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Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 17 October, 2019

Selection Box: Cork v Galway, All-Ireland SHC semi-final

Here are some of the issues for Jimmy Barry-Murphy and Anthony Cunningham to consider ahead of picking their teams for next Sunday’s clash.

Cork's Cathal Naughton will be pushing for a starting place next Sunday.
Cork's Cathal Naughton will be pushing for a starting place next Sunday.
Image: INPHO/James Crombie

Their All-Ireland quarter-final victory against Waterford was founded on the stirring impact that their substitutes made in the final quarter in changing the course of the game. Now the question for Cork manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy is how many of those players did enough to convince him they should be in from the off on this occasion.

Darren Sweetnam with his enterprising midfield play and Cathal Naughton with his dynamic attacking play that saw him register two points, made the biggest contributions and will challenge strongest for starting berths on the evidence of their performances against Waterford. After the completion of his Leaving Certificate, Sweetnam is now starting to thrive as the season has unfolded while the issue with Naughton is to decide if he is most effective starting a game or being introduced when the play has opened up.

There are other questions for the Cork management. Has John Gardiner forced his way back into their thinking in the half-back line? Do they want to employ the work ethic and intelligence of Stephen Moylan to expand their attacking play? Can Lorcan McLoughlin reclaim his starting place after impressing when coming on against Waterford? And then there is the matter of Conor Lehane, restored to full health and fighting for a starting position after being ruled out with a virus against Waterford.

“That’s what we were hoping for this year, trying to build a panel for ourselves,” Cork selector Ger Cunningham told when speaking at the launch earlier today of tomorrow’s Bord Gáis Energy Munster U21HC final.

“The young fellas have come on and won’t be easy for us to pick the team. We have some very tricky selections in relation to who we will pick. Conor just got a virus on the Friday or Saturday before the Waterford game and was ruled out. But he’s back now and Cads (Eoin Cadogan) came through the Cork footballers match okay on Sunday. It’s tough time for him but fair play to him for making the effort.

“We’re looking forward to Sunday. If you said at the start of the year that this is where we’d be and we’d have got a league final, we’d be happy. It’s a good year’s hurling. But Galway were fantastic in the Leinster final and we’ve got to face the challenge that they’ll give the same performance.”

James Regan of Galway chased by Kilkenny’s Aidan Fogarty. Pic: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

After such a supreme team performance against Kilkenny in the Leinster final, it is difficult to see Galway performing surgery on their starting line-up. They may be forced into one change if Cyril Donnellan fails to recover from a hand injury but the indications are that he will recover in time. Conor Cooney may come under pressure to retain his starting place up front after being the first forward to be withdrawn against Kilkenny. But while he did not feature in the scoring stakes, he did put in a good shift in hassling the Kilkenny rearguard.

If either Donnellan or Cooney were not to make it, the most likely replacements would be Johnny Glynn, centre-forward on last year’s All-Ireland winning minor side, James Regan, the St Thomas player who fired 1-2 in the All-Ireland U21 hurling final last year or  Tadhg Haran from Liam Mellowes who struck 1-3 in that U21 decider against Dublin. Yet given the majesty of Galway’s display against Kilkenny, it is difficult to see a radical overhaul being undertaken by manager Anthony Cunningham.

Murph’s Sideline Cut: “Cork steamrollered their way to the list of favourites for the All-Ireland.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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