Apr 26, 2015

@<TG4 tv >@ Dublin vs Cork live GAA Football

Sunday, April 26 Allianz Football League Division I Final Dublin v Cork, Croke Park, 4pm (Live on TG4 and GAAGO) Winning an Allianz League game in Croke Park won’t shape a team’s season, but losing one might.

Just ask Cork, who were enjoying a dream spring last year until the wheels came off their wagon spectacularly when they met Dublin in the Allianz League semi-final at HQ. Ten points up at the start of the second half, Cork self-destructed and lost by seven.

The manner of the defeat clearly left a residue because Cork’s early season swagger was gone and all the good work under new manager Brian Cuthbert was wiped out by the time the championship came around.

Cork v Dublin
Previous Allianz League Finals

2011: Cork 0-21 Dublin 2-14
1999: Cork 0-12 Dublin 1-7
1989: Cork 0-15 Dublin 0-12
1952: Cork 2-3 Dublin 1-5

In fairness, Cuthbert has been unfailingly polite and patient every time Cork’s implosion last year – the 12-point Munster final defeat to Kerry ensured it was just that – has been brought up this spring, as the Rebels have cruised through the group stages and then added Donegal to their impressive hit-list in the semi-finals.

Given what happened last year, Cork’s redemption still comes with an asterisk attached – only a major championship scalp or a big statement of intent in Croke Park on Sunday will guarantee its removal – but all the signs are that Cork have learned from their mistakes. They arrive back in HQ for the second Sunday in two weeks with a recalibrated team, recast in a manner far more suited to meeting the particular demands a team like Dublin will place on them.

In the 4-11 to 0-19 semi-final win over Dublin, the Rebels’ new approach was laid bare – half-forwards Colm and Kevin O’Driscoll drop deep and add an extra layer of cover to the defensive lines, while Mark Collins operates as a deep-lying play-maker often taking short kick-outs from Ken O’Halloran.

In their new counter-attacking system, defenders like Conor Dorman, Jamie O’Sullivan and Tomás Clancy are just as much of a threat going forward as any other player, although Brian Hurley and Colm O’Neill remain the out-and-out forwards and have scored 7-45 between them in eight games. Having scored 14 goals in the Allianz League so far, Cork carry a huge threat in that area, and the sheer number of those goals that have been palmed or fisted into the net by runners coming from deep is the clearest indication of their new style.

Dublin, seeking a third Allianz League title in a row, have met all sorts of systems under Jim Gavin and have managed to figure out a way around most, even if the blanket defence has caused him more headaches than any other to the point where the Dublin manager has employed a basketball coach in recent weeks to find a way around it. So far this year, the Dublin policy against a blanket defence has been to fight fire with fire.

Gavin, of course, has been very keen to focus on opponents’ defensive systems – he described Cork as “the most defensive Cork team I've seen” after the 1-15 to 0-16 defeat at Páirc Uí Rinn in February – and to talk up the Dubs’ own ‘philosophy’ which some will interpret as a deliberate smokescreen to hide the fact that Dublin have also used the start of this season to reconfigure and rethink their approach after their spectacular systems failure against Donegal in the All-Ireland semi-final last year.

Jim Gavin: 'The devil is in the detail'

Both managers have had their say on the matter in the media this week, and while the game will be played out on the Croke Park pitch on Sunday rather than in the newspapers, the battle to put some points on the board before the game starts in the court of public opinion is nonetheless an intriguing sideshow.

Cuthbert: Dublin are doing what they have to

While Dublin will place very little store in winning a third Allianz League title in a row – Cork were the last team to do it between 2010 and 2012 – Gavin will see it as a perfect opportunity to have one last look at his side ahead of the start of their Leinster Championship campaign against Offaly or Longford on May 31.

Brian Fenton has made a late push for a place in Gavin’s plans with superb performances in the group game against Monaghan and then again in the 0-17 to 0-16 semi-final win over the same opposition two weeks ago. Will Dublin go into the championship with rookie John Small as their first choice No. 6 or is there still a chance Cian O’Sullivan will drop back there for the summer? After a string of good performances in the early rounds of the league, is Tomás Brady worthy of a place in the Dublin attack?

Gavin will find some answers to those questions against a Cork team being talked up after their impressive semi-final win over Donegal. Cork have lost wing-back Brian O’Driscoll to a hamstring injury and Jamie O’Sullivan starts in his place, but that’s their only change from that four-point win, with Donncha O’Connor and Patrick Kelly ruled out through injury. 2010 All-Ireland winner Alan O'Connor, who confirmed his return to the squad during the week, is not named in the squad.

In the last 30 years, Cork have won 15 of the 25 competitive games the sides have played. They meet in an Allianz League final for the fifth time, Cork having won the last four – in 1952, 1989, ’99 and 2011.


CORK: Ken O’Halloran; Tom Clancy, Michael Shields, James Loughrey; Jamie O’Sullivan, Conor Dorman, Tomás Clancy; Eoin Cadogan, Fintan Goold; Kevin O’Driscoll, John O’Rourke, Colm O’Driscoll; Colm O’Neill, Mark Collins, Brian Hurley.

DUBLIN: Stephen Cluxton; Philip McMahon, Rory O'Carroll, Jonny Cooper; James McCarthy, Cian O'Sullivan, Jack McCaffrey; Denis Bastick, Brian Fenton; Paul Flynn, Ciarán Kilkenny, Diarmuid Connolly; Dean Rock, Kevin McManamon, Bernard Brogan.


Preview: Brian Murphy
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