IT’S a measure of the strength-in-depth in Cork football at the moment that despite a raft of injuries and retirements they can still field a formidable side, as well as back-up, to face Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday at 3pm.
The old guard has passed on the baton after Paul Kerrigan, James Loughrey, Tomas Clancy and Ciaran Sheehan called time on their inter-county careers.
That, on top of a surfeit of injuries to the likes of Killian O’Hanlon, Aidan Browne, Liam O’Donovan, Sean White, Maurice Shanley, Paul Ring, Cathail O’Mahony and Colm O’Callaghan, meant Ronan McCarthy’s management team had to dive deep into their squad.
It’s a reflection of the ever-changing landscape that the Cork team carries only half a dozen survivors from the most recent meeting with Limerick just two years ago.
And it’s the same number of alterations from the starting 15 which did duty in last season’s disappointing Munster final loss to Tipperary while there are four changes from the last game against Westmeath.
The inclusion of Knocknagree’s O’Mahony at full-back is no surprise given the positive impression he’s created since taking the step from U20 last year.
He returns to a defence that also has Sean Powter at right corner-back with Kevin O’Donovan getting the nod in front of him in the half-back line though numbers on jerseys don’t mean much these days.
Hartnett’s inclusion at right half-forward might be considered a surprise, but the Man-of-the-Match in the 2019 All-Ireland U20 final triumph over Dublin, has been making a steady rise up the pecking order.
Even a two-match suspension for his red card against Kildare hasn’t interrupted the Douglas player’s progression, having made an important contribution, when introduced for the injured Ruairí Deane after 52 minutes against Westmeath in the Division 2 relegation play-off.
On the hour, Hartnett swept forward to kick a fine point and increase Cork’s advantage to three as they began to pull away from their opponents.
The talented forward’s path appeared to hit a stumbling block, however, but his involvement in the panel this season increased Cork’s options up front.
The Cill na Martra player started against Westmeath, having been introduced from the bench against Kildare and Laois, and was an instant success.
Apart from scoring 0-3, Ó Duinnín was heavily involved, regularly winning and retaining possession and linking the play well.
He joins an exciting inside line of Luke Connolly and Brian Hurley, a trio more than capable of supplying scores.
And for good measure, Cork have a wealth of scoring talent held in reserve, too, with Mark Collins joined by the welcome return of his Castlehaven colleague Michael Hurley for his first appearance of the season and Damien Gore.
There’s a change in reserve goalkeeper with Mark White, who played in the last game against Limerick two years ago, in for Anthony Casey while Kevin Crowley also returns to the fold for the first time this term.
Cork registered a resounding 3-18 to 0-6 victory on that occasion, but only six survive, Kevin Flahive, Mattie Taylor, Ian Maguire, Deane, John O’Rourke and Brian Hurley with Nemo Rangers pair Luke Connolly and Kevin O’Donovan introduced.
There’s another link to the game in that referee Brendan Cawley from Kildare will again be the man in the middle.
There are half-a-dozen changes from the 2020 Munster final, including Paul Walsh taking over the reins at midfield from the unlucky O’Hanlon while the four alterations from the Westmeath game revolve around O’Mahony, Powter, Hartnett and O Duinnin.
MA Martin (Nemo Rangers); S Powter (Douglas), D O’Mahony (Knocknagree), K Flahive (Douglas); K O’Donovan (Nemo Rangers), S Meehan (Kiskeam), M Taylor (Mallow); I Maguire (St Finbarr’s), captain, P Walsh (Kanturk); B Hartnett (Douglas), R Deane (Bantry Blues), J O’Rourke (Carbery Rangers); L Connolly (Nemo Rangers), B Hurley (Castlehaven), D Ó Duinnín (Cill na Martra).
M White (Clonakilty), B Murphy (Nemo Rangers), K Crowley (Millstreet), T Corkery (Cill na Martra), C Kiely (Ballincollig), S Forde (Na Piarsaigh), K O’Driscoll (Tadhg MacCarthaighs), E McSweeney (Knocknagree), M Collins (Castlehaven), D Gore (Kilmacabea), M Hurley (Castlehaven).