Mallow is the venue for Cork-Limerick McGrath Cup final on Friday night

Cork manager John Cleary has cast the net far and wide in preparation for the opening league game against Meath
Mallow is the venue for Cork-Limerick McGrath Cup final on Friday night

Cork's Mattie Taylor and Clare's Micheal Garry in action during the Munster McGrath Cup match between Clare and Cork at Quilty on Sunday afternoon. Picture : Eamon Ward

THE introduction of Kanturk’s Paul Walsh late on in the 2-10 to 0-8 victory over Clare brought the number of players used by manager John Cleary in the McGrath Cup to 29. Cork meet Limerick in the final in Mallow on Friday at 7.30.

Cork gave season debuts to all 26 players in the panel for the opening game against Kerry, Cork winning by 5-11 to 0-14, and while they made five alterations for the trip to Quilty, the home of Kilmurry-Ibrickane, all had seen duty against the Kingdom.

Clonakilty’s Tom Clancy, just returned from honeymoon, became the 27th player, when coming in for Daniel O’Mahony (Knocknagree) at full-back, with Paul Ring (Aghabullogue) next in to replace Tommy Walsh (Kanturk), cousin of Paul, at corner back-back.

Paul Walsh came in for former captain Ian Maguire (St Finbarr’s) at midfield, an area in which Eire Og’s Colm O’Callaghan is beginning to blossom, having switched from the half-forward line during last season’s league.

He was part of the victorious All-Ireland U20 side in 2019, under the astute direction of Keith Ricken, playing left half-forward, the position he started in the opening two league games against Galway and Meath in 2022 before diverting to midfield for the next game against Down and remaining there since.

O’Callaghan’s eye-catching 2-4 from play against Kerry in benign conditions reflects his potential and while he didn’t add to his tally on the side of the Atlantic in west Clare, O’Callaghan’s aerial prowess came out strongly.

His club colleague, keeper Chris Kelly, picked him out with a number of long-range re-starts and the midfielder rose highest among a cluster of players to make clean catches to begin another attack.

Competition for positions eight and nine reflects the squad as a whole with Ian Maguire a shoo-in but Killian O’Hanlon (Kilshannig), Shane Merritt (Mallow) and Paul Walsh also pressing hard for inclusion.

And there’s a similar pattern emerging in the full-forward line which is quickly becoming the most competitive area with captain Brian Hurley (Castlehaven), Steven Sherlock (St Finbarr’s), Chris Og Jones (Iveleary), Conor Corbett (Clyda Rovers), Cathail O’Mahony (Mitchelstown) and Mark Cronin (Nemo Rangers) all in the frame.

O’Mahony hasn’t figured yet because of his commitments with Ballygiblin in their surge to the All-Ireland club junior title but could be involved in the McGrath Cup final against Limerick in a repeat of the 2020 decider, won by the Shannonsiders on a score line of 0-20 to 0-16 at the Gaelic Grounds. Limerick drew with Tipperary to qualify on scoring difference.

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