Mark Keane at right half-back as Pat Ryan picks first Cork team

Five of the team won All-Ireland U20 medals under Ryan
Mark Keane at right half-back as Pat Ryan picks first Cork team

Mark Keane of Cork during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A match between Offaly and Cork at St Brendan's Park in Birr last February. Picture: Michael P Ryan/Sportsfile

Cork hurling manager Pat Ryan has opted for a mix of established players and hopefuls for Thursday night’s opening Co-op SuperStores Munster Hurling League game against Kerry in Austin Stack Park in Tralee (7pm).

Ryan’s first official selection features five of the starters from last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Galway – new captain Seán O’Donoghue, Niall O’Leary, Robert Downey, Shane Kingston and Conor Lehane – while Alan Cadogan, who came on in that game, also features.

Mark Keane, who operated in attack for Kieran Kingston’s Cork team last year, is picked at right half-back after starring at number 6 in Ballygiblin’s run to a second successive All-Ireland Club JHC final, while Eoin Roche of Bride Rovers and Midleton’s Tommy O’Connell are also chosen in defence, in front of goalkeeper Ger Collins from Ballinhassig.

Ethan Twomey, so impressive in midfield as St Finbarr’s ended a 29-year wait for a county SHC title last year, partners Midleton’s Sam Quirke, who made an impact as the Magpies won the title the previous year. The pair were both part of Cork’s 2021 All-Ireland U20 winning side, which was managed by Ryan.

In the half-forward line, Conor Lehane is flanked by Brian Roche – twin brother of Eoin – and Midleton clubmate Cormac Beausang, while Douglas pair Cadogan and Kingston have the returning Declan Dalton (Fr O’Neills) for company in the full-forward line.

The Roches and O’Connell were part of the Cork team that won the 2020 All-Ireland U20 title under Ryan in July 2021.

Darragh Fitzgibbon is ruled out after picking up a shoulder injury in a challenge game while Mark Coleman (knee) and Alan Connolly (shoulder) will be absent until at least the end of the Allianz Hurling League campaign.

After Thursday, Cork face UCC in the Canon O’Brien Cup on Tuesday at the Mardyke before hosting Limerick in the Munster league on Sunday week.

CORK (MHL v Kerry): G Collins (Ballinhassig); S O’Donoghue (Inniscarra), N O’Leary (Castlelyons), E Roche (Bride Rovers); M Keane (Ballygiblin), T O’Connell (Midleton), R Downey (Glen Rovers); E Twomey (St Finbarr’s), S Quirke (Midleton); B Roche (Bride Rovers), C Lehane (Midleton), C Beausang (Midleton); A Cadogan (Douglas), D Dalton (Fr O’Neills), S Kingston (Douglas). Subs: P Collins (Ballinhassig), C Joyce (Castlemartyr), C O’Brien (Newtownshandrum), S O’Leary Hayes (Midleton), B O’Sullivan (Kanturk), B Cunningham (St Finbarr’s), S Barrett (Blarney), C Walsh (Kanturk), C Cahalane (St Finbarr’s), L Meade (Newcestown), P Horgan (Glen Rovers).

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