Five key match-up's between Cork and Kilkenny
By Matthew Hurley
Kilkenny and Cork do battle on Sunday for the first time since the 2019 All Ireland Quarter Final.
The question on many people’s lips will be whether the young Cork forwards can live with the strength of the Kilkenny backs by imposing their renowned running game.
Others will question whether Kilkenny get the upper hand by using their key men, TJ Reid, Eoin Cody and Padraig Walsh to win the key battles and ultimately the game?
All will be revealed on Sunday, here’s 5 key battles to keep an eye out for in this mouth-watering game.
1.Patrick Horgan v Huw Lawlor
Probably the most intriguing battle of the weekend of hurling, never mind this game.
Horgan has been Cork’s leading man for years now while Lawlor has arguably been Hurler of the Year so far.
Given that Horgan scored 3-11 in the last meeting between the sides, this will be a huge battle for the Kilkenny full back to win.
Kilkenny will certainly have to keep tabs on all the Cork forwards this time around to win, but if Lawlor can do his job by keeping Horgan pretty much out of the game, the Cats will go a long way in beating the Rebels.
If Horgan can capture that 2019 form however, it could be a hard afternoon for the Kilkenny backs.
2.TJ Reid v Robert Downey
Much like down the other end, Downey will need to be at the top of his game to counteract the brilliance of TJ.
The Kilkenny marksman has scored 1-26 so far in 2 games and will be hard to mark no doubt.
Downey put in a man of the match performance last week against Dublin however, and if he puts in the same kind of display, he’ll go a long way in trying to stop Reid.
This will be a completely different game for the Cork full back though, given the player he is tasked with.
This youth v experience battle should be interesting come Sunday.
3.Seamus Harnedy v Padraig Walsh
Unlike the previous matchup, this is very much two experienced players going to war.
Harnedy has been great at linking up play for the Rebels so far, while Walsh is an ever-reliable head amongst the Kilkenny backs.
Both players were arguably their sides’ best players in the 2020 championship too, when the two respective counties were having poor years.
One of these players could not only win this battle, but get Man of the Match and be a matchwinner. Keep an eye out for this one.
4.Robbie O’Flynn v James Maher
These two might not be the glitz and glamor in their line-ups, but both players contribute well for their teams when the so called ‘bigger players’ don’t step up.
Maher has scored 0-5 from wing back thus far in the championship which will make it interesting to see who marks who more.
In fact, the Cork forward has scored ‘only’ 0-4 in more games than Maher.
Maher has been severely underrated this season up to now and neither Wexford nor Dublin had tabs on him.
It will be interesting to see what plan Kieran Kingston has up his sleeve to counteract his scoring threat.
5.Eoin Cody v Sean O’Donaghue
Cody has been undoubtedly one of the most promising players recently while O’Donoghue has already made some peoples teams of the season.
Taking in these bits of information makes this particular battle very exciting.
The Cork defender has been renowned for his strength so it will be fascinating to see if he can use that to his advantage and overpower young Cody.
While the strength could be a plus for the Cork man, Cody has the skill without question to overcome O’Donoghue’s power.
This classic battle of strength v skill could be one to be excited about this weekend.