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Rebels can raise their game and tame Tribes

CADBURY'S U21 FC FINAL

CORK v GALWAY

(Limerick Gaelic Grounds, Tonight 7.0, live TG4)

CORK were 1/2 favourites to see off Cavan and were hanging on grimly at the finish. Galway were 9/4 underdogs against Kildare and were effervescent five-point winners when the final whistle sounded.

Either the bookies got their odds all wrong, or something strange was afoot in that Tullamore double-header two weeks ago.

If you delve a bit deeper, however, there are mitigating circumstances to explain how Cork made it so hard on themselves and how Galway (in scoreboard terms at least) romped into the final.

First up, the Connacht champions. Maybe it's simply part of their DNA, but Galway has a long-established history of producing – as they say in the vernacular – knacky forwards. Natural footballers. Players with either a fleetness of foot, sharpness of turn, eye for a score – or all the above.

Stereotype

Seán Moran (above), Shane Walsh and Ian Burke all seemed to fit the stereotype against Kildare: Moran tallied 1-1 from centre-forward in a 'Man of the Match' display while Walsh and Burke troubled an overstretched Kildare full-back line whenever the ball entered their respective patches.

They were helped, mind you, by quick and usually forward-friendly delivery. Kildare tended to be either (a) more ponderous in their build-up, or more likely (b) totally scattergun in their execution.

Any critical assessment of Galway's semi-final performance – and most of them have been positive – cannot overlook the stark statistic that Kildare shot 19 wides as well as dropping several more short of the intended target.

The inevitable inference is that Kildare were not beaten by a lack of possession (Galway won more kickouts in the first half, the Lilies reversed that trend thereafter) but rather by a dearth of cuteness, craft, even 'knackiness'.

Could Cork fall into the same trap?

We suspect not, despite their late bout of the collywobbles against Cavan.

Penetrate

As with many Cork teams, they are physically imposing, athletic, powerful. Until the final 10 minutes, Cavan found it desperately difficult to penetrate their heavily populated defensive ranks.

Sean Kiely and Ian Maguire are well able to win their own ball at midfield. Brian O'Driscoll looks an accomplished counter-attacker from the half-back line, supplementing a forward line that already boasts a democratic spread of score-getters (Mark Sugrue, Brian Hurley and Dan MacEoin, to name just three).

But? Well, from a position of semi-final strength – leading 0-13 to 0-7 and in apparent control – they almost blew it.

Afterwards, Cork boss John Cleary predicted: "If we perform as we did here, there will only be one winner and that won't be us."

Perhaps, but our suspicion is that Cork will raise their game – in which eventuality they won't be so generous as those misfiring Lilies.

BOYLESPORTS ODDS: Cork 5/6, Draw 7/1, Galway 13/10

VERDICT: Cork


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