U21 graduate Deccie Dalton gets his first league start for Cork against Kilkenny tomorrow, while returnees to the squad Stephen McDonnell, Cormac Murphy and Aidan Walsh are also included.
John Meyler and his selectors have also given Conor O’Sullivan and Jamie Coughlan the opportunity to re-establish themselves after fleeting appearances in last year’s championship.
Tim O’Mahony is picked at centre-back where he was deployed in the 2018 league. He was used up front as a sub last summer and starred for the Cork U21s at full-forward, particularly in the All-Ireland semi-final hammering of Wexford.
O’Mahony has generally featured as a forward for his club Newtownshandrum as well but his aerial prowess makes him an obvious candidate to nail down the number six slot in Meyler’s side. Another half-back option Robert Downey from the Glen who was involved in the Munster Hurling League recently isn’t available because of injury.
Cork were unsettled in the pivotal centre-back position last year with Mark Ellis, Eoin Cadogan, Chris Joyce, Mark Coleman and O’Mahony, briefly, getting game-time there.
The Rebels have a host of last year’s U21s in reserve tomorrow: Pa Collins, David Griffin, David Lowney, Conor Cahalane, Michael O’Halloran and Jack O’Connor. Current U20s Ger Millerick and Tommy O’Connell are also on the bench.
Injury rules out Eoin Cadogan, Ellis and Seamus Harnedy, who’ll miss the bulk of the league, while Robbie O’Flynn, Shane Kingston and Mark Coleman aren’t included due to UCC’s Fitzgibbon Cup campaign.
Alan Cadogan and Conor Lehane are named on the bench but have knocks so their contributions could yet be restricted.
Kilkenny will be without the Ballyhale Shamrocks contingent and their talisman TJ Reid due to the All-Ireland club series, while Richie Hogan isn’t named to start either.
CORK (v Kilkenny): A Nash; S McDonnell, D Cahalane, C O’Sullivan; C Joyce, T O’Mahony, S O’Donoghue; B Cooper (c), C Murphy; D Kearney, D Dalton, L Meade; J Coughlan, A Walsh, P Horgan.
Subs: P Collins, D Griffin, D Lowney, G Millerick, C Cahalane, T O’Connell, W Kearney, M O’Halloran, C Lehane, A Cadogan, J O’Connor.