IT’s a hazardous exercise at the best of times, but trying to second guess what Cork football team will start against Limerick in the Munster semi-final at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday at 3pm is made more challenging by the number of injuries.
Ronan McCarthy’s side suffered more than their fair share both before the league and then during it without factoring in two recent challenge games against Tipperary and Tyrone as well.
Croke Park’s continuation of the policy surrounding submitting teams and panels doesn’t help either.
The regulations include match-day panels of up to 26 players must be registered with Croker before 9am on the Thursday before any game and only those listed are eligible to play.
There can be no additional players added or changes to the panel unless it involves a goalkeeper or sub-keeper who must play as a keeper if used or if a player withdraws after the deadline because of Covid.
Only five substitutions are allowed though temporary substitutions can be made for blood or a suspected head injury and there are no limits on the number that can be made and no time restrictions either.
All these rules impact heavily on management’s final decision on the 26 travelling to the venue and those borderline fitness selections add to the conundrum.
The penalty for playing or including a non-registered player is forfeiting the game.
But, teams must submit their starting 15s to the referee no later than 40 minutes before the throw-in or face a fine of up to a maximum of €1,000 for each minute over the prescribed time.
All championship games are winners on the day meaning extra-time of two 10-minute periods and a penalty shoot-out if necessary.
Teams nominate five penalty takers and they will be used again in the event of sudden-death but not in the same order if teams decide.
The likelihood is that Cork will have just one championship debut in their starting 15.
Young Daniel O’Mahony from Knocknagree, who played in last year’s Munster U20 final defeat to Kerry, is tipped to get the nod at full-back.
O’Mahony made his league debut against Kildare and has impressed in the full-back line with his reading of the play and his confidence in playing his man from the front.
The Duhallow defender suffered a leg injury in the early stages against Clare and missed the relegation play-off victory over Westmeath.
Given that Kevin Flahive, Sean Meehan and Mattie Taylor started all four league games, they’re sure of jerseys four, six and seven, leaving two spots to fill in front of keeper Micheal Aodh Martin.
Sean Powter was also injured against Clare, but, if fit, will probably be named at right corner-back with Kevin O’Donovan, Tadhg Corkery and Liam O’Donovan challenging for the number five role.
In the enforced absence of Killian O’Hanlon, captain Ian Maguire and Paul Walsh look being the midfield pair once more.
Up front, Cork used Mark Collins and Brian Hurley sparingly during the league though the latter was injured against Kildare.
With Ciaran Sheehan now retired from the inter-county scene and Cathail O’Mahony injured, Cork could name an inside line of Hurley, Collins and Luke Connolly.
Ruairi Deane, who battled bravely through the league, is likely to have Kevin O’Driscoll and John O’Rourke for company in the half-forward line.
The team could be: MA Martin; S Powter, D O’Mahony, K Flahive; K O’Donovan, S Meehan, M Taylor; I Maguire, captain, P Walsh; J O’Rourke, R Deane, K O’Driscoll; B Hurley, M Collins, L Connolly.
Meanwhile, the Munster U20 football championship gets underway this evening with Tipperary hosting Limerick in Thurles at 7.30, when Macroom’s David Murnane will be in charge.
At the same time in Dungarvan, Waterford take on Clare with the winners meeting in the semi-final.
The other semi-final is between Cork and Kerry at Pairc Ui Chaoimh next Thursday at 7.30.
Up to 500 spectators are permitted in Thurles and 200 in Dungarvan.