Saturday 24 February 2018

'Dummy' teams doing Cork no favours

Is Counihan pulling a fast one with latest 'starting 15' or will it be the real Rebel side that greets Galway?

Cork manager Conor Counihan
Cork manager Conor Counihan
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

DUMMY team or not? That's the big question being pondered in Cork this week after Conor Counihan announced a radically changed side from the one that lost the Munster final.

Cork take on Galway at Croke Park tomorrow in the final round of the qualifiers as they bid to make the All-Ireland quarter-finals for the ninth consecutive year.

Paudie Kissane, Noel O'Leary, Fintan Goold, Paul Kerrigan and Donncha O'Connor and goalkeeper Ken O'Halloran all appear to have been dropped, but will such experienced men really not start in Croke Park, where experience is a valuable asset?

The Cork manager's preponderance for changing his named team before throw-in has immediately led to speculation that the 15 Counihan has named will not all start – but down Leeside way, it is rumoured that there will be little change.

The accuracy of O'Halloran's kick-outs came under scrutiny after the Kerry game, prompting a recall to the starters for Alan Quirke.


Graham Canty is now named at centre-back – where he ended up after starting in midfield against Kerry – and that seems wise, considering that young Damien Cahalane is retained at wing-back.

Aidan Walsh is selected to start at centre-forward, which is where he finished, to better effect, against Kerry.

And the men who led their second-half comeback off the bench – Alan O'Connor and Pearse O'Neill – are now named at midfield where they finished the last day.

Before the Kerry game, Cork made three changes in personnel, bringing in O'Leary, Walsh and O'Connor for Tomas Clancy, O'Neill and Paddy Kelly.

O'Leary was specifically chosen to mark Paul Galvin, but, in truth, neither man had much influence on the game.

Kelly, the roving playmaker who undoubtedly makes Cork tick, apparently missed out because he was the worst victim of a bug that had hit the Rebel camp ahead of the Munster final.

There's no sign of him back in their startering line-up for tomorrow and he has very little football played this year, having missed all of the national league following hip-surgery. It is believed he may be held for an impact role against Galway.

The biggest surprise is that Kerrigan and O'Connor, two stalwarts of the Cork attack, are not included.

It is difficult to believe they will not start without one or both of these, especially if Kelly is not ready to start.

Their new-look half-forward line comprises Mark Collins, Walsh and John O'Rourke.

Collins has already made a name for himself with Castlehaven and O'Rourke has started in every game this summer.

Counihan came in for heavy criticism after the Kerry game for not starting his best 15.

Given Cork's habit of naming dummy teams, many are taking this week's selection with a grain of salt, yet there had been an outcry for him to change his selection.

On the evidence of his latest team selection, he has done this and, indeed, this actually may be the closest yet to their starting 15, with just one change expected before throw-in and that is likely to be the reintroduction of either Kerrigan or O'Connor.

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