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Mullane: O'Shea must heed history lesson and start Cahill against Kilkenny


'Michael Cahill has been Tipperary's most consistent defender of the last five years.' Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

'Michael Cahill has been Tipperary's most consistent defender of the last five years.' Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE


'Michael Cahill has been Tipperary's most consistent defender of the last five years.' Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

When Waterford made the big Munster breakthrough in 2002, I remember that Nicky English left Paul Ormond out of the Tipperary starting line-up.

Ormond had suffered an injury before the Munster championship but my fellow corner forward Eoin McGrath and I noticed that Paul wasn't starting and the longer he sat on the bench, the better it was for us.

Ormond was fit again and while he came on with 15 minutes left, the damage was done and we were on our way to victory.

No disrespect to Tom Costelloe and Donnacha Fahey; they were good corner backs but they were no Paul Ormond.

And if you asked Nicky now, he'd say that he should have started Ormond.

At the time, he had plenty of experience and he was one of the best defenders in the game.

A similar conundrum now faces current Tipperary manager Eamon O'Shea, as he contemplates his starting line-up for next Sunday's All-Ireland final.

The magnititude of the game is greater but the dilemma is essentially the same for O'Shea as the one that Nicky grappled with over 12 years ago.

O'Shea must decide whether to include or omit Michael Cahill from his team.

And I'm still of the belief that Cahill has to play, despite nursing a knee injury which has put a question mark over his participation. He's been Tipperary's most consistent defender of the last five years.


Granted, the six backs played well against Dublin and Cork but they weren't tested by Cork.

Paddy Stapleton and Cathal Barrett are two excellent corner-backs but the beauty of Mickey Cahill is that he can play wing-back or corner-back.

And I have a feeling that one of those six Tipp backs are going to get shown up next weekend.

In that case, why wait until it's too late to introduce Cahill?

Take the element of risk out of it and start him.

If your best forward was coming back from injury, you'd throw him in from the start wouldn't you?

Why should it be any different when it's your best defender?

The fact that Cahill has the experience of playing in three All-Ireland finals should also count for something.

In contrast, it's a first spin around the block for James Barry, Kieran Bergin and Barrett.

But O'Shea's opposite number Brian Cody has plenty on his mind too. The big question on everybody's lips is whether or not Henry Shefflin will start.

I'm not so sure that he will but it's almost certain that Richie Power will get the nod.

And I've got a feeling that Cody might plump for Walter Walsh, in a move reminiscent of the All-Ireland final replay of two years ago.

Cody could pitch Walsh in on Stapleton or Barrett because Walsh really did a number on Johnny Coen in 2012.

Cody has a habit of pulling off risky moves in finals and three years ago, he opted for Eddie Brennan against Pádraic Maher, who was a contender for hurler of the year before the final.

Maher doesn't like facing a player that will run at him and Cody will be thinking about placing Colin Fennelly on hin this time.

So don't be surprised to see Fennelly on the wing, Power at full-forward and Walter Walsh in the corner, if he's picked.

Cody is also aware that Tipperary are the one team out there who have a great record and a knack of scoring goals against this Kilkenny defence.

Kilkenny's legs are starting to go but they still have the cuteness to get around.

Can Tipp expose this lack of pace at the back?

Of course they can and I just wonder is this the day for Lar Corbett to step back into Jackie Tyrrell's lair?

Lar went in on Paul Murphy at Nowlan Park in last year's qualifier and did well before limping off injured.

And I'm expecting a big one from Lar next Sunday.

I think he could be the matchwinner. The spotlight will be on the match-up between Séamus Callanan and JJ Delaney but this is the game which could see Lar really come in under the radar to deliver a big performance.

This is the fourth All-Ireland final in six years between the counties but past games will count for nothing.

Kilkenny were perhaps operating at an optimum level from 2009-2011 and Tipp felt that they had to play unbelievably well to match and beat them, as was the case in 2010.

But now Tipp will feel that if they play to what they're capable of, and everything falls into place, that they have a great chance. And yet I still don't think it's going to be enough for Tipp.

As far back as February I predicted that Kilkenny would win the All-Ireland and I'm not going to deviate from that path now.

And so far me, it's going to be Kilkenny by two points after a titanic battle.

But it won't be a day of double delight for Kilkenny.

Limerick are favourites to win the minor title and are good enough to get the job done with three or four points to spare.

Irish Independent