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6 big selection calls facing Kerry and Cork before the Munster final replay
The sides are getting set for Round 2 in Killarney on Saturday night.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Brian Cuthbert Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

CORK AND KERRY tomorrow night unveil their starting teams for Saturday’s Munster football final.

But what are the big calls facing Brian Cuthbert and Éamonn Fitzmaurice in their starting sides and the systems they will adopt?

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1. Will Kerry shake up their midfield?

There was no doubting the game’s dominant performer in the drawn game. Alan O’Connor marked his return to big time championship football by bossing the middle third with an authoritative showing.

His display saw him lavished with praise from within and outside his own county since. But the upshot is Kerry are certainly going to be guarded now and have a plan to stifle O’Connor’s impact.

The loss of David Moran to a black card hurt Kerry and his return will be a boost. Bringing back Anthony Maher to restore the All-Ireland winning midfield partnership is an option.

That may not mean Bryan Sheehan drops to the bench as a centre-forward role could be in the offing for him. That would allow Kerry to withdraw Sheehan to form a triumvirate that they will hope can establish a platform at midfield.

Bryan Sheehan and Donnacha O'Connor Donall Farmer / INPHO Bryan Sheehan and Donncha O'Connor clash Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

2. Who will Cork employ as a sweeper?

Paul Kerrigan’s deployment as a sweeper may have looked a left field call in the drawn game given his recognised status as an attacker. But he fitted in to the half-back line at stages during the league and was clearly adopting greater defensive responsibilities.

He started brightly in Killarney, hoovering up possession and helping Cork settle into the contest. But after picking up a black card in the 23rd minute, Kerrigan’s afternoon came to a premature end.

Mark Collins slotted back into the sweeper position for Cork and his influence grew significantly as the game progressed. Both Kerrigan and Collins have shown skills suitable for the role but who will Cork employ?

Stephen O'Brien and Paul Kerrigan Ryan Byrne / INPHO Paul Kerrigan is shown a black card against Kerry Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

3. Will Kerry stick with Donaghy or hold him in reserve?

The Kerry captain netted early on in the drawn match after gratefully accepting a gift-wrapped chance presented by the Cork defence. Apart from that he was not a dominant player, frustrated by a lack of quality service and a Cork defensive plan that saw Eoin Cadogan prevent him from claiming clean aerial possession.

Will Kerry stick with the Austin Stacks totem and work on making him a more active figure in the game? Or could they return to a two-man full-forward line based on pace and invention, similar to the O’Donoghue-Geaney axis that caused wreck twelve months ago?

Kieran Donaghy score their first goal of the game Ryan Byrne / INPHO Kieran Donaghy celebrates hitting the net against Cork Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

4. To start Patrick Kelly for Cork or keep him on the bench?

The black card brandished to Paul Kerrigan was an early setback for Cork in the drawn match. It forced the Cork management’s hand to shunt Patrick Kelly into action earlier than they would have envisaged.

Kelly proceeded to be central to the second-half dominance that Cork exerted. His decision-making on the ball was excellent, he was constantly available as an outlet in the half-forward line and added an extra layer of creativity to Cork’s attack.

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Injuries have stunted his development in recent years but he was terrific when Ballincollig won the Cork senior title last autumn. The drawn match saw Kelly back starring for Cork but will it be enough to merit a starting berth for the replay?

Paddy Kelly Ryan Byrne / INPHO Cork's Patrick Kelly Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

5. Is Cooper the answer for Kerry in the half-forward line?

Kerry’s starting half-forward line were on the backfoot in the drawn clash with Cork. Barry O’Driscoll was an obvious revelation with his attacking form while Brian O’Driscoll and Michael Shields gave Kerry plenty to ponder as well.

Cork reaped a rich dividend from their counter-attacks with Kerry withdrawing Stephen O’Brien and Johnny Buckley by the 47th minute. Will Kerry change it up for Saturday?

Colm Cooper entered the fray as a second-half substitute but had a minimal impact on the action. Kerry need a greater return from their half-forward line but is Cooper the answer to improve their playmaking?

Colm Cooper makes his way out for the gam Donall Farmer / INPHO Kerry's Colm Cooper Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

6. Are Cork likely to alter their personnel?

Cork made six changes during the drawn game but apart from Kelly coming on after Kerrigan’s black card, those substitutions were all made in the final 15 minutes. One of those was deep in injury-time as well when Colm O’Driscoll’s black card saw Jamie O’Sullivan be introduced.

Given the positive nature of Cork’s showing, it’s hard to see Brian Cuthbert taking the scalpel to his starting side. The likes of Conor Dorman, Daniel Goulding and Ruairi Deane could be held back again for second-half cameos.

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