SUNDAY: Munster SFC final, Cork v Tipperary, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 1.30pm
MARK KEANE, Cork’s goal-scoring hero against Kerry in the semi-final, has again been given the green light from Aussie Rules club, Collingwood, to play in the decider.
The 20-year-old Mitchelstown player was sprung from the bench and cropped up with his sensational winning goal in the closing act to shock the defending champions.
However, Man of the Match two weeks ago Seán Powter is out, having suffered an injury at training. The Douglas club man has a history of hamstring problems and previously missed the entire 2018 campaign and only featured briefly off the bench in the Super 8s in '19.
Manager Ronan McCarthy’s record against Tipp is four wins and an opening game defeat at the start of the 2018 Division 2 league campaign.
It was the first football game at the revamped Páirc Uí Chaoimh with the visitors gaining a 3-16 to 1-16 victory.
Cork reversed that result in the Munster championship semi-final, winning by 1-17 to 0-9 in Thurles.
In 2019, it was much tighter in the league with Cork edging it by 1-12 to 0-12 though it couldn’t prevent their relegation to Division 3 along with Tipp.
This season the rivals met twice. Tipp re-entered the traditional pre-season McGrath Cup but suffered a heavy 3-19 to 0-14 defeat in Mallow.
In keeping with the trend, though, their league encounter in Thurles went to the wire before Cork hung on for a 3-13 to 0-21 success, part of their unbeaten run in gaining promotion back to the second tier.
By their own admission, Tipp haven’t pushed on from reaching the All-Ireland semi-final in 2016 after overcoming Cork by 3-15 to 1-16 in the Munster semi-final in Thurles.
Despite losing to Kerry in the decider, Tipp, under the direction of Liam Kearns, rebounded by defeating Derry in the qualifiers before taking Galway’s scalp in the All-Ireland quarter-finals, winning by 3-13 to 1-10.
They pushed Mayo all the way in the semis, falling short by 2-13 to 0-14.
Tipp have eight survivors from that side still available, including their star forward pair of Conor Sweeney and Michael Quinlivan, who posted 3-6 between them against Galway.
Keeper Evan Comerford is joined by five defenders with centre-back Kevin Fahey the new addition in a line containing former Carbery Rangers player Robbie Kiely and Bill Maher.
Colin O’Riordan’s availability from Aussie Rules strengthens manager David Power’s hand around the critical middle eight where O’Riordan’s physique would supplement Liam Casey, Conal Kennedy and Quinlivan.
Cork forward Luke Connolly, who was also introduced off the bench to play a major role in Keane’s winning goal, believes home advantage should stand to the Rebels.
“It’s a massive boost to play there again even though there won’t be a crowd there,” he said. “The big thing for us is that we get an opportunity to play on a pitch of that quality again.
“It was as good a test it was ever going to get between the Tipp-Limerick game in hurling and our football game.
“It’s a huge testament to the lads working on it and the work that has gone in there. It was as good as any pitch in the country and I don’t think there was much more you could put a pitch through.
“You go back to the day we played Kildare in the league a couple of years ago the pitch fell asunder after rain the day before. That’s an indication of the improvement,” he added.
Captain Ian Maguire stressed the importance of the side’s strength-in-depth going into the game.
“People were talking of the Kerry bench, but we had Sean White, Paul Kerrigan, Luke Connolly, Kevin O’Driscoll,” he said. Sean had a great championship last year and Kevin has played in a lot of big games with Cork.
“It shows we have built a very big squad over the last two years and a lot of quality there, too. One of our weaknesses last year and it showed in the Super 8s was that we struggled to finish out games.
“Whether that was substitutions or conditioning I don’t know, but it was testament to all those aspects that we finished extra-time well,” Maguire added.
Cork schools are encouraged to wear red on Friday and to submit videos showcasing the loudest Rebel roar.