key figures

6 players to watch as Cork and Tipperary battle for a Munster SHC semi-final spot

There are plenty of big stars on show from both sides, but we’re backing this sextet to have a big say.

AN ANCIENT RIVALRY will be renewed at Semple Stadium on Sunday, when Tipperary and Cork lock horns in the Munster senior hurling championship quarter-final.

Cork haven’t tasted a championship win against Tipperary since 2010, when they won by ten points at the quarter-final stage.

Tipp have won the four championship meetings between the counties since then, including a nine-point victory at this stage of the provincial series last year.

Cork did claim a win when the sides met in the Allianz League in March, with Patrick Horgan and Darragh Fitzgibbon producing big performances.

But even in defeat, however, Cork’s old tormentor Seamus Callanan scored 2-6 for Tipperary.

But who will be the key figures in Sunday’s tie? Here, we take a look at six players set to play big roles….

1. Mark Ellis (Cork)

Ken Sutton / INPHO Ken Sutton / INPHO / INPHO

Ellis is holding down the pivotal centre half back position for Cork, and has managed to get a full League campaign under his belt.

This contrasts to the injury woes suffered by the Millstreet man in 2015 and 2016.

Last year, he was nursing a broken arm until before the championship and after being injured against Dublin in the League, he had just one challenge game as preparation for the clash with Tipperary in Munster.

Ellis played in all of Cork’s League games and is a crucial figure for the Rebels as they attempt to keep out a potentially lethal Tipp attack.

2. Brendan Maher (Tipperary)

Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

All-Ireland winning captain last year, Maher remains as vital as ever to the Tipp cause.

He was enjoying an excellent League campaign before sustaining a shoulder injury against Clare in March.

The Borris-Ileigh man returned for the concluding stages of the League campaign.

Maher was effective against Wexford in the semi-final but couldn’t prevent a heavy final defeat to Galway.

He’s a nailed on starter against Cork and with the Thurles Sarsfields Mahers, Pádraic and Ronan, in the half-back line, Tipp won’t be short of physical presence in the middle third.

3. Shane Kingston (Cork)

Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

Son of manager Kieran, Shane Kingston made his senior championship debut last summer.

This year, he’s emerged as a forward of real potency, starring in the early rounds of the League before suffering injury.

Kingston scored 0-4 against Clare, 1-2 in the Dublin defeat and a point when the Rebels beat Waterford at Walsh Park.

Team manager Kieran has placed a heavy emphasis on youth this season and Shane will be handed the chance to impress.

He won’t turn 20 until August but big things are expected from the Douglas player.

4. Seamus Callanan (Tipperary)

Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

This list wouldn’t be complete without Seamus Callanan, who’s been the scourge of Cork in recent seasons.

When the teams met in last year’s Munster quarter-final, Callanan scored eight points, including four from play.

That followed on from previous big hauls against the Rebels, including 1-3 in 2009, 0-5 in 2011 and 2-4 in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final.

He also posted 2-6 when the sides met in the League this year and Callanan’s absence was keenly felt when Tipp lost the League final to Galway.

Ruled out with a broken thumb, Callanan returned to training last week and will start against the Leesiders on Sunday.

5. Luke Meade (Cork)

Conor Wyse / INPHO Conor Wyse / INPHO / INPHO

Another of Cork’s breakthrough stars this year, it’s been an excellent campaign for Meade to date.

The Newcestown man produced a moment of sheer brilliance for Mary Immaculate College in the Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-final victory over NUI Galway, netting a quite brilliant goal.

During the League, Meade scored 2-7, including goals against Waterford and Limerick.

Wearing a white helmet, Meade will be easy to spot but more difficult for Tipperary’s defenders to tie down.

Back in 2015, Meade grabbed some headlines when he scored three goals in an early-season clash with Limerick.

6. Patrick Maher (Tipperary)

James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

The man known as ‘Bonner’ is back in the Tipperary fold after returning home from a six-month stint on peacekeeping duty with the Army in the Golan Heights, in south-western Syria.

A day after coming home in April, he was whisked away on a training camp and quickly integrated back into the set-up.

All-Star Maher returned to inter-county hurling as a sub against Galway in the League final defeat but recently suffered a hamstring injury on club duty.

He’s since undergone intensive treatment in a bid to be fit but latest indications from the Tipp camp are that he will make it.

And the Premier County could badly do with Maher’s combative style and physical presence in the half-forward line.

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