THERE’S no room for leading scorer Steven Sherlock in the starting 15 in the Cork team to play Louth in their opening Group 1 All-Ireland SFC tie at Pairc Tailteann, Navan, on Saturday at 3pm.
The St Finbarr’s ace, who contributed 0-32 during the Division 2 League campaign and top-scored with 0-10 in the Munster championship quarter-final loss to Clare, has to be content with a place on the bench.
It is one of four changes from the side, which lost to the Banner County by 0-14 to 0-13 back in early April, with fit-again Brian Hurley included at full-forward and he will also captain the side.
The other alterations involve Sean Meehan taking over at centre-back from the injured Rory Maguire, Maurice Shanley dislodging Kevin O’Donovan at corner-back and Killian O’Hanlon slotting in at left half-forward with Eoghan McSweeney losing out.
There are changes on the bench, too, as Pa Doyle takes over the substitute keeper role in place of the injured Chris Kelly, O’Donovan replacing Paul Ring as Tom Clancy also returns to the panel and there’s a first appearance of the season for Blake Murphy instead of Fionn Herlihy. Hurley’s availability means Dan O Duinnin makes way.
The Castlehaven star missed the last three games, Clare in the championship and the Louth and Derry matches in the league, losing the first and drawing the second due to a shoulder injury, but his selection offers Cork a target close to goal.
Hurley’s strength and positioning under a high ball invariably ends with the ball sticking to the attacker which will benefit the likes of Chris Óg Jones as part of a likely two-man inside line and Sean Powter running from deep. Hurley will also assume the free-kicking duties, such an important aspect of all sides.
O’Hanlon’s imposing presence in the middle eight is designed to prevent a tall Louth combination featuring Tommy Durnin, Conor Early and Conor Grimes from commanding the skies in an area that’s sure to be choking with players, including Ruairi Deane on the 40.
In all, Cork name 11 of the side which started against the Leinster County in the league game in Ardee in the middle of March, when Louth won by 1-10 to 0-10 with the visitors playing the second half with 14 men.
Mattie Taylor didn’t start that day because of injury, replaced by Meehan, and the Mallow player’s dashing excursions up field will be a plus for Cork. Deane began in place of the injured Brian O’Driscoll and Conor Corbett, now held in reserve, was also in the 15.
The Rebels return to Navan for the first time since last season’s league defeat, when Meath won by eight points in a dominant display, posting a then campaign-high of 1-18 to Cork’s 1-10 with Sherlock kicking 0-5 and substitute Joe Grimes grabbing the goal after being introduced during the second half.
This will be Louth’s third appearance at the venue this term, having played Meath in the league and Westmeath in the first round of the Leinster championship, when they recovered from an eight-point half-time deficit to win by 2-10 to 1-11 in April.
It’s a much-changed Cork team from 12 months ago with only five starters remaining, keeper Micheal Aodh Martin, Taylor, Ian Maguire, Colm O’Callaghan and Hurley.
The other teams in the group, All-Ireland champions Kerry and league winners Mayo, have already played with the Connacht side pulling off a shock win in Killarney last weekend.
Next week it’s the turn of Kerry to hit the road when they travel to Páirc Uí Chaoimh to play Cork while Louth head west to Castlebar.
MA Martin (Nemo Rangers);
M Shanley (Clonakilty), D O’Mahony (Knocknagree), T Walsh (Kanturk);
L Fahy (Ballincollig), S Meehan (Kiskeam), M Taylor (Mallow);
C O’Callaghan (Éire Óg), I Maguire (St Finbarr’s);
B O’Driscoll (Tadhg MacCarthaighs), R Deane (Bantry Blues), K O’Hanlon (Kilshannig);
S Powter (Douglas), B Hurley (Castlehaven, c), C Óg Jones (Iveleary).
P Doyle (Knocknagree), K O’Donovan (Nemo Rangers), T Clancy (Clonakilty), C Kiely (Ballincollig), P Walsh (Kanturk), E McSweeney (Knocknagree), B Murphy (St Vincent’s), J O’Rourke (Carbery Rangers), M Cronin (Nemo Rangers), S Sherlock (St Finbarr’s), C Corbett (Clyda Rovers).