has been known to play from the half-forward line back to wing-back.

In goal, stalwart Anthony Nash will likely hold the famous red and white hoops for the entire season with the Kanturk net-minder still front and centre when it comes to the manager's thoughts.

This Sunday Cork's starting line-up is not likely to see too many changes from the ones that took to the pitch pre throw in last season with potentially O'Mahony the major addition, that's if the Newtownshandrum man can nail down one of the most competitive jerseys in the country, Cork's number six.

Cork's midfield is strong, its attackers are well capable of bagging 1-25 or so and the defenders have all the experience required to show well, but if Tipp and for that matter any of the sides lining up for their shot at Cork, can get running past the half backs then there will be alarm bells ringing all over the redeveloped ground.

Tipp have all the attributes required to win this weekend with substantial and often over the top criticism still ringing in the players' ears.

For Tipp an impressive injury list earlier in the year must have hampered this year's preparations with Billy McCarthy, Conor Hammersley and Michael Cahill all likely to miss the entire season. Jerome Cahill is another casualty for this weekend however even he is likely to be back in the fray sooner rather than later.

The return of Brendan Maher will be crucial to Tipp's chances this Sunday and subsequent Sundays, but the rest of the panel will need to push on if they are to take the spoils in Cork this weekend.

Cork will need to show all their resilience this weekend in a game that will go all of the seventy and maybe more. The consequences of losing might be too hard to take for many but this is a round robin competition so it doesn't all rest on this one.

That said, a pair of early losses pretty much ends a title bid so both sides will desperately want to avoid heading into round two needing a win. Patrick Horgan's free taking will again be Cork's major threat however there will need to be something else from the men up front.

The side that goals twice will likely win. Cork by two points.