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Dublin: 11 °C Thursday 18 October, 2018

5 talking points ahead of Cork and Kerry's Munster football final

The ancient rivals go head to head in Killarney on Sunday.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

1. Fitzmaurice not afraid to shake things up

Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s Kerry team selection certainly got tongues wagging on Thursday evening.

The omission of Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper was the obvious headline material but Fitzmaurice made four other changes to freshen things up from the Tipp game.

Perhaps Fitzmaurice feels that Cooper is still not ready to step back into white heat of a Munster football final after cruciate knee ligament damage robbed him of a year of his career.

Source: Evan Burlingham/YouTube

And perhaps we’ll see a fitter, stronger Gooch as the season moves into the business end of the All-Ireland series.

Fitzmaurice has opted for work-rate over craft in his half-forward line and in a game where the middle third battle will prove crucial, Kerry are crammed with power in this area…

2. The midfield battle

…Which leads us nicely on to centre-field warzone. David Moran and Bryan Sheehan partner each other in the Kingdom engine room and Sheehan’s form against Tipperary was simply too good to ignore.

That leaves Anthony Maher on the outside looking in as Moran steps back into the side after injury.

Johnny Buckley can also operate at midfield and Kerry wing-forwards Donnchadh Walsh and Stephen O’Brien are two players who will track back and funnel forward when required.

Source: AIB Bank/YouTube

It’s an extremely hard-working midfield and half-forward line that Fitzmaurice has chosen and on paper at least, they look to have a real edge on Cork.

Alan O’Connor and Fintan Goold represent an experienced Cork midfield pairing but mobility could be an issue in the Fitzgerald Stadium cauldron.

3. Cork’s full-back line task

James O’Donoghue tore Cork to shreds in last year’s Munster final and having returned to full fitness, he’ll want to put on a show in front of Kerry’s home support.

The 2014 Footballer of the Year is named at left corner forward in a line that also contains captain Kieran Donaghy and Barry John Keane.

This is a massive chance for Keane to make a point and prove that he’s worthy of inclusion on a more consistent basis.

Source: officialgaa/YouTube

Blessed with plenty of talent, the Kerins O’Rahillys man is searching for the consistency that would mark him out as a top level forward.

Donaghy’s presence allows Kerry to go direct if Cork sit back and the blend inside looks potent.

Michael Shields, Eoin Cadogan and James Loughrey will have their hands full and for the Cork full-back trio, this is one hell of a test.

4. The mental challenge facing Cork

Cork did enough to get past Clare in the Munster semi-final but are still attempting to shake off the hangover from an Allianz League final mauling at the hands of Dublin.

The Rebels won’t need reminding either than when Kerry landed at Páirc Uí Chaoimh last summer for a fixture dripping with historic significance, the visitors won by 12 points.

That was a chastening experience for Cork and their manager Brian Cuthbert, who has copped plenty of criticism in print and social media in recent times, including from ex-Cork star James Masters.

Cork haven’t beaten Kerry in a Munster final since 2008 and it’s 20 years since they last beat the Kingdom in Killarney in the championship.

It will come as a huge surprise if Cork condemn those barren runs to the history books.

5. Kerry need to make a big statement

Kerry did what they had to do against Tipperary, winning by six points and easing a number of players back into championship fare.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice hinted at changes for the Munster final and he’s been true to his word, altering one-third of his team.

On home soil, and with a magnificent bench to call on, this is the chance for Kerry to lay down a real marker and send a warning shot across the boughs of Dublin, Donegal and Mayo.

The 2015 All-Ireland champions won’t come from outside of the big four and tomorrow, Kerry have the chance to become the first provincial winners of the season.

Former Kerry star Declan O’Sullivan has hailed the brave nature of Fitzmaurice’s team sheet but the Kingdom supremo will be judged solely on results.

Still, there are more than adequate replacements to call upon as Kerry’s back-up men boast 21 All-Ireland medals between them.

He might have to dip into his vast reservoir of talent before the game is out but a comprehensive victory would justify Fitzmaurice’s selection.

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