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Hit hard by absentees, Cork and Tipp set for Munster rematch with final prize at stake

An opportunity for revenge or a chance to prove last year was not a one-off?

AN OPPORTUNITY FOR revenge or a chance to prove last year was not a one-off?

It depends from what angle you view Saturday’s clash between Cork and Tipperary, a game that naturally evokes memories of last summer’s showdown in Thurles.

CorkTipp Cork and Tipperary clash for the second successive year. Source: INPHO

That seismic win for Tipperary was their first in championship fare over Cork since 1944, ending a 15-year wait for a Munster final appearance and ensuring for only the second time in 12 seasons that Cork were bowing out of their province at the last four stage.

If you reflect on that Semple Stadium game last June, it’s noticeable how the cast of characters have changed.

From the Cork side that started that game, Ryan Price – the reserve goalkeeper last time against Waterford – and Brian O’Driscoll both face fitness tests this week. Eoin Cadogan hasn’t played in a 2017 season wrecked by injury and is set to make the bench at best.

Midfielder Sean Kiely hasn’t featured since that game and opted not to join the panel this year, Conor Dorman was not on the panel for the recent Waterford match and Brian Hurley is facing a battle to simply resume his career after severely rupturing his hamstring.

John Keane and Brian Hurley Tipperary's Josh Keane and Cork's Brian Hurley in action last June. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

From the Tipperary team that started that game, goalkeeper Evan Comerford is a high-profile absentee through suspension, both Ciaran McDonald and Philip Austin are sidelined through injury, Peter Acheson has moved to Dubai since last season concluded and Colm O’Shaughnessy is lacking match sharpness after injury problems.

Is it more relevant then when speaking of absentees to reference both counties most recent competitive game?

From the Cork side that started against Waterford last month, Aidan Walsh is now out through injury while Alan O’Connor, his 11th minute replacement in the Fraher Field, is suspended.

Alan O'Connor reacts after being sent off Alan O'Connor was sent-off during the Munster quarter-final against Waterford Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

It’s almost nine weeks since Tipperary won the Division 3 football league final against Louth. Apart from the suspended Comerford, they have injury casualties from that starting fifteen in Paddy Codd, Willie Connors, Jack Kennedy and Emmet Moloney.

Cork boss Peadar Healy is also without Clonakilty’s Tom Clancy, corner-back for Cork last July against Donegal, due to a persistent foot injury and their squad was stripped of three figures to retirement over the winter – Daniel Goulding, Patrick Kelly and Fintan Goold.

Tipperary manager Liam Kearns has seen squad players Ian and Kevin Fahey, and Joseph Hennessy ruled out through injury for this game in Páirc Uí Rinn.

Kevin Fahey celebrates the winning goal Kevin Fahey celebrates the winning goal for Tipperary against Armagh Source: Presseye/Philip Magowan/INPHO

This may be a provincial semi-final tie but there’s no disputing that a quarter-final game between the counties this year would have held greater interest for supporters.

When Cork and Tipperary served up that hurling epic a few weeks ago, it was a reminder of which code tugs more at the heartstrings of fans in both counties.

The football managements could also that day have been forgiven for enviously looking at players that would boost their squads.

For Tipperary Steven O’Brien sat on the bench and Seamus Kennedy was stationed at wing-back, a pair that would be key assets if they had remained on the football beat.

Seamus Kennedy Tipperary hurler Seamus Kennedy Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

For Cork defender Damien Cahalane made his championship debut for the footballers in 2013 when Healy was a selector, Shane Kingston was a superb minor football talent who opted this year to focus on senior hurling when approached by the U21 football camp and Alan Cadogan was on the Cork bench for the Donegal qualifier loss last year.

And for those inclined to gaze further afield, there’s a case to wonder how pivotal both Sydney Swans Colin O’Riordan and Carlton’s Ciaran Sheehan could be now to their respective outfits.

It all adds up to a scenario where both Healy or Kearns can argue they’re not playing this game with a full deck.

They’d have both preferred their preparations to be a little less disjointed, yet amidst the player turnover on both sides, it must be stressed that there have been additions to both camps in 2017.

Shane O’Connell, Liam Casey, Liam Boland and Liam McGrath have linked up with the Tipperary camp, while Ken O’Halloran, Michael Shields, Kevin Crowley and Gary Murphy are now in the Cork dressing-room.

Ken O'Halloran celebrates with Michael Shields Cork's Ken O'Halloran and Michael Shields Source: James Crombie/INPHO

But the significance of this game is clear. For Tipperary a win would prove last year was not an aberration, set them up for another attempt at landing a Munster title and make the prospect of returning to Croke Park after the championship heroics of 2016, more realistic.

For Cork a win would lift some of the gloom that is continuously hovering over the county’s football fortunes, set them up for the prospect of a Munster final at home in a refurbished Páirc Uí Chaoimh and inject some confidence for the summer ahead.

There’s little to suggest that the victory margin will be wide. The counties have only met twice in championship since 2007 with Aidan Walsh salvaging a two-point win for Cork in 2014 and Kevin O’Halloran securing a two-point win for Tipperary last summer.

Kevin O'Halloran celebrates a late point Kevin O'Halloran celebrates a late point for Tipperary against Cork in the Munster semi-final last year Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The tremors generated by that landmark Tipperary win on 12 June last reverberated in football circles around the country.

The fact that there was no live TV coverage for the game added a sense of mystique to it, with that night’s highlights a snapshot of a pulsating game.

On Saturday afternoon, the RTÉ crew will be in position with cameras dotted around Páirc Uí Rinn for a live broadcast.

The spotlight will be trained on both teams and they’ll both be keenly aware of the expectation to perform.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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