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Michael Duignan: Defensive changes to strengthen Cork in Munster hurling opener against Waterford

Updated: Friday, 23 May 2014 21:40 | Comments

Lorcan McLoughlin starts in the full-back line for Cork
Lorcan McLoughlin starts in the full-back line for Cork

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The opening battle in this year’s Munster hurling championship pits Cork against Waterford at Semple Stadium.

After their run to last year’s All-Ireland final, the Rebels will feel that they can be in the shake up again at the business end of the season.

As for Waterford, it looks like the side are in a period of transition. That side there is nothing like the sight of Cork’s red jersey to bring out the best in the Déise. We have seen that more often than not in the past decade.

After last year’s defeat to Clare in the September decider, Cork’s deficiencies in defence were highlighted. According to RTÉ pundit Michael Duignan, the team selected to face Waterford has gone a long way to rectifying weaknesses in key areas.

He told RTÉ Sport: “Cork were only a puck of a ball from winning the All-Ireland last year, but the big criticism would have been down the middle of their defence.

"Clare walked through them in the All-Ireland final replay and scored five goals. Now you have Damien Cahalane at three, Mark Ellis at six and Lorcán McLoughlin, who was outstanding at midfield last year, gone to wing-back. They really have beefed up their back line."

Duignan is clearly impressed with Cork’s attacking threat and for him one player really catches the eye.

“Cork’s full-forward line was really on fire last year. Séamus Harnedy was the find of the year and Pat Horgan was arguably hurler of the year.

“Conor Lehane is probably the player I’m most looking forward to seeing in the season ahead. He was excellent in 2013 and then for his club he almost single-handedly won the county title for Midleton.

"He scored 2-10 in the county final; that hadn’t been done since Christy Ring’s time. All told, there is a serious amount of talent in the Cork forward line.”

The Rebels are favourites to advance to a semi-final meeting with Clare. Duignan goes along with that assertion, and while he thinks that Waterford will be competitive, the injuries to key players and the pressure on the youngster coming in make the task in Thurles that bit more difficult.

He added: "I wouldn’t think it’s a cakewalk for Cork. Waterford’s record against Cork particularly over the last twenty years has been very good in Thurles.

"That said, injuries [and suspensions] to key players have affected their plans. Shane O’Sullivan, Maurice Shanahan, Philip O’Mahony, Shane Fives and Stephen Molumphy are all players, who if fit, would be starting on Sunday.

"The pressure will be on newcomers - Tadhg de Búrca, Barry Coughlan, Colin Dunford, and Austin Gleeson.

"There is a lot of experience in the Waterford team, but the newcomers are very young. It’s the in-between lads, those that are out injured, that are crucial to the side.

“Clare came last year with a young team, but for Waterford I think it’s too many changes at the start of the year. However, I expect them to play very well in what will be fast, open game in Thurles. It will be high scoring, but Cork should come out on top.”

Watch live Television coverage of the Munster SHC Cork v Waterford (Throw-in 4.0pm) (Sunday 25 May, RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie, 1.30). 

Listen to live Radio coverage of Cork v Waterford (Sunday 25 May, RTÉ Radio 1 and RTÉ.ie, 2.00pm) 

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