THE contrast between club and county couldn’t be more stark as St Finbarr’s await an All-Ireland semi-final and Cork play their first league game at the weekend.
While the Barrs have a settled side, barring the odd tweak here and there, for their showdown with Ulster champions, Kilcoo, in Portlaoise on Saturday at 3pm, Cork’s team to play Roscommon at Dr Hyde Park on Sunday at 2pm is sure to be part experimental.
Paul O’Keeffe, the Barrs manager, reports a clean bill of health for a game, which has the massive prize of a Croke Park decider on February 12 at 5pm on offer.
“Everyone’s fit though with a few niggles, which is something you’d always have anyway,” he said.
Selection consistency has been a hallmark of the Barrs progress through Cork and Munster and it’s that familiarity that has helped them reach the last four.
It has also been a trait that the Barrs use their bench in an astute manner, regularly introducing the pace and ball-carrying skills of Enda Dennehy and Eoin McGreevey in tandem with Colm Barrett.
“They’re almost an insult to us really and if you’re to read into it we shouldn’t turn up at all,” O’Keeffe commented.
“Yet, it’s something that’s outside our control and it’s also nice to have that underdogs tag going into the game.
“There’s no real pressure on us and sure if you to take all that kind of stuff on board you’d go off your head.
“It’s just noise as far as we are concerned and we’ll just concentrate on ourselves and the game.”
The other semi-final is between the Dublin and Leinster champions, Kilmacud Crokes, and Roscommon and Connacht’s finest, Padraig Pearses, which goes ahead at 5pm on Saturday also at Breffni Park, Cavan.
All the money is on a Kilcoo-Kilmacud showdown though the Barrs and Pearses won’t lack motivation.
Cork manager Keith Ricken sits down tonight with the rest of his management to select his first league team since assuming the role from previous incumbent Ronan McCarthy.
By my reckoning, Cork used 42 players during their three-game McGrath Cup exercise, victories over Clare and Waterford and defeat in the final by Kerry.
You’d imagine the starting 15 will include a number of regulars in keeper Micheal Aodh Martin, defenders Sean Powter, Sean Meehan, Mattie Taylor and Cian Kiely as well as Brian Hurley and Colm O’Callaghan up top.
But, how the team is fleshed out will command much of the interest, especially for centre-back, midfield and centre-forward where there is likely to be much debate.
Hurley carried his excellent 2021 form into the new season, scoring 1-6 against Clare and Waterford and contributing 0-5 against Kerry.
Mark Cronin and Dan Ó Duinnín were the other scoring forwards to catch the eye at various stages, but the Castlehaven star cannot shoulder the burden on his own.
C Kelly (Éire Óg), J Creedon (Iveleary), MA Martin (Nemo Rangers).
K Crowley (Millstreet), P Allen (Newmarket), S Powter (Douglas), D Phelan (Aghada).
S Meehan (Kiskeam), K Histon (Nemo Rangers), K Flahive (Douglas).
P Ring (Aghabullogue), T Corkery (Cill na Martra).
R Maguire (Castlehaven), L Fahy (Ballincollig), K Cremin (Boherbue).
Powter, Histon, J Cooper (Éire Óg), Crowley.
C Kiely (Ballincollig), M Taylor (Mallow), K O’Donovan (Nemo Rangers).
P Walsh (Kanturk), J Grimes (Clonakilty), C O’Donovan (Macroom), F Finner (Castletownbere), S Merrit (Mallow), D O’Connell (Kanturk), Kiely.
O’Connell, E Cooke (Ballincollig), K O’Donovan, D Buckley (Newcestown), C O’Sullivan (Kilshannig).
F Herlihy (Dohenys), B Murphy (St Vincent’s), C Walsh (Kanturk).
C O’Callaghan (Éire Óg), K O’Donovan, J Kiely (Valley Rovers).
M Cronin (Nemo Rangers), A Ó Luasa (Naomh Aban), J Cahalane (Castlehaven).
B Hurley (Castlehaven), A Walsh (Kanturk).
D Gore (Kilmacabea), D Ó Duinnín (Cill na Martra), C Óg Jones (Iveleary), L Connolly (Nemo Rangers).