Jack O’Connor’s Kerry raging favourites to beat Keith Ricken's Cork

New managers will battle in McGrath Cup final in Killarney on Saturday
Jack O’Connor’s Kerry raging favourites to beat Keith Ricken's Cork

Cork senior football manager Keith Ricken on the line against Waterford. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

TOMORROW McGrath Cup final Kerry v Cork, Killarney, 2pm.

CORK return to the scene of their Munster final massacre last summer in very different circumstances.

There are new managers in the counties for starters, Keith Ricken plotting against the old enemy for the first time at senior level and facing the wily Jack O’Connor, back for a third stint and sensing gold at the end of the rainbow.

As is customary with these pre-season competitions both sides will view this as a last audition for some players ahead of the start of the national league next weekend.

Cork's Cian Kiely shoots from Waterford's Conor Walsh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork's Cian Kiely shoots from Waterford's Conor Walsh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Cork have been very experimental in their approach, Kerry less so, O’Connor laying down a marker not only to his troops, but the rest of the country in that Kerry are starting as they intend to move on.

This was reflected in the team to play Limerick in the opening group game at the start of the month, O’Connor including 11 players who lined out in the All-Ireland semi-final defeat by Tyrone last season.

Of the three newcomers, the returning Stefan Okunbor from Aussie Rules impressed the most, presenting a formidable presence around the middle of the pitch to add to O’Connor’s options in that important sphere.

Kerry duly romped to a 2-23 to 0-6 win with 11 players registering scores, led by the usual suspect David Clifford, who contributed 1-4 before being replaced for the second half.

In all Kerry brought on eight substitutes as they added 0-10 to their half-time tally in a one-sided rout.

Tipperary, who also defeated Limerick, hosted the Kingdom in Templetuohy for a place in the final and Kerry enjoyed another stroll in the park, winning by 1-23 to 0-5 as O’Connor’s intentions again became clear and obvious.

Two players, Tony Brosnan and Jack Savage, who caused havoc with MTU Cork Campus in the Sigerson Cup during the week, had earlier helped their alma mater, MTU Kerry Campus, to an opening day victory over UCD.

But, they were still called upon by O’Connor to be involved with the county team and were introduced during the closing stages, further indications of the new manager’s thinking.

Ten players got on the scoreboard with Killian Spillane and Sean O’Shea kicking 0-6 between them and Paudie Clifford supplying the only goal.

O’Connor cited club and college commitments as well as injuries tied his hands to a certain extent in his team selections though the inference was laid bare, Kerry are not building up slowly this year.

For their part, Cork were involved in far more competitive outings against Clare in the wilds of the Milltown Malbay and the more serene setting of Pairc Ui Rinn against Waterford.

Given that Cork and Clare are scheduled to collide in the league in just over a fortnight neither want to show their hands too much although Clare boss Colm Collins was hamstrung by not having played Waterford earlier.

Cork included a number of regulars in their side to travel to the west coast, the likes of captain Sean Powter, Sean Meehan, Cian Kiely and Brian Hurley with Paul Walsh, Colm O’Callaghan and Tadhg Corkery also starting.

And it was Hurley who steered Cork to a 2-9 to 0-10 victory, helping himself to 1-6 with Kanturk’s Daniel O’Connell punching home an important first-half goal against the wind.

Cork's Brian Hurley breaks between Waterford's Michael Curry and Darach Cathasaigh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork's Brian Hurley breaks between Waterford's Michael Curry and Darach Cathasaigh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Cork made 11 changes for the visit of Ephie Fitzgerald’s Waterford with Hurley supplying another 1-6 in a 1-18 to 1-9 victory, Dan O Duinnin enhancing his chances with 0-4.

Cork were captained that night by Meehan, who was outstanding in difficult conditions against Clare and had a right battle with young Tom O’Connell against Waterford.

Balancing the needs of MTU Cork’s involvement in next week’s Sigerson as well as being without the St Finbarr’s contingent on top of injuries will determine the starting 15.

Yet, whatever team takes the field will face serious opposition as Kerry bid to win the McGrath Cup for only the sixth time and the first since 2017, when defeating Limerick after extra-time.

Cork are going for a 10th title, having replaced Kerry as holders in 2018. Kerry are 1/10 with the bookies.

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