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Canty 50-50 warn rebels

CORK football boss Conor Counihan says he will have no problem throwing either Graham Canty or Ciaran Sheehan straight back into his team to face the Dubs in Sunday week's All-Ireland semi-final, despite the likelihood that both will miss virtually all of the Rebels' preparations for the match.

Canty had been universally ruled out of the semi-final showdown on August 22 after suffering a grade-two hamstring tear fisting a point in the defeat of Roscommon, while Sheehan limped off at the death of the same match after incurring damage to an ankle.

Yet Counihan has been reluctant to rule either out, stressing he will give them every opportunity to prove their fitness and reckons their lack of training won't form a barrier to their involvement against the Dubs.

"In fairness to them, both of them have a very good base in terms of fitness so I wouldn't be worried about that aspect of it," he explained. "I wouldn't have any concerns from that point of view."

Canty, Cork's captain and talisman, has engaged in some light jogging though Counihan quantified his involvement at "20 or 30 per cent" and added of his chances of starting against Dublin: "Fifty-fifty is as much as he is at this point. I suppose Ciaran similarly, those sort of injuries, they're messy enough and we just won't know.

"They're working away with our own physios," he added. "The nature of the injuries, there probably isn't a whole pile you can do apart from the normal stuff."


While Sheehan has wasted no time in carving a spot for himself in albeit a misfiring Rebel inside-forward line since his elevation from the All-Ireland winning under-21 team of 2009, Canty's potential absence is a much deeper worry for Cork.

Already, their defence has suffered the prolonged loss of fellow stalwart Anthony Lynch, who has failed to start a match under Counihan in 2010, and after new full-back, Michael Sheilds, endured a rocky opening half against Roscommon, Canty reverted to the edge of the Cork square and did an effective job on dangerman Donie Shine.

He is considered the leader of the current crop and Counihan was at pains to stress his influence.

"There's no doubt about it, he's a very important player from our point of view," he said. "Notwithstanding that, you have a lot of other fellas who are starting to put their shoulder to the wheel and take on some of that responsibility but Graham, there's no doubt about it, he's the man.

"We've a lot of young guys there. Some of the more senior guys, like Anthony (Lynch) and Nicholas (Murphy) haven't been available to us. That has probably brought its own pressure but I think that has developed fellas.

"We've had tough games below in Wexford Park and Limerick and places like that. Some of the lesser lights had to get up and show leadership."

Counihan's defensive options have increased, however, due to the Cork hurlers' failure to make the All-Ireland final. Eoin Cadogan -- who combined both codes during the spring -- made himself available solely to Counihan in the wake of last Sunday's semi-final defeat to Kilkenny and there is strong speculation that he will be dropped straight into the thick of things with a start against the Dubs.

Understandably, Counihan was coy about the prospect.

"Any time that we can widen our options is good, whether it is Eoin or is anyone else. Every option is important," he commented.

Most likely, Cadogan's physicality will be utilised in trying to curtail the influence of Eoghan O'Gara, though it remains to be seen which of the Rebel defenders will pick up Dublin's most in-form attacker, Bernard Brogan.

"The best forward in the country at the minute," was how Counihan described the St Oliver Plunkett's/ER ace.


"You have to hand it to him. But look, we can't afford to get carried away with Bernard Brogan or anyone else. We have to get ourselves right."

So, too, has Counihan been impressed with his sideline opponent on Sunday week, Pat Gilroy.

The Dubs boss has overseen a major overhaul, both in terms of players and style of football this year, akin to the upheaval carried out by Counihan himself over his first two years in charge.

"The transition has been major in terms of personnel and equally in terms of their style of play," he noted.

"It takes an awful lot of courage and conviction to do that. Fair play to them. There was an awful lot of times when people were doubting the management but they've proved everyone wrong because at the end of the day, it's a results business."

Cork's performances in the qualifiers in beating Cavan, Wexford, Limerick and Roscommon have drawn some negative analysis in recent weeks and their manager accepts that they have yet to show the form which they produced in 2009.

"Rightly or wrongly, maybe some of the teams we played on the way through, some people under-rated them," he explained.

"Trying to get people motivated for that can be difficult, whereas now we're in an All-Ireland semi-final against one of the top teams. The motivation to get to an All-Ireland final is as big as it gets. I think we haven't been playing as attractive a brand of football as some people would like. There has been periods in all the games when we have played well. Whether it was against Wexford or similarly against Limerick ... the issue is that we didn't sustain it over a period of time.

"The reality is that we haven't had the full squad for any match at all this season," he added. "Teams have watched us and the style of play we were operating, they're setting themselves up to deal with us that way."