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Kerry make five changes for rematch against fancied Cork in Munster Under-20 football final

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Tomás Ó Sé’s side put their provincial title on the line against a Cork team they beat by 1-12 to 0-11 in Phase 2 Round 2 in Pairc Ui Chaoimh two weeks ago

With wins over Clare and Cork behind them, the Kerry management felt they could make a few changes for the visit of Tipperary to Austin Stack Park last week, but with a Munster title defence on the line – and exit from the Championship for the loser – Kerry are taking no chances for this rematch against Cork.

Dara O’Callaghan comes back into the full back line, while Eddie Healy is restored to midfield, with Ryan Diggin and Cathal Brosnan, respectively, dropping to the bench.

There are three changes to the attack, with Luke Crowley, Aidan Crowley and Cormac Dillon recalled, while Fionn Murphy, Ian O’Sullivan and Paddy Lane lose out and are named among the substitutes.

There are also some positional switches, with Cian Lynch and Darragh O’Connor swapping places in the half back line, with the latter now named at no.6. Tomás Kennedy moves out to the half forward line to accommodate an entire new full forward line of Cormac Dillon and the two Crowleys, with Luke having played for the Kerry hurlers against Down last Sunday.

While understandably encouraged by three victories in successive weeks, Kerry will face the severest test of their credentials when Cork arrive in Austin Stack Park for this eagerly-awaited rematch.

Ó Sé’s charges lowered the Rebels’ colours at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in the group stages, but the An Ghaeltacht man is aware that the four-point victory a fortnight ago won’t mean a whole lot when Ray O’Mahony’s side seek revenge in Tralee.

Indeed, judging by both outfits’ most recent outings, Cork have their confidence rejuvenated by a comprehensive humbling of Clare, 5-18 to 0-13, while the Kerry boss appreciates that any repeat of the laboured win over Tipperary, 1-15 to 1-10, will not bode well for Kingdom prospects.

“Tipperary were always going to make it tough for us. The bottom line is what we threw up out there won’t be good enough next week. We’re after talking to the players, we wanted to focus on certain areas, and it didn’t happen,” he said.

“There are three or four areas that we went after in this game, and I would be disappointed with all of them, and that’s the bottom line. You can talk about Tipperary all you like but you have to control what you go after yourselves from the start.

“Cork had a huge win [over Clare[, and they will be coming to Tralee for one purpose, and one purpose only. If we play the same way as we did tonight, then the cup will be going over the border.”

There was a sense from the first meeting between the rivals that Cork were holding some of their aces back. The prodigious Dara Sheedy only came off the bench, as did Ross Corkery, while key midfielder Rory O’Shaughnessy was an absentee through injury.

With O’Mahony making several alterations to the line-up against the Banner county, the Rebels appear to be moving closer to their optimum line-up, although the promising Bryan Hayes was missing. Their full-forward line, of Sheedy, Corkery, and Ed Myers, combined for 3-9, in a statement of intent.

“I’ve said it before the Cork game that they’re an outstanding team, with a very dangerous line. I don’t know was it 3-6 or 3-7, even more, which came from their full-forward line again tonight. They have players that can hurt you all over the field,” added Ó Sé.

“If you back off them, if you give them space, if you give them time to kick ball in, they will do damage. Every single ball that goes in, even in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, they could have got a couple of goals, and would have really dented us.

“We have defensively done well all year, even though I was very disappointed with the Tipp goal at the end, but all year we have kept teams low. It’s about tagging on enough scores on the other side. That’s what it will boil down to next week, what we score and what we concede.”

That Daithí Hogan goal for Tipperary was the only green flag conceded by Kerry in their three matches to date, with Michael Tansley impressing between the sticks, in front of a defence that has had consistent performers in Gearoid Evans, Charlie Keating, Cian Lynch and Darragh O’Connor.

Eddie Healy, who, along with Cormac Dillon and Luke Crowley, had to be introduced last week to wake Kerry from their slumber, has been a modicum of solidity around the middle of the park, and his partnership with captain Rob Stack will be crucial.

Up front, Dillon is on fire (1-16 recorded so far), while Luke Crowley is the undoubted source of unpredictable attacking sorcery that this side requires. Tomás Kennedy is also proving to be a dependable focal point, but it’s clear that other individuals are going to have to step up on the scoring front.

“This current crop are as honest as the day is long. We’re trying to work with them as best we can. A direct style of play suits them but, on the other hand, it’s the direct play that hurts them as well. It’s trying to find the balance,” stressed Ó Sé.

“Our full focus in this competition was going from game to game. It’s very simple now, there is straight knock-out championship next week. It’s against Cork, and it’s here [in Austin Stack Park], and that’s the way you’d want to have it.

“There is good experience inside in the dressing-room. If you go back to last year, we gave a middling performance against a very good Clare team, and there were an awful lot of people down on top of us, and a lot of people not expecting us to do much down in Cork.

“There was great character in the team that night. You would hope that something like that could happen the next night, and all we can do is prepare the best we can, and see what happens,” added the Kerry boss, who has injury doubts over Dara O’Callaghan and John Kelliher.

Cork have their own attacking talisman in Newmarket’s Hugh O’Connor (2-13 so far), with Myers and Sheedy other serious threats to Kerry’s chances of retaining their provincial crown. The likes of Cian and Maidhcí Lynch, and Evans, look probable candidates for those individual duels.

O’Shaughnessy and Michael McSweeney will come face-to-face with Stack and Healy at midfield, while the Rebels will need to have plans made to deal with the Kingdom forwards, in particular Dillon and Crowley. Dan Twomey, David Buckley and Colin Molloy will be determined to allow little lee-way.

When all is said and done, in the underage grades, it is difficult for either Kerry or Cork to record back-to-back victories over each other in the same season. If the Rebels had drawn first blood two weeks ago, you would have fancied an effective Kingdom response.

The pendulum, and extra sense of motivation, has now swung. In what could be a nail-biting cracker, the visitors might just nick it.

VERDICT: Cork

Kerry team to play Cork: Michael Tansley; Maidhcí Lynch, Dara O’Callaghan, Gearóid Evans; Charlie Keating, Darragh O’Connor, Cian Lynch; Robert Stack, Eddie Healy; Daniel Kirby, Odhran Ferris, Tomás Kennedy; Luke Crowley, Aidan Crowley, Cormac Dillon.

Subs: James Hoare, Ryan Diggin, Ian O’Sullivan, Adam Segal, Paddy Lane, Evan Boyle, Fionn Murphy, Cathal Brosnan, Shane Evans.

MUNSTER UNDER-20 FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL

Kerry v Cork

Wednesday, May 1

Austin Stack Park, Tralee at 7.30pm

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