In one of the most anticipated clashes of the summer, Cork and Waterford square off for the second time.
Little should separate the sides as both are blessed with bundles of talent. Ahead of the game, we select a combined XV.
Cork currently hold the upper hand over this Waterford side. The pair have locked horns on three occasions this year with Kieran Kingston’s side emerging victorious after each clash.
But Derek McGrath will have plans to change the narrative of this tale. However, he does also currently face the issue of the Tadhg de Búrca situation. This could yet prove a massive factor.
Both sides are blessed with an ideal combination of talent and youth. With that said, let’s take a look at who would make it into a combined team.
1. Anthony Nash (Cork)
This was certainly the most difficult selection of the side. Stephen O’Keeffe has been outstanding in 2017 and may yet be awarded an All-Star. But Anthony Nash’s puck outs have been key in this Cork side’s revolution.
An All-Star in both 2012 and 2013, Nash’s form did suffer a slight dip prior to 2017. Now back to his very best, however, no side in Munster were able to cope with the puck outs of Anthony Nash. Another performance of the standard he’s shown should go a long way to a Cork victory.
2. Noel Connors (Waterford)
As experienced a corner-back as you’ll find in the hurling world, Connors has been the model of consistency over the past eight years. The WIT student’s spot on this side is unquestionable.
Connors will be expected to match up with Cork’s Patrick Horgan once again this Sunday, a duel he has dominated throughout his inter-county career. If Connors can curtail Horgan’s influence once again, it will nullify one of the Rebels’ biggest threats.
3. Damien Cahalane (Cork)
Rewind twelve months and you’d struggle to find any Cork supporter award Cahalane much praise. Now though he is acknowledged as a key component in Kieran Kingston’s side.
There appears to be a new lease of life in the St. Finbarr’s hurler. Cahalane can do no wrong at the minute. It’s not as if the number three hasn’t had his fair share of challenges either. an All-Star is not out of the picture for the once much-maligned defender.
4. Colm Spillane (Cork)
One of the newcomers to this side, Spillane has added a ruthless edge to the Cork full-back line that was sorely missing for a long time. For this reason he just edges out Waterford’s Shane Fives.
Beginning the year at full-back during the league, it’s the corner where Spillane appears more comfortable. The Castlelyons native has faced stern opposition in each outing to date but has more than held his own with each battle.
5. Conor Gleeson (Waterford)
Now into his second summer in a Déise jersey, Conor Gleeson is an invaluable member of McGrath’s side. The UCC student is one of the best man-markers in the game.
Shane Kingston was the victim of Gleeson’s web when these sides last clashed, but it may be up to Alan Cadogan to attempt to get the better of the Fourmilewater man this time around. Gleeson has got the better of almost each direct opponent this summer.
6. Tadhg de Búrca (Waterford)
While Mark Ellis has been impressive this summer, De Búrca has been one of the standout players of the championship.
Whether or not the UCD student will play a part in this game or not still remains to be seen, and should his suspension be upheld it would be damaging to McGrath’s plans. De Búrca has perfected the sweeper role, a system in which the Déise place so much faith.
7. Mark Coleman (Cork)
What a find this man has been for Kieran Kingston. While Philip Mahony is one of the most consistent defenders in the championship, Coleman has proven to be truly amazing this summer.
Man of the Match when these sides last met in June, Coleman has been outstanding in all three of Cork’s championship affairs. The Blarney native appears to be in a two-horse race for Young Hurler of the Year with Galway’s Conor Whelan. A fine performance here would be a great help.
8. Jamie Barron (Waterford)
Now universally recognised as one the best in the business, Barron has perfected the midfield role over the past three summers.
While Barron actually played beneath his incredibly high standards against Wexford, Kieran Kingston will know all too well how important Barron is to Waterford. With an engine that appears to be never-ending, Barron will have a major say on this game.
9. Kevin Moran (Waterford)
While some would argue in favour of Darragh Fitzgibbon, Moran’s importance to his side cannot be understated.
Moran has really returned to his outstanding best over the past few games. His performance against Wexford was up there with the best of his career and the De La Salle native looks to be coming into serious form. Another performance of the same quality would be huge for the Déise’s chances.
10. Austin Gleeson (Waterford)
After a shaky start to this year’s championship, last year’s Hurler of the Year has returned to form in fine fashion.
Now settled into the half-forward line, a stable position has suited Waterford’s star hurler. Capable of anything with a hurley in hand, Austin Gleeson will pose a massive threat to the Rebels this Sunday, as he does to any side he faces.
11. Conor Lehane (Cork)
Despite a number of injury worries prior to some of Cork’s big games this summer, Lehane appears to be worry free this time around.
Excellent in all three outings so far, Kieran Kingston will hope Lehane can replicate this form. Lehane’s blistering pace is a nightmare for any defender and on his day is absolutely lethal. If the radar is operating at an acceptable level, expect Conor Lehane to be unstoppable in Croke Park.
12. Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh (Waterford)
What a servant this man has been to the Déise. Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh has once again reached an outstanding level this summer.
At 34 years of age, it would be expected that most players would be unable to survive in the modern game. That cannot be said of Brick, however, who appears to be impossible to dispossess. An involvement in six of Waterford’s first eight scores against Wexford says all you need to know about Walsh.
13. Luke Meade (Cork)
Another one of the newcomers to this new-look Kingston side, Luke Meade offers something completely different to the Rebels.
Operating around the middle sector of the field, Meade’s combination of pace and vision has created serious issues for opposition sides this summer. Having claimed a Fitzgibbon Cup already in 2017, Meade will be eager to add Liam MacCarthy to that list.
14. Patrick Horgan (Cork)
Despite being Cork’s all-time top scorer, Patrick Horgan has at times come in for criticism in his own corner. This hasn’t been the case in 2017, however.
Now looking like he’s regained the confidence he should hurl with, Horgan has been superb this summer. With the smoothest of strikes, Horgan has the ability to point from any range given the space. The Rebels will be hoping Horgan will produce the goods once again on Sunday.
15. Alan Cadogan (Cork)
Making his debut in 2014, Alan Cadogan has suffered some highs and lows with Cork. 2017 has been filled with highs luckily for the Douglas club man.
One of the most deadly attackers in the game over the past few years, Cadogan’s ability has been more recognised in 2017. This is of course due to the change in Cork’s fortunes. Cadogan’s pace will almost certainly cause issues for the Waterford defence this weekend.
Kevin Daly, Pundit Arena
Ahead of the weekend’s clash, check out the latest episode of The 16th Man, where we preview the All-Ireland semi-final between Cork and Waterford and discuss all the latest GAA action.
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