It perhaps should be whispered in the company of vainglorious old firm types, but the sheen has fallen a little off this much trumpeted clash in the last few days. The tawdry events in Waterford have bossed the column inches afforded to hurling,- a cursory glance at the likes of Herald A.M would give the impression that the English soccer season was still in full swing- whilst despite inital ballyhoo the sold-out signs don't appear to have gone up yet. The anticipation about the match has also been put askew by the surprising Cork team news. It's ironic that the favourable press inches afforded to the rebels in championship previews were as a result of the new promising blood that had been on show in the league. However now that four comparative newcomers have all been included in the starting forwards, there is a perception that the balance is not quite right. If nothing else all of a sudden, a previous fault, that of forward depth, has been cast to the four winds. Someone like Brian Corry, impressive in the latter stages of the league, could now be included, with Joe Deane, Niall McCarthy, Niall Ronan and the two Kieran Murphys' in an impressive shadow selection.It could be that the Cork management, even sub-consciously, feels it has enough scoring power in say ten forwards, to get it over the line. Those with their ear to the ground like John Allen have expressed apprehension, but Cork have an impressive record when they have seemingly pulled selection rabbits out of hats. ( see '66,'90 and '99 ) The issues in the respect of the young forwards might be as much positional. Pat Cronin seems an ill fit for full forward, whilst Cathal Naughton's preternatural pace might be better suited for wing forward, albeit that a half line with he and Ben O' Connor would limit puck-out options. The problem Cork may have is not having enough players in the say 22-27 year old bracket. Men of relative experience, hungry, but perhaps not weighed down by the Celtic Crosses in their pockets. Also the O'Connor brothers have been plagued by niggling injury.
For Tipp fans the optimism comes from their being a distinct 2001 vibe about their panel. Then a diligent and hard working formulation galvanised by their young manager seemed to have enough of an 'x-factor' to overcome many teams of a similar standard. Indeed, with fleeting gnashing of teeth, Tipp fans might have observed after the league final that they have been badly managed for the last few years. They now perhaps see, even at this early stage, in Liam Sheedy a manager who can husband the resources far more successfully. Nicky English managed, in particular to wring every ounce of potential out of his backs seven years ago, especially Tom Costelloe and David Kennedy. Sheedy may yet need to work similar wonders. Eamonn Buckley seemed much improved in the latter stages of the league, but with he and debutant Conor O' Brien in the corners, the premier county may be exhibiting over confidence by feeling they can leave All-Star Declan Fanning in the stand. Shane Maher's selection, although he is of lionhearted stock, may lead to to one centre back too many being stationed in the halfback line. Equally whilst comparing with 2001 although Seamus Butler shares Mark O' Leary's ability to ghost on to loose ball, and dispatch it between the posts, it would be invidious to compare Ryan O'Dwyer with Declan Ryan. Furthermore the confidence behind Tipperary's charge towards silverware seems to take as utter red that Eoin Kelly has put the torper of last year behind him, and that Lar Corbett has cast the clothes of inconsistency from his back.
An acquaintance of this blogger related how few people will get off the fence in predicting a victor in Pairc Ui Chaoimh, and it's an understandable, evaluating the two sides, to seek comfort in procrastination. One hunch is that neither side are as far down the road to challenging Kilkenny ( unless the cats standards slip from 2007 ) as they might believe. The poor record of Tipp in Cork city, not having won since 1922, is overplayed as they have only lost eight times in that span. Thus although Cork might have more room for improvement in their panel, it could be that on the very scientific law of averages, Tipperary's time may have come. Possibly. Maybe.