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Dublin: 17 °C Monday 21 May, 2018

The 3 key battles that will decide the Munster football final

Kerry and Cork meet for the umpteenth this weekend. What are the key clashes ahead of this year’s game?

ARCH-RIVALS CORK and Kerry clash in this year’s Munster SFC final in Killarney on Sunday.

No team outside of Cork or Kerry has won the provincial crown since 1992. What are the key battles that will decide this year’s showdown?

Shields must keep Cooper quiet if Cork are to have any hope of victory (INPHO/Morgan Treacy)

1. Colm Cooper v Michael Shields:

Colm Cooper displayed a masterclass against Limerick scoring seven points, six from play.  An in-form Colm Cooper is arguably the best Gaelic footballer of his generation and Michael Shields will be given the unenviable task of marking the Kerry captain.

Shields has impressed against the Gooch and in last year’s Munster final, Cooper managed just one point from play, although he did score six from free kicks.

Shields has proven himself in recent years as a quality defender, however given Cooper’s recent form, one can only imagine he is in for a long afternoon in Killarney. Both these players were All-Stars for 2010 and Cooper is already favourite to pick up Footballer of the Year 2011.

Sheehan could be a key player in the Kerry side at the weekend (INPHO/Cathal Noonan)

2. Bryan Sheehan v Aidan Walsh:

Perhaps the reason many of the critics are choosing Cork as their bet to win is the fact that Kerry have so many injuries to key midfielders.  Paul Galvin and Seamus Scanlon miss this encounter, and Kerry will expect Bryan Sheehan to win kick-outs and create passing movements for the forward line.

Sheehan usually plays as a forward but was impressive against Limerick in midfield, displaying some fabulous foot-passing ability and exciting movement,  scoring a point from play and one from a 45’.  Sheehan can also be used as an effective free taker. Now aged 25,  Sheehan has the perfect opportunity to impress O’Connor and prove himself to be a true attacking star of this generation of Kerry footballers.

Young Footballer of the Year 2010, Aidan Walsh, will be looking to orchestrate attacks in midfield for the Rebels. Ultimately, if Cork can dominate midfield and stop the flow of play towards the outstanding Kerry forwards, they will have a real chance of success.

Canty and Donaghy fight for possession (INPHO/Cathal Noonan)

3. Kieran Donaghy v Graham Canty:

Donaghy was at his brilliant best against Limerick and had the better of his marker, Shane Gallagher, that day, both in the air and on the ground. Only amassing two points thus far in the championship, Donaghy is not known for his prolific strike rate, but rather his ability to win the ball and create chances. This was shown in his beautiful through-ball to release Darran O’Sullivan for a goal in the 12th minute of the semi-final.

Canty has been deployed by Cork to mark Donaghy ever since 2006 and has generally fared well. In last year’s Munster final replay however Donaghy was able to fend off the challenge from Canty to score a fantastic goal and a frustrated Canty received a second yellow card in the closing stages of normal time. Canty will have learned from last year’s mistakes and will have to watch his discipline.

It’s go time: Canty asked to drop back while Kerry plan without Galvin>

Join Niall on Sunday for a liveblog of the game>

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Feargal Rooney

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