Saturday 18 November 2017

Walsh hands Dillon full-back role

Cliona Foley and Colm Keys

CORK manager Denis Walsh has given the relatively unknown Eoin Dillon the pivotal full-back spot for Sunday's National Hurling League Division 1 final against Galway.

There had been speculation that the experienced Brian Murphy would move over to deputise for the injured Eoin Cadogan, but he has been given his usual corner-back role.

Dillon lined out at full-back in a challenge against Wexford last weekend. The Milford defender is a former county U-21 and minor and has played Fitzgibbon Cup for Cork IT.

Kanturk's Lorcan McLoughlin, who won a county U-21 medal last year and impressed during the league, has been named at midfield alongside Tom Kenny.

Walsh has opted to start both of his 'twin towers', selecting Michael Cussen at right half-forward and Aisake O'hAilpin at No 14 in a team which contains just four of the players who started when Cork were beaten by Galway in the last round of the league.

Only corner-back Ollie Canning and wing-forward Andy Smith retain their places in the Galway side which defeated Cork in the meaningless final round of the league.

Corner-back Fergal Moore and corner-forward Niall Healy will both miss Sunday's final in Thurles having picked up ankle injuries in the club games at the weekend.

And John Lee has to be content with a place on the bench as Tony Og Regan gets the nod at centre-back as Galway bid for their first league crown since 2004 and ninth in history.

Wexford are boosted by the return of fit-again Darren Stamp and Paul Roche for the Division 2 final against Clare. Stamp comes in at centre half-back, with Ciarán Kenny moving to left corner-back, while Roche resumes in his is customary No 2 position.

Harry Kehoe will start at midfield alongside Colm Farrell. Noel Carton, the young Cloughbawn player, retains the goalkeeper's jersey following several good performances.

Clare have delayed naming their team until after centre-back James McInerney undergoes a fitness test tonight. U-21 star Darach Honan is expected to make his eagerly awaited return after a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, Clare manager Ger O'Loughlin has signaled his intention not to turn back the clock and chase some of the county's most experienced players out of retirement.

As O'Loughlin scaled down preparations for Sunday's Division 2 final against Wexford, he suggested that, in time, Clare may be "better" for pressing on with younger players and ignoring the temptation to coax Niall Gilligan, Tony Carmody and Tony Griffin out of retirement.

Griffin quit Clare last winter at the height the storm over Mike McNamara's continuation as manager and Carmody and Gilligan both declined invitations from O'Loughlin to return at the start of the year.

There has been intense speculation in Clare in recent weeks that Gilligan was about to return in the coming weeks.

But O'Loughlin has this week moved to distance Clare from harping back to the past, despite the experience the trio could provide.

"We had the departure of three or four seasoned campaigners last year, we've had to introduce new guys into the set-up. In the championship you'll probably see three or four new guys that you wouldn't have seen in the programme last year.

"That's a forced situation, but it's a good situation because they're young and they're very much up for it.

"I think the county has got over that (the loss of Carmody, Gilligan and Griffin). The lads we lost were very experienced and if we had them playing in Division 2 we may have been winning some of those matches a bit easier than we did.

"But these lads can't stay on forever and you are going to have to introduce new fellas at some stage. I think Clare in a couple of years time they are going to be better for this.

"What we have to do is continue the momentum and the progress and if we do that I think we'll be knocking on the door again."

Griffin quit to immerse himself in a sports management company and is now involved in bringing the Tri3 triathlon series to Ireland this year..

Gilligan's departure in January cut the last tie between the current squad and the 1995/97 All-Ireland-winning squads. O'Loughlin has acknowledged the difficulties of playing in Division 2 and has echoed the call from Wexford manager earlier this week to explore change.

"The results would tell you that the counties are a lot closer than was perceived. We are playing in pitches that are tighter than most hurling pitches. And it mightn't give as true a reflection than as if you were playing in Thurles and these places," he admitted.

Galway (v Cork) -- C Callanan; D Joyce, S Kavanagh, O Canning; D Barry, T Og Regan, D Collins; G Farragher, D Burke; A Harte, C Donnellan, A Smith; D Hayes, J Canning, I Tannian.

other teams in factfile

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