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Cork gamble on fitness of Canty

ONE hamstrung skipper in, another All Star defender out, and a dual star handed his first ever SFC start in the biggest game of all, the All-Ireland final.

That was the story emerging from Cork's team announcement for their date with destiny against Down - a game they dare not lose for risk of forever being remembered as nearly men or All-Ireland chokers.

As expected following his return to full training on Tuesday night, Graham Canty has been named to lead out Cork at Croke Park on Sunday while the other big talking point saw the omission of fellow veteran John Miskella and the promotion of Eoin Cadogan in the Rebels' defence.

As equally expected, Canty's inclusion at No 6 hasn't quelled feverish media speculation about a likely further fitness test for a player who, for all his talent and leadership qualities, has been dogged by a hamstring injury for almost seven weeks now.

However, Cork PRO Ger Lane today delivered an upbeat assessment on the Cork captain's readiness for battle.

"He trained both Tuesday and Thursday. This week wasn't going to be the heaviest sessions but, yeah, he took a full part in those and he looked fine. The selectors are happy with him anyway ... I didn't hear of any fitness test," Lane stated, having attended last night's sessiion in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Were Canty's situation to change between now and Sunday, the likelihood is that Miskella would immediately step back into the defensive breach. Like Canty, he was an All Star half-back in 2009 but, similar to his skipper, he has endured an injury-wracked 2010. Miskella came off the bench halfway through the quarter-final win over Roscommon and was retained from the start of Cork's fraught semi-final against Dublin, but the Ballincollig man looked to be struggling with his match sharpness and was replaced after 61 minutes by Derek Kavanagh.

By then, Cadogan had already entered the half-time fray - replacing Canty who was clearly labouring with the hamstring problem that first surfaced against Roscommon. Cadogan went on to deliver an impressive cameo shadowing Eoghan O'Gara, and the Leeside grapevine has been buzzing with talk that he will be entrusted with the onerous task of tracking Down dangerman Benny Coulter.

There was still a suspicion that the dual defender would not be named on the team, parachuting in for either Canty or Miskella, but manager Conor Counihan has gone ahead and named Cork's hurling full-back for his first football championship start.

He was involved earlier this summer, coming on during the Munster semi-final replay against Kerry and famously getting embroiled with Paul Galvin. Since then, however, football took a back seat and he only resumed with Counihan's squad after the hurlers crashed out to Kilkenny on August 8.

Meanwhile, on the minor front, rookie goalkeeper Colm Spiers will make his championship debut for Tyrone in Sunday's MFC decider against Cork, taking the place of Mark McReynolds who has been ruled out with a foot injury. However, manager Raymond Munroe has resisted the temptation to start Dara Donnelly despite his match-turning semi-final heroics coming off the bench against Mayo.

CORK (SFC v Down): A Quirke; E Cadogan, M Shields, R Carey; N O'Leary, G Canty (capt), P Kissane; A O'Connor, A Walsh; C Sheehan, P O'Neill, P Kelly; D Goulding, D O'Connor, P Kerrigan.

TYRONE (MFC v Cork): C Spiers; S McGarrity, C Clarke, HP McGeary; N Sludden, M Donaghy, E Deeney; H Og Conlon, C Grugan; R Donnelly, T Canavan, R Devlin; S Tierney, J McCullagh, R O'Neill.

CORK (MFC): D Hanrahan; K Fulignati, M O'Shea, A Cronin (Capt); C O'Sullivan, T Clancy, J Wall; J Burns, D Cahalane; J O'Rourke, M Sugrue, D MacEoin; K Hallissey, T Hegarty, B Hurley.