herald

Monday 18 December 2017

Understrength Cats to come unstuck against fired-up Cork

CORK v KILKENNY

(Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Tomorrow 2.30, Live TG4)

DENIS Walsh's decision to leave Michael Cussen on the bench for Sunday's clash with bitter rivals Kilkenny, after the former footballer scored 1-5 from play against Limerick last time out, has raised some eyebrows on Leeside.

Inevitable as it was that Newtown-shandrum pair Ben O'Connor and Cathal Naughton would return for the visit of the Cats, few expected Cussen's omission after such an impressive performance against an albeit depleted Treaty County side.

Naughton's inclusion at midfield means John Gardiner moves back to his old wing-back role, while O'Connor slots straight in at wing-forward in a match Cork will have targeted since last year's hammering in Nowlan Park as one to win.

Quite how Kilkenny's defeat by Tipperary affects their league bid is a moot point, but the fact remains that they're severely understrength without their Ballyhale brigade and could come unstuck again in the cauldron of the Páirc.

ODDS: Cork 21/10, Draw 19/2, Kilkenny 4/9

VERDICT: Cork

TIPPERARY v GALWAY, (Thurles, Tomorrow 2.30)

NOTHING like beating Kilkenny for what ails ye', particularly for Tipperary after their three defeats by the champions last year and in the wake of their Parnell Park destruction the previous week.

The form of Eoin Kelly will warm the heart of Liam Sheedy and expect new addition Tim Hammersly -- Fitzgibbon Cup top scorer -- to see some game time and bolster Tipp's already deadly forward options significantly.

Paddy Stapleton, Michael Cahill, Seamus Hennessy and Jody Brennan come into the side in place of Paul Curran, Thomas Stapleton, Benny Dunne and Micheál Webster from the Kilkenny win.

Galway are in top form themselves, none more so than their other Joe, Gantly that is, the rejuvenated Iarla Tannion and Ger Farragher in midfield. It won't be enough, however, to halt Tipp's renaissance.

ODDS: Tipp 2/5, Draw 10/1, Galway 9/4

VERDICT: Tipperary

WATERFORD v LIMERICK, (Dungarvan, Tom 2.30)

IT didn't take long for Davy Fitzgerald's early season bubble to burst and he must be looking at his absentees hoping for an earlier return than has been prescribed.

Against Galway they were taken for five goals and pushed around Pearse Stadium by a more physical unit and, with Cork, Tipp and Kilkenny coming down the line, the likelihood of similar reversals hangs above his young charges.

The performances of Kevin Moran and Maurice Shanahan, in particular, are a source of satisfaction for the Déise, however, and it's unlikely they will have to extend themselves unduly here tomorrow.

The return of James O'Brien, who starts at centre-forward tomorrow, will come as some relief to Justin McCarthy but, with the clubs conspiring against him and another likely defeat here, time may be running out.

ODDS: Waterford 1/25, Draw 20/1, Limerick 8/1

VERDICT: Waterford

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