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De Búrca factor, 5-week break for Rebels, final place on offer - Cork-Waterford talking points

There’s an All-Ireland final place on offer today.

We go again

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Cork and Waterford will do battle for the second time in this year’s championship – but with the stakes much higher this time.

The Rebels claimed victory in the Munster semi-final, when Patrick Horgan and Conor Lehane were particularly impressive up front.

Cork defended particularly well on that occasion, and made excellent use of the diagonal ball, a favoured tactic in championship 2017.

It’s a template they’ll hope can work again at Croke Park, where the wide-open spaces should favour a game based on pace and the creation of space and scoring opportunities.

But Waterford will feel this rematch is very much a case of ‘forewarned is forearmed.’

They started with Austin Gleeson at corner forward on Colm Spillane, then, and played in more conventional fashion.

It was very much a case of lesson learned for manager Derek McGrath, who reverted back to the tried and tested sweeper system for the rest of the campaign.

Cork aim to cope with 5-week break

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

It was noticeable that Galway struggled to get to the pitch of last Sunday’s semi-final with Tipperary in the early stages.

Indeed, the Tribesmen fell 0-1 to 0-4 behind at Croke Park before finding their feet.

The Tribesmen were back in action after a five-week lay-off and that same scenario now faces Cork against a battle-hardened Waterford side.

It’s a factor that will have occupied Cork manager Kieran Kingston’s thoughts since the 9 July Munster final victory over Clare.

But what Kingston does have to fall back on is experience from three years ago, when he was coach alongside then manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy.

Cork were heavily beaten by Tipp on that occasion, having failed to deal with the lay-off from the Munster final victory over Limerick.

The Tadhg de Búrca factor

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It was the early hours of Friday morning before the independent Disputes Resolution Authority (DRA) definitively ruled on Tadhg de Búrca’s suspension, upholding the one-match ban which rules him out of this game.

Despite the timing of the decision, less than 72 hours before throw in, you can be sure that Derek McGrath has plotted meticulously for every eventuality.

De Búrca’s absence means Kieran Bennett, older brother of Stephen and Shane, is set to make his championship debut, with Darragh Fives likely to slot into the sweeper role.

It’s unlikely that Waterford will deviate from the sweeper system, as a change in structure proved costly against Cork in the Munster championship.

Reverting to type has seen Waterford come strongly through the back door, with victories against Offaly, Kilkenny and Wexford.

Can Cork’s glorious campaign go to a new level?

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

It’s been one hell of a season for Cork hurling.

The minors join the seniors on a double-bill at Croke Park on Sunday, as they face off against Dublin in the curtain-raiser.

And last Sunday, the county’s U-17s won the inaugural All-Ireland title in that grade, with many of the players who featured on that occasion set for a quick return to GAA HQ.

In their Munster U21 decider, Cork fell just short against a highly-rated Limerick team, and lined out without injured Luke Meade and suspended Darragh Fitzgibbon.

Had those key influencers been available, it’s likely that Cork would have completed the clean sweep of provincial crowns across the four grades.

The senior team are the standard-bearers for the county, of course, and victory against Waterford would see them back in the All-Ireland senior final for the first time since 2013.

That would represent some turn-around, when you consider the manner of the tame qualifier exit to Wexford in 2016.

Getting the key match-ups right

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

In last Sunday’s semi-final between Galway and Tipperary, both defences emerged with a huge amount of credit.

That was down to the respective managers, Micheál Donoghue and Michael Ryan, getting their match-ups pretty much right.

Getting the right markers on the opposition’s danger-men can help to nullify their influence and in that regard, McGrath and Kingston will have been busy plotting ahead of the Cork-Waterford tie.

With Waterford likely to play a sweeper, leaving a two-man inside forward line, Cork will have their own spare man at the back.

They’ll be conscious of Austin Gleeson’s roving commission and could we see Colm Spillane coming out of the corner back position to pick up the Hurler of the Year, considering how fine a job he did in the Munster meeting between the counties?

At the other end, Cork forward Patrick Horgan and his old nemesis Noel Connors have had some terrific battles through the years, with Connors holding the upper hand for the most part.

But Horgan did well in the provincial semi-final and has shown fine leadership throughout the campaign to date.

When the ball is thrown in, who’s marking who will make for interesting viewing.

Massive opportunity for both sides

Michael Donoghue celebrates after the game Micheál Donoghue's Galway await Cork or Waterford on 3 September. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Both Cork and Waterford boast excellent championship records against Galway, who lie in wait on 3 September.

And with Tipperary and Kilkenny out of the equation, the winners of the second semi-final will feel they have every chance of going all the way.

It might not be pretty but that won’t concern McGrath and Kingston, who’ll look to win the game by any means necessary.

Semi-finals are simply all about that – winning – and moving on to the big show.

There are big arguments that can be made for both sides in this semi-final.

Cork, on a roll, will prove difficult to stop but Waterford have come through testing games with Kilkenny and Wexford, and will have learned plenty from both.

An intriguing battle lies in store and the victors won’t what is admittedly formidable Galway challenge next month.

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