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JBM v Ger, free-scoring Cork, Dublin look to Schutte - league semi-final talking points

It’s the big city clash at Nowlan Park tomorrow in the Allianz Hurling League semi-final

Cork's Conor Lehane and Dublin ace Ryan O'Dwyer will lock horns on Sunday
Cork's Conor Lehane and Dublin ace Ryan O'Dwyer will lock horns on Sunday
Image: SPORTSFILE

1. Jimmy Barry-Murphy and Ger Cunningham collide once more

It was very much advantage JBM when Cork and Dublin met in March, as the Rebels scored an emphatic eleven-point victory in a strange Croke Park clash. 

There might not be much love lost between the former Cork teammates but a healthy respect remains between the pair nonetheless.

And as proven winners, both will be desperate to push on to a League semi-final in the biggest clash between the counties since the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final.

Dublin won’t need much motivation after losing heavily to Cork already and you can be certain that Cunningham will absorbed the sobering lessons from that mismatch.

Jimmy Barry Murphy and Ger Cunningham Jimmy Barry-Murphy (left) and Ger Cunningham will renew touchline acquaintances again on Sunday Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

2. Reaching a League final would represent significant progress for either side

Dublin have enjoyed a much better season after narrowly avoiding relegation to Division 1B last year.

And Cork have already gone one step further than 2014, when they were defeated by Tipperary at the quarter-final stage.

Dublin’s last appearance in the League decider was four years ago, when they famously defeated Kilkenny at Croke Park.

But Cork, remarkably, haven’t won the League since 1998 although they did contest finals most recently in 2012 and 2010.

John McCaffrey and Stephen Hiney Dublin won the Allianz Hurling League title in 2011 Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

3. Keep an eye on Dublin forward Mark Schutte

One of the accusations levelled at Dublin over the last number of years is that they don’t possess enough firepower up front to really push on and compete for All-Ireland honours.

But in Mark Schutte, the Sky Blues have a player in a rich vein of form up front.

The Cuala hitman was in scintillating form against Limerick, hitting 1-5 from play as Dublin claimed a surprisingly comfortable win.

That wasn’t a one-off from Schutte either as he had also collected five points against Galway in Dublin’s last group outing in Division 1A.

Mark Schutte Mark Schutte was superb in Dublin's Allianz Hurling League quarter-final victory over Limerick Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

4. Free-scoring Cork pose a huge threat but need work at the back

Cork have been averaging 2-20 per game in this year’s League campaign but they also showed that they could tough it out against Wexford in the quarter-finals, coming from six points down to win.

The Rebels have had 15 different scorers throughout the League, with Patrick Horgan (2-63) and Conor Lehane (2-14) bagging 4-77 between them thus far.

Paudie O’Sullivan and Luke O’Farrell have also been among the goals but Cork’s standout performance to date was that 0-34 haul against Dublin at Croke Park.

It’s at the other end of the field where JBM will demand improvement, as Cork are conceding at an average rate of 1-19 per game.

Patrick Horgan Patrick Horgan has scored 2-63 for Cork in this year's Allianz Hurling League Source: James Crombie/INPHO

5. Will Dublin’s previous visit to Nowlan Park prove to be an advantage?

Cork haven’t hurled at Nowlan Park since March 2013, when they suffered a two-point defeat against Kilkenny en route to relegation.

But Dublin have visited the Kilkenny city venue as recently as February and won there for the first time since 1964 against the depleted hosts who finished with 13 men. 

It’s also a myth to suggest that Nowlan Park is a ‘tighter’ venue than Croke Park as both pitches are pretty much similar in dimension.

That should allow for plenty of open hurling and hopefully another high-scoring game between the big city rivals.

Jonjo Farrell attempts to hook Conal Keaney Conal Keaney and Dublin claimed victory at Nowlan Park in February Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

– First published 08.30

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