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Thursday 16 August 2018

Faithful no match for rejigged Rebels

ALLIANZ NATIONAL HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 1

CORK v OFFALY

(Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Tomorrow 2.30)

STRANGE as it may seem, we suspect that Offaly are secretly delighted to be facing three arduous journeys to Cork, Tipperary and Kilkenny this spring -- chances are they might struggle against this heavyweight trio, even at home, so better to take your chances when hosting the likes of Dublin and Wexford.

More immediately, it doesn't augur well that Joe Dooley's injury-depleted outfit were only drawing with Carlow when the Walsh Shield final was abandoned in extra-time last weekend.

They will hope (perhaps against hope) that Denis Walsh's blend of old hands and Rebel wannabes take time to gel.

Corner-back Stephen McDonnell and centre-back Mark Ellis are new names in the Cork defence, while just seven of the team that capitulated to Kilkenny in the first half of last year's All-Ireland semi-final start tomorrow in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Mind you, among the call-ups is 'old guard' veteran Jerry O'Connor at midfield while his twin, Ben, is back for another campaign in the corner. With Tom Kenny and Cathal Naughton relocated to the flanks, and Paudie O'Sullivan and Pat Horgan joining Ben inside, the home side are likely to pack too heavy a punch for the visitors.

ODDS: Cork 1/7, Draw 12/1, Offaly 5/1

VERDICT: Cork

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