Thursday 23 November 2017

Ryan gives O'Keeffe the nod for Rebel clash

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

TIPPERARY will feature just one championship debutant and 12 of the team who started in last year's All-Ireland final when they face Cork on Sunday.

John O'Keeffe (Clonoulty-Rossmore), who started for Limerick IT in this year's Fitzgibbon Cup final and made his NHL debut against Waterford this year, gets his Munster debut in a changed half-back line.

Manager Declan Ryan has named O'Keeffe to start on the left wing with David Young on the right. Padraic Maher is now at centre-back, with Conor O'Mahony losing out.

With Brendan Maher out injured, Gearoid Ryan moves to midfield and Seamus Callanan comes into his wing-forward spot in an otherwise unchanged attack from that which beat Kilkenny last September.

Ahead of their repeat fixture at Semple Stadium, Cork star John Gardiner believes the Rebels have learned the lessons of last year, when they "peaked" for their Munster SHC opener against the same opposition.

The Leesiders had 10 points to spare when the sides met 12 months ago, but while the Premier County went on to win an epic All-Ireland final, Cork's season ended with heavy defeat to Kilkenny in the semi-final.


"We peaked for the Tipp game," said the Na Piarsaigh man. "All our focus through the league last year was for the Tipperary match. We thought we could get back to that level, but we failed and Tipp were rising with every game they played and they got better and better towards the final.

"We learned a lot from that. Even if you see the difference in the results of the league last year and this year -- I'm not saying we were holding back or anything -- but we trained through a lot of games and now we are fully focused on Tipp again."

With Sean Og O hAilpin in enforced retirement and Ronan Curran injured, Gardiner is the only survivor from the famed half-back line that powered the Rebels to a couple of All-Ireland titles in the middle of the last decade.

And while the former Rebel captain has faith in the young players Denis Walsh has named in his starting side, he believes Tipp are the most difficult proposition they could have been handed.

"It might be the worst possible start. There are no handy games in Munster, but playing the All-Ireland champions who (won) the All-Ireland in some fashion. They were deserving winners.

"From our point of view, there is nothing expected of us. Talking to people all over the country, Cork are written off. No one is giving us a chance. We believe we are still a good team and I think Tipp will give us the respect we deserve."

Elsewhere, Wexford boss Jason Ryan has given regular defensive star Colm Morris a corner-forward spot for tomorrow's Leinster SFC clash against Offaly. The Model County will also feature two championships debutants in midfielder Rory Quinlivan (Clonard) and half-forward Ben Brosnan (Bannow-Ballymitty).

Irish Independent

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