O’Donoghue says Kerry hold no fear for the Rebel U21 champs

O’Donoghue says Kerry hold no fear for the Rebel U21 champs

Sean O’Donoghue of Cork and Brian Reape of Mayo. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile 

Tonight, Munster U21 football final Cork v Kerry, Páirc Uí Rinn, 7.30pm

CORK captain Sean O'Donoghue issued a rallying call ahead of the last ever provincial final in the grade, writes MARK WOODS.

“We're the Munster champions and we're going in to defend our title,” the Inniscarra player told Red FM.

O'Donoghue, who starts his third successive final, doesn't under-estimate the extent of the formidable challenge posed by a Kerry side back-boned by three All-Ireland minor titles on the spin.

“We're going in as underdogs. Kerry are a very good, well-balanced team who are meant to have the best players in Ireland, super stars.

“We're being told about damage limitation, but that's not going to throw us off. It's a new season and anything can happen at u21, which is completely different. We're going to prove everyone wrong,” he said.

The Cork captain is one of three changes from the team which started the 2-10 to 0-10 semi-final win over Limerick also at Páirc Uí Rinn.

O'Donoghue and Michael Hurley were sprung from the bench during a difficult first-half and, as expected, retain their places while Kevin Flahive has recovered from illness to line-up at midfield.

This trio are just some of the many survivors from last season, when Cork won by 3-9 to 1-14 in Tralee to claim their fifth title in six years and inch one clear on the roll-of-honour with 26 victories.

Others include full-back John Mullins, left half-back Cian Kiely and Sean Powter and Brian Coakley in the half-forward line.

Kerry's march to the final was direct and trouble-free, opening with a 1-17 to 2-8 win over Clare before easily accounting for Waterford by 1-18 to 0-7 in the semi-final in Dungarvan.

The Kingdom can also call on several survivors from 2016, including five of the six starting defenders. Skipper Brian Sugrue is the only newcomer in the left corner.

They look particularly strong in a half-back line of Brian Ó Beaglaoich, Tom O'Sullivan and Gary White while Brian Ó Seanacháin, Matthew Flaherty and Killian Spillane bring experience to all the other areas.

Kerry make four changes from the Waterford game, Ó Beaglaoich and White in the half-back line, Brandon Barrett at right half-forward and Matthew O'Sullivan at full-forward.

Spillane is the leading scorer with 1-9 followed by centre-forward Sean O'Shea on 0-7, Cathal Bambury on 0-6 with O'Sullivan the scorer of their other goal.

Kerry's record in the grade is surprisingly grim, though this doesn't appear to affect their senior prospects one iota.

The Jack O'Connor-managed side are clearly targeting not only their first provincial success since 2008, but the All-Ireland as well with tonight's winners taking on either Galway or Sligo in the semi-final.

Dublin are favourites to bag a fourth successive Leinster title tonight against Offaly and Donegal are the fancied county to emerge from Ulster, which is at the semi-final stage tonight, too.

Conditions may not be the most conducive to a free-flowing encounter with wind and rain forecast, but the weather is unlikely to dilute a full-blooded contest which has many intriguing head-to-head jousts.

For example, Kerry's use of Matthew O'Sullivan as a target man in front of the Cork posts offers the tantalising prospect of an old-fashioned collision of two powerful players with Mullins, no doubt, relishing the challenge.

How to limit the influence of the visiting half-back line will be uppermost in the champions' planning though Kerry know all about Powter's capabilities in a sector where Coakley's height and the captain's all-round skills also provide food-for-thought for the favourites.

CORK: R Donovan (Nemo Rangers); S Daly (Dohenys), J Mullins (Éire Óg), S Wilson (Douglas); J O'Riordan (Carbery Rangers), A Browne (Newmarket), C Kiely (Ballincollig); K Flahive (Douglas), E Lavers (Dohenys); B Coakley (Carrigaline), S Powter (Douglas), S O'Donoghue (Inniscarra), captain; G Murphy (Castletownbere), S Sherlock (St Finbarr's), M Hurley (Castlehaven). 

Subs: C Kelly (Éire Óg), K O'Donovan (Nemo Rangers), D Meaney (St Michael's), L O'Donovan (Clonakilty), S O'Leary (Bantry Blues), M Buckley (Dohenys), S O'Donovan (Ilen Rovers), T Foley (Bantry Blues), M Dineen (Naomh Abán).

KERRY: S Ryan; T O'Sullivan, J Foley, B Sugrue, captain; B Ó Beaglaoich, T O'Sullivan, G White; A Barry, B Ó Seanacháin; B Barrett, S O'Shea, M Flaherty; K Spillane, M O'Sullivan, C Bambury.

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