A LOT of Cork people were delighted when listening to the draw on Monday morning when Dublin came out of the hat.
I'd say they were even more thrilled later on when Thurles was named as the venue for the game. Cork love going to Thurles and performing there, but the opposite holds for Dublin who have not got a good record in Thurles either in league or championship in the last number of years.
So everything is in Cork's favour as regards the draw and the venue, but I'm sure management and players are well aware of what they are coming up against here. Dublin proved already this year that they are no pushovers, they completely destroyed Galway in the Leinster championship with some very good hurling. I know they lost the Leinster final to Kilkenny, but a lot of things happened to them before that game, namely, a case of Covid within their team, so they lost a few more players through close contacts.
The likes of Cian O'Callaghan and Ronan Hayes both had to drop out, and after two minutes of the game, they lost one of the best full-backs in the country in Eoghan O'Donnell through injury. That would upset most teams in the country losing players of that calibre.
I'm sure O'Callaghan and Hayes will be back for this game, but the absence of O'Donnell will be sorely felt.
Cork are in a good position now, having played well against Limerick, especially the defence, when their attack let them down a bit in that game (they picked up a good bit against Clare last week) some of their big performers were again in defence.
I know they lost Damian Cahalane before the game, but Robert Downey proved more than a capable replacement.
Also Sean O'Donoghue beside him, is probably one of the best corner-backs in the country, playing with great authority and boldness, and completely getting on top of his man each time. These two need to be on top of their game here again as Mark Schutte and Ronan Hayes are big athletic players and well able to take their scores. Hayes especially can be a handful.
I also believe the Cork half-back line of Tim O'Mahony, Mark Coleman and Ger Millerick will have to be really on top of their game, as Dublin's half-forward line is the best line in their team: Danny Sutcliffe, Donal Burke and big Chris Crummy have been playing very well and getting a lot of scores.
Cork will have to be very tight here especially on Burke and Sutcliffe, as they seem to get scores at their ease at times. Their movement is very good and they can pop up anywhere, and of course, Burke is an exceptional free-taker, so Cork discipline will need to be very good, as this guy can pop frees from 80 metres at his ease, and is very consistent.
At midfield, Luke Meade had a very good game against Clare, his work-rate very high, up and down the field in that heat was not easy, but he did it all day. A complete team player, he also and laid off some great ball.
He can open up a defence with his brilliant runs, but I did not see enough of that last weekend. Maybe he is saving it for this weekend!
They need to be on their toes here because Dublin have Rian McBride and a very effective Conor Burke. Burke at times plays very deep and I think if he does that here it will suit Cork.
The attack for Cork is where they can do real damage.
Seamus Harnedy who was very good against Clare with his score-taking, and more importantly, his making of scores, something he has added to his game. He showed great vision against Clare by picking out players in the best position. This was not always his strong point in the past, but I think Cork played him in his best position at wing-forward.
Jack O'Connor was very effective in the corner. Patrick Horgan was a big improvement from the Limerick game, but I think Shane Kingston needs to be more consistent over the 70 minutes. There is no doubting his class, but he needs to get on a lot more ball.
Cork will not have it easy against this Dublin defence with goalkeeper Alan Nolan, Paddy Smith and Eoghan O'Donnell, if he is playing, are very solid defenders. Liam Rushe at centre-back is a great leader for them. Also Daire Grey is a good defender and well able to pop over a few scores.
This is a very tricky game for Cork as they are odds on favourites to win it. Having played last week in that heat will have knocked something out of them.
They need to start well here and get at Dublin early because there is no doubt Dublin will be the fresher team. The prize is big: a place in the last four and a game in the big house.
Cork are the form team at the moment and everything is in their favour now, but this will not be easy. They need to show a killer instinct here which they did not show against Clare when they had them on the rack.
Cork to win, and I fancy Tipp to beat Waterford in the other game.