Cork v Westmeath: League debuts for Ethan Twomey and Ben Cunningham

Ger Millerick and Dáire O'Leary have first outings for Rebels in 2023
Cork v Westmeath: League debuts for Ethan Twomey and Ben Cunningham

Ben Cunningham in action for St Finbarr's against Blackrock in last year's Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Larry Cummins

St Finbarr’s pair Ethan Twomey and Ben Cunningham will make their Allianz Hurling League debuts for Cork in Sunday’s clash with Westmeath while Ger Millerick and Dáire O’Leary will appear for the first time this year.

The Rebels, seeking a third straight win in the competition, show eight changes from the victory away to Galway a fortnight ago. In the full-back line, Midleton’s Seán O’Leary Hayes and Niall O’Leary of Castlelyons come in for Conor O’Callaghan and Eoin Downey, with O’Leary assuming the captaincy as Seán O’Donoghue remains sidelined since being forced off in the opening-round win over Limerick.

Millerick (Fr O’Neills) is selected at centre-back, having only played for UCC in the Fitzgibbon Cup since the turn of the year, while Watergrasshill defender O’Leary is chosen at left half-back. It’s his first action with the Cork senior team since last year’s league semi-final win over Kilkenny, where he sustained a foot injury. Tommy O’Connell and Ciarán Joyce are the players replaced.

Twomey, so impressive at midfield as the Barrs won the last year’s Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC title, is chosen to partner Sam Quirke as Brian Roche drops to the bench. Twomey did start the Munster Hurling League win over Kerry in January and then played against Cork for UCC in the Canon O’Brien Cup but he missed most of the Fitzgibbon with injury, coming on as a sub in last week’s semi-final defeat to the University of Galway after extra time.

His clubmate Cunningham also played against Kerry but that appearance lasted only a few minutes as he came on as a sub but had to go off again. He is chosen at number 10 in a fully changed half-forward line, joined by Luke Meade and fellow Barrs man Conor Cahalane, in place of Declan Dalton, Conor Lehane and Seán Twomey. The full-forward line sees Shane Kingston and Shane Barrett retained since the Galway game, while Cormac Beausang is replaced by another St Finbarr’s player, Brian Hayes, who makes his first hurling start for Cork.

Included among the substitutes are Darragh Flynn and Dáire Connery, who won All-Ireland U20 medals under Pat Ryan. Flynn helped his club Ballygiblin to the All-Ireland junior club title earlier this year while he impressed for UCC in the Fitzgibbon. Na Piarsaigh man Connery played senior for Cork under Kieran Kingston in the 2021 league but was not part of the panel in 2022.

CORK (Allianz HL v Westmeath): P Collins (Ballinhassig); S O’Leary Hayes (Midleton), N O’Leary (Castlelyons), E Roche (Bride Rovers); C O’Brien (Newtownshandrum), G Millerick (Fr O’Neills), D O’Leary (Watergrasshill); S Quirke (Midleton), E Twomey (St Finbarr’s); B Cunningham (St Finbarr’s), L Meade (Newcestown), C Cahalane (St Finbarr’s); S Kingston (Douglas), B Hayes (St Finbarr’s), S Barrett (Blarney). Subs: G Connolly (Blackrock), E Downey (Glen Rovers), C Cormack (Blackrock), T O’Connell (Midleton), D Connery (Na Piarsaigh), B Roche (Bride Rovers), D Flynn (Ballygiblin), D Dalton (Fr O’Neills), C Walsh (Kanturk), P Power (Blarney), C Beausang (Midleton).

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