Friday 24 November 2017

Cork's strength in depth causes selection poser

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Choices, choices choices. There isn't a football manager in the country with as many as Cork's Conor Counihan as he contemplates his first championship team of the season, which is due to be confirmed tomorrow night.

League success has arguably thrown up more selection problems that it has solved, with the ease of their final victory over Mayo giving a platform for young players like Aidan Walsh, Ciaran Sheehan and Jamie O'Sullivan to stake strong claims for places.

With Eoin Cadogan and Graham Canty also on the mend -- Cadogan showed no ill-effects from his shin problem in Sunday's Munster hurling quarter-final -- the pressure to get selection right for the Kerry game is high.

In at least four key positions, there are permutations to mull over. But like his hurling counterpart Denis Walsh, Counihan may find the temptation of experience greater than youthful exuberance.

Full-back

Eoin Cadogan, Graham Canty, Jamie O'Sullivan

Cadogan is the name in vogue in Cork GAA these days and, after last weekend's tour de force in the 'Pairc' for the hurlers, Counihan won't waste any time in trying to get him back in the action, even allowing for his dearth of game time due to a shin problem that sidelined him for four weeks.

He's the likely choice for full-back ahead of Jamie O'Sullivan, who did so well in the League final but may not yet be equipped, at this stage of his career, for the imposing challenge of Kieran Donaghy.

Of course, Counihan could gamble on the fitness of Graham Canty, who has been sidelined for so long.

Centre-back

Graham Canty, Paudie Kissane

Canty is also pushing for the centre-back position, but his involvement since last year's All-Ireland final defeat has amounted to no more than a few minutes against Mayo before he suffered a shoulder injury that has essentially held him up since.

In his place, Paudie Kissane, largely a peripheral figure in 2009, has managed well, but his experience against Kerry on these big days is limited.

Midfield

Alan O'Connor, Aidan Walsh

What other team in the country could afford to dispense with their man of the match from the last competitive game they played?

Aidan Walsh is one of Cork football's brightest prospects and underlined that promise against Mayo.

But in the immensely competitive environment of the Cork football dressing room, that performance and the accolades it earned won't give him too many entitlements.

Pearse O'Neill has overcome a thumb injury and is available again, which makes him an automatic selection.

His record against Kerry as a midfielder in recent seasons demands that he plays. With Nicholas Murphy ruled out, Alan O'Connor provides the experience that the management are likely to opt for at Walsh's expense.

Full-forward

Colm O'Neill, Ciaran Sheehan

COLM O'Neill lost his way and eventually his place during the League campaign but in recent weeks he has switched back into overdrive in a search for the form that made him one of the most exciting young attacking talents in the 2009 championship.

Ciaran Sheehan picked up a shoulder injury since the League final defeat of Mayo and, while he is available again, the temptation to opt for the more proven O'Neill will be strong.

Irish Independent

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