In hurling, you can counteract an opponent’s height. Or their size. But the one thing that can cause you real bother is pace. And Cork have it in abundance.
Jack O’Connor has real pace. Robbie O’Flynn, Shane Kingston and Conor Cahalane can burn you. Alan Cadogan and Alan Cadogan add speed off the bench. Cork have threats all across their attack,
The Rebels were not at their best against Dublin on Saturday night, but they did not need to be at their best.
After Tim O’Mahony’s goal, Dublin heads dropped a bit. You just wondered whether there was enough belief in Mattie Kenny’s team that they could actually win the game.
The Sky Blues won plenty of possession, and didn’t make good use of it. Some of the wides that they had were demoralising. They were the type of chances they needed to take.
Even though Kieran Kingston was unhappy about the third quarter, his team found the answers when Dublin came back at them.
The Lee-siders did what they had to do, but that performance will not be good enough to beat Kilkenny on Sunday.
The way Kilkenny play hurling, they make every single ball a real contest.
The last time these sides met in the 2019 All-Ireland quarter-final, I really fancied Cork.
But Kilkenny battened down the hatches. They stationed their midfielders and half-backs across the middle and said ‘if you want to break us down, good luck with that’.
Patrick Horgan was fantastic on the day, but it was a game that was played on the Cats’ terms.
For Cork to succeed with their running game, they are going to need possession. And that is going to be the issue. Can they win enough ball to impose their style on Kilkenny, by getting the sliotar into their forwards in space?
Brian Cody has had Cork’s number down through the years. He will be licking his lips, devising a way to slow down this Rebel attack.
The men in black and amber will be tough and aggressive in the tackle, and will look to dictate the terms of engagement, just like in 2019.
If Kilkenny are allowed as much of the ball as Dublin were in Thurles, TJ Reid and Co will make them pay. They will not be as wasteful as the Dubs.
And despite some good showings so far this year, there are still question marks over the Cork defence. Rob Downey has not yet encountered a player like Reid. Walter Walsh could also switch in to full-forward.
The Kilkenny forwards will ask real questions.
But there are still doubts over the Nore-siders’ form-lines. They retained the Bob O’Keeffe Cup, but how greatly were they tested?
They edged by Wexford, but the Model County could have been beaten by Clare by a far greater margin than three points.
They then allowed a heavily depleted Dublin to stay in the game for far longer than they should have.
So it is hard to get a read on Kilkenny. We will see their true colours this Sunday.
You could argue that Cork have a higher ceiling than the Cats, and have more weapons to trouble Waterford or Limerick in the All-Ireland final.
They will be ready for what Kilkenny will throw at them.
A lot of games have been hard to call in recent weeks, and this one is similar. But I am going to go for Cork.
I wrote last week that this team is made for Croke Park. Now that they have reached Jones’ Road, they will be looking to exploit the fast surface and use it to their advantage.
If their full-back line can step up and deliver a big performance, then I fancy them to reach the All-Ireland final for the first time since 2013.
Watch Kilkenny vs Cork live on Sky Sports Arena from 2:30pm Sunday.
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