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5 talking points before Cork and Waterford clash in the Munster SHC

The teams meet today in Semple Stadium at 4pm.
May 25th 2014, 7:00 AM 3,417 3

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

1. The changing face of the Rebel-Deise rivalry

Between 2002 and 2007, Cork and Waterford collided nine times in the senior hurling championship arena. Four wins for both sides and one draw in a spell that churned out a series of epic and remarkable games.

The 2010 Munster final replay brought the curtain down on that chapter of the counties rivalry, Dan Shanahan’s low drive to the net in extra-time settling the issue. The complexion has utterly changed as the counties get set tomorrow for their first Munster championship meeting since then.

From the starting teams in that 2010 game, Waterford have only five survivors – Liam Lawlor, Noel Connors, Michael Walsh, Kevin Moran and Shane Walsh – in their team named for tomorrow. For Cork, it’s just Shane O’Neill and Patrick Horgan that form a link from those starting sides.

Legendary names like Cusack, Kelly, Curran, McGrath, Gardiner, Browne, O hAilpín and Mullane have all departed the scene. There’s a different dynamic at play tomorrow.

John Gardiner and John Mullane John Mullane and John Gardiner are two of the players no longer involved. Source: Cathal Noonan

2. Aidan Walsh finally hits the senior hurling stage

Ever since his ridiculous and miraculous point to level the 2011 Munster U21 hurling final – one of eight he landed in that match – it has been continuously asked, when will Cork footballer Aidan Walsh become Cork hurler Aidan Walsh?

This year Walsh finally decided, with underage and college commitments behind him, to attempt to serve two senior masters. After a league spent combining duties with both panels, his championship season starts tomorrow. Walsh gets set for his first senior championship start for Cork after being handed the number nine jersey. After all the speculation over his senior hurling career, he will be glad to simply commence it.

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

3. Waterford place their trust in youth

Derek McGrath is well-versed in the strength of the Waterford colleges hurling scene on the back of steering De La Salle to Dr Harty Cup and Croke Cup titles in 2007 and 2008. Stephen O’Keeffe, Barry Coughlan, Noel Connors, Eddie Barrett, Jake Dillon, Brian O’Sullivan and Pauric Mahony are players from those teams who will start tomorrow. But for injury, Philip Mahony and Stephen Daniels could have joined them.

They’re supplemented by another wave of youth that McGrath has placed his trust in. Injuries and retirements have forced his hand in shifting the Waterford hurling landscape.

2012 Dr Harty Cup winner Tadhg Burke, 2013 Croke Cup winner Colin Dunford and 2013 All-Ireland minor winner Austin Gleeson all get their call-up papers to senior level. How they fare in this environment will have a crucial bearing on the outcome of the game.

Danny Sutcliffe and Austin Gleeson Austin Gleeson in action against Dublin's Danny Sutcliffe. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

4. Cork shake up the spine of their defence

Waterford are not the only side to apply a new complexion to their team line-up. Cork have moved things around as well and the spine of their defence is particularly interesting. It was an area of their side that encountered most problems in last September’s All-Ireland final replay defeat.

Shane O’Neill is moved to his more natural berth at corner-back, Christopher Joyce is likewise shifted to the wing and Brian Murphy is now retired. Thus Damien Cahalane will command the edge of the square for only the second time in championship after the 2012 qualifier tie against Wexford and Mark Ellis makes his debut at number six. Both have plenty potential, Jimmy Barry-Murphy will hope they can tap into it.

Mark Ellis Cork's Mark Ellis is from the Millstreet club. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

5. What was learned from the league?

In one corner we have a Division 1A side who were unlucky to end up in the relegation final and then shipped too many goals in that game to avoid the drop. In the other corner we have a Division 1B side who were fortunate that Offaly summoned a recovery to tie with Limerick and were then themselves able to exploit the chance to claim promotion.

Does that mean Waterford are in better stead from being exposed to more elite opponents this spring or Cork are in a good form after enjoying the fillip of promotion? The league also saw potential gems unearthed like Gleeson, Cadogan, Burke and Ellis. Their capacity to shine tomorrow is one of many key questions from the league.

Dwane Palmer and Alan Cadogan Alan Cadogan caught the eye for Cork during the league. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

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Fintan O'Toole

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