By James McMahon
What challenge Cork will put up against the current All-Ireland favourites will no doubt be keenly observed by the expected big crowd at GAA Headquarters on Saturday evening as the counties bid for a last-four spot
We are all aware that the Rebels possess a talented squad of footballers, but the full expression of their capabilities has not shone so far this summer.
While facile wins were recorded over Limerick and Clare, they were lethargic for the most part against Kerry in the Munster final and Galway had them on the back foot for a large portion of the 70 minutes last weekend.
Crucially Cork finished both games well, but they will need a more sustained against the Dublin. Also Galway got through for some easy scores last Saturday and with the Dubs’ attacking thrust a more potent force, there is a fear that the Munstermen could be steamrolled.
Surely Cork won’t want to exit the Championship with a whimper and the sight of the blue jersey should inspire them to finally cut loose.
As for Dublin, well the tag of favourites has sat nicely on their shoulders so far. However, Meath’s first half performance in the Leinster final showed some chinks, as the Royals got the upper hand in midfield exchanges and also caused some consternation in the Dubs’ defence.
Wayward shooting from the forwards will also have worried coach Jim Gavin, yet he has kept faith with the side that started against Meath for this quarter-final assignment.
Michael Dara Macauley and Cian O’Sullivan will again start in midfield, while the impressive Ciaran Kilkenny and Eoghan O’Gara lining up at No 11 and No 14 respectively.
Paul Mannion’s inclusion up front is not a surprise as he has looked the part this summer and with the likes of Dean Rock to spring from the bench the strength in depth of Dublin’s squad is underlined.
Cork’s team is the same that started against the Tribesmen which means that Aidan Walsh will line out at centre-forward, despite the positive impact he made when switched to midfield last weekend. Ken O'Halloran, Noel O'Leary, Paudie Kissane, Fintan Goold, Paul Kerrigan and Donncha O'Connor are all on the bench.
Not a bad sextet to call on, and the introduction of one or more is capable of yielding a productive outcome.
Both Dublin and Cork like to play open football and the purists could be in for a treat. Counihan’s men are more than a capable of winning the midfield battle, and so launching a platform for them to gain a distinct advantage.
However, as I alluded to earlier, have they got full 70 minutes in them? There are less doubts about Dublin and with the youthful exuberance of Kilkenny and Mannion to the fore they just have that little bit extra to get them over the line.
Dublin: Stephen Cluxton, Johnny Cooper, Rory O’Carroll, Kevin O’Brien, James McCarthy, Ger Brennan, Jack McCaffrey, Michael Dara Macauley, Cian O’Sullivan, Paul Flynn, Ciatrán Kilkenny, Diarmuid Connolly, Paul Mannion, Eoghan O’Gara, Bernard Brogan
Cork: Alan Quirke; Eoin Cadogan, Michael Shields, Thomas Clancy; Damien Cahalane, Graham Canty, James Loughrey; Alan O'Connor, Pearse O'Neill; Mark Collins, Aidan Walsh, John O'Rourke; Daniel Goulding, Ciaran Sheehan, Brian Hurley.