SportGAA

The big two in Munster football enter the Championship

GAABy Sean McGoldrick
Kieran Donaghy and Michael Shields return to action on Sunday
Kieran Donaghy and Michael Shields return to action on Sunday

Cork and Kerry begin their 2015 assault on Sam

Kerry v Tipperary, Thurles, 3.30.

Think about this for a second! Despite missing eight of last year’s All-Ireland winning team there are only two players starting today for Kerry - Jonathan Lyne and Mark Griffin who haven’t previously seen action in an All-Ireland final!

All eyes will be on Colm Cooper, back for his first competitive match for Kerry since the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Dublin.

Eamon Fitzmaurice’s side are under more pressure than they were a year ago when expectations were low in the county. Now, of course, they’re the defending All-Ireland title holders.

Any remote likelihood of them treating this game with disdain disappeared when Tipperary trounced Waterford in the quarter final. Tipperary football is on a roll and Peter Creedon’s side has ambitions of reaching the All-Ireland quarter finals.

Last year they were within touching distance of beating Cork but blinked at the business end of the game and missed a great chance of pulling of a famous win.

Tipperary held Kerry goalless and lost by just six points when they last clashed in the championship in Thurles. This will be the starting point for them this afternoon.  The Tipp full back line can expect an aerial bombardment in the first quarter as Kieran Donaghy bids to celebrate his captaincy with an early goal.

Tipp’s fate will hinge on the match fitness of their brilliant U-21 player Colin O’Riordan.

But even if the home side can keep tabs on the visitors, at the business end of the contest Fitzmaurice will be able to send players such as James O’Donoghue, Donnchadh Walsh, Darran O’Sullivan and Aidan O’Mahony into battle which will surely swing the tie in favour of Kerry who haven’t lost to Tipperary in the championship since 1928.

Verdict: Kerry

Cork v Clare, Pairc Ui Rinn, 3.30

Cork GAA badly needs a pick me up right now. Mind you, given the disastrous defeats the Rebel footballers have endured in three of their last four major assignments, a win today is unlikely to overwhelm the sceptical Cork public.

Clare is seeking only their second win over Cork in the provincial series – they famously beat them in 1997 with a late, late goal from Martin Daly. They have the advantage of a championship win under their belts – they laboured to a two-point win over Limerick.

They have since lost the services of dual player Podge Collins – sidelined for the year with a severed cruciate ligament – while Cork welcome former midfield ace Alan O’Connor who has come out of retirement.

Cork’s confidence is wafer-thin but it is unlikely that a team that failed to win challenge for promotion from Division 3 will test them.

Verdict: Cork.