Stopping TJ Reid will be crucial for a Cork hurling team with more options off the bench

Stopping TJ Reid will be crucial for a Cork hurling team with more options off the bench
Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

SUNDAY: All-Ireland quarter-final: Kilkenny v Cork, Croke Park, 2pm.

IT could be said that both counties are coming into headquarters on Sunday with as many questions about them as there have been answers up to now.

That is based on the fact that both lost twice in their provincial campaigns, Cork to Tipperary and Clare in Munster and Kilkenny to Galway and Wexford in the Leinster final.

Cork have the benefit of the extra game last Sunday, the anticipated routine victory over Westmeath which effectively was no more than a sharpening up exercise for next Sunday. 

That game did, however, illustrate that the Cork forwards and a few subs thrown in are in the mood with a return of 40 points which, on any day of the week, is impressive scoring. It will be a different story against Kilkenny, the same latitude will not be afforded to the front men and scores will be much more difficult to come by.

However, as a unit and on a very good day this Cork attack is as good if not better than most and irrespective of what the starting 15 will be, there are viable options on the bench too.

In the past, and the same goes for Kilkenny too, the accusation has been made that there is still an over dependency on Patrick Horgan to post the bulk of the scores with TJ Reid in a similar situation for the Cats.

Reid has already delivered 5-54 for Kilkenny in this season’s championship with Horgan just five points behind on 4-52.

Both will probably end up as leading scorers for their teams here too because of their wonderful accuracy from dead ball situations but in both attacks there are plenty of others capable of putting the big scores on the board.

Alan Cadogan is now showing what a huge loss he was last season while Seamus Harnedy and Conor Lehane, on their best days, are capable of inflicting severe damage.

On the KIlkenny side you have newcomer Adrian Mullen exhibiting the vast potential he contains while Walter Walsh and Colin Fennelly more than know what’s required on days like this. There has been a bit of chopping and changing in the Cork defence and it’s imperative that the selectors get it right on Sunday with their starting six.

Niall O’Leary has certainly fitted in very well at left corner-back and Mark Coleman has been outstanding outside him.

There is no shortage of experience in both defensive set-ups with Paul Murphy, Padraig Walsh and Joey Holden key men for Kilkenny in front of the excellent Eoin Murphy.

There might be a perception that Kilkenny do not hold that fear factor anymore for other teams like previous teams did and results from recent years illustrate how that tag is no longer in place.

They are losing games now that they wouldn’t have in the past but in some of those losses there has only been a puck of a ball in it.

One of them was the recent Leinster final loss to Wexford when the longer the game aged it became increasingly obvious that the first goal was going to be decisive.

Wexford got it and it was the game’s only goal.

Sunday’s encounter could all boil down to space, Cork’s ability to use the wide open spaces of Croke Park and Kilkenny’s ability to curtail them in doing so.

Cutting down the space that Croke Park provides will be prioritised by both management teams and with pace in both attacks, both will try and bring the backs that further bit out.

Cork have mixed the very good with the indifferent this year, the opening two games against Tipperary and Limerick being an illustration of that.

You can afford that type of a mix in the province over four games and as things turned out there, four points was enough to get you into the All-Ireland series.

Curtailing the influence of TJ Reid will be an obvious starting point for Cork and it will be something similar for Kilkenny with Horgan.

It could all boil down to what side gets the most from the other forwards.

Cork would appear to have a stronger bench as well in that department and that would appear to be the case at the back too.

It will be a battle almost certainly, a bit of a dogfight really, with Cork now maybe having that bit more pace and quality in attack.

They should be good enough.

Verdict: Cork.

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