Cork fans are eager to see some brave changes for the showdown with Limerick

Cork fans are eager to see some brave changes for the showdown with Limerick
Cork supporters against Tipperary. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

CORK have to mix things up for Sunday.

That might not mean a host of changes to the starting 15 because the argument will be the gap between games is too short for drastic surgery and the quality isn’t in reserve anyway. Bill Cooper will no doubt come back in for Robbie O’Flynn, which will push Luke Meade up to the forwards while Damien Cahalane might get a role at wing-back after coming on for Chris Joyce last weekend.

Waterford legend Tony Browne made a valid point earlier this week after the Déise’s disappointing defeat at home to Clare.

“It’s all too easy to call for changes after a loss. Change in itself won’t achieve a whole lot. It’s improvements that are required.”

Darragh Fitzgibbon and Tim O' MahonyPicture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Darragh Fitzgibbon and Tim O' MahonyPicture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

There’s a hell of a lot for Cork to improve on after being bullied by Tipperary. A repeat of the effort in the Páirc on the road to Limerick will end in a hammering.

Cork need far more aggression in every line. They need to ensure their puck-outs avoid the skyscrapers in the opposition half-back unit.

They need increased work-rate from the forwards — an ongoing issue for far too long. They need to be conscious of creating goal chances, rather than waiting for them to open up.

What if John Meyler, Fraggie Murphy and Donal O’Mahony decided on a radical approach? If the selectors felt they had to gamble they could move Mark Coleman from his wing-back berth and move Darragh Fitzgibbon to centre-forward.

Mark Coleman is blocked down. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Mark Coleman is blocked down. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Coleman is better on the front foot than man-marking, and Fitzgibbon’s pace and shooting make him a natural in attack. It would bring a bit of flair and energy from the middle third up. Mark Ellis hasn't been involved up to now but has the experience of anchoring the defence in championship.

Being more dramatic again, Cork could utilise Tim O’Mahony as a puck-out option like his club Newtown do, put Cahalane at six, and roll the dice on Glen rookie Robert Downey at wing-back. The line-up would then be as follows.

Anthony Nash;

Seán O’Donoghue, Eoin Cadogan, Niall O’Leary;

Robert Downey in the league. Picture: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan
Robert Downey in the league. Picture: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

Robert Downey, Damien Cahalane, Mark Coleman;

Bill Cooper, Daniel Kearney;

Tim O’Mahony, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Seamus Harnedy;

Shane Kingston, Patrick Horgan, Conor Lehane.

It won’t happen of course. Meade was one of the better players overall so wouldn’t deserve to be dropped.

And having invested the past two league campaigns in O’Mahony, management will hardly shift him from the defence. But maybe the number five slot would give him the opportunity to showcase his wrists and passing range?

O’Mahony actually did a lot right on Sunday. He was Cork’s more capable defender in the air and was the only one to slam over a point. He was fouled for a free and setup Horgan's fourth point from play with a raking cross-field delivery.

By the same token, the opening goal came from a miscued touch, and Bubbles O’Dwyer drifted around and picked off seven points in an MVP outing.

John O'Dwyer on the move.Picture: Eddie O'Hare
John O'Dwyer on the move.Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Tadhg de Búrca, a far more established centre-back, suffered the same fate at Walsh Park. Tony Kelly thrived without a designated marker and chipped in with a match-winning 0-5 in a far more tight contest against Clare.

De Búrca had a better second half than first for Waterford after he moved to wing-back, and Conor Gleeson was put at six as a stopper.

The loss of Cooper in the warm-up wouldn’t have helped O’Mahony in his first championship start, because the vice-captain is Cork’s most dogged operator in the middle third and offers covers between the 45 and 65. Cork pulled a lot of bodies back to match Limerick’s style when they beat them in the league, and Cooper will be critical to doing that again on Sunday.

It’s hard to make a case for a Rebel victory in the Gaelic Grounds but we’ll try.

Cork have the motivation of atoning for their woeful effort against Tipp, and the regret from losing last year’s All-Ireland final as well. Those factors should guarantee Meyler’s charges perform even if they don’t get the required result.

Seamus Harnedy bursts past Michael Breen andPádraic Maher. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Seamus Harnedy bursts past Michael Breen andPádraic Maher. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

In the early stages of the league, there was a suggestion from some quarters that Limerick were a bit over-rated, given they got a fair few breaks in 2018. They put that to bed with their excellence in lifting the secondary competition.

Their next target is a Munster crown, starting by burying Cork.

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