In a look ahead to this Sunday’s All Ireland hurling semi final between Cork and Tipperary Brian Barry looks at 3 areas that could prove decisive in who progresses to meet Kilkenny in the final.
Will Tippearay struggle at fullback?
There are still question marks surrounding the ability of Padraic Maher to play at the edge of the square. He was not tested against Dublin, and looked suspect when challenged by Johnny Glynn. His previous stint in the number 3 shirt ended abruptly after the Páirc Uí Chaoimh catastrophe, when Aisake Ó hAilpín routed the Thurles Sarsfields star. At wing back, Maher is one of the finest hurlers in the country, but does not look comfortable at fullback. If Cork expose this, Tipp are in trouble.
Is Pa Cronin fully fit?
Jimmy Barry-Murphy announced during the week that he is “optimistic” about Cronin’s chances of starting on Sunday. Should the Bishopstown man start, they must make sure he is fully fit. Dublin hurried Liam Rushe back too soon for their game against Wexford, and the former all-star looked off the pace in Wexford Park. If fully fit, Cronin is a major asset, but should not be rushed back.
Five Week Break?
Having played four games in quick succession, Cork moved through the gears to claim a first Munster title since 2006. However, the five weeks off in the interim period can damage a team’s momentum. Munster Champions Limerick fell flat at this stage last year. Tipperary, despite accusations that they have not been tested since entering the knockout stages of the summer, are more battle-hardened in recent weeks. In previous years, we have seen various provincial champions both flourish and flop due to the break. The first ten minutes on Sunday will give us the answer how JBM and co. can react.
Verdict: The Rebels and The Premier go head to head in the latest installment of one of hurling’s great rivalries. Neither will be found wanting in the hunger department. The bookies are not calling it. In what could be game of the summer, Cork may just shade it by a single point.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.