Inspirational Cork football captain Graham Canty will start Sunday’s All-Ireland final despite his recent hamstring problems but there was an even bigger talking point when manager Conor Counihan named his team last night.
Dual star Eoin Cadogan, whose football involvement was restricted this summer because he was the county’s first-choice hurling full-back, will also start against Down.
Two days after the Cork hurlers’ All-Ireland semi-final demise to Kilkenny, the young Douglas star was back training with the county footballers.
When he was introduced at half-time in their All-Ireland semi-final defeat of Dublin it was only his second appearance of their summer football campaign.
Cadogan replaced 2009 Allstar Canty, whose hamstring injury had flared up, last time out.
“Both the hurling and football managements have been very helpful to me during this championship season and obviously I am delighted to be starting against Down,” said the 24-year-old sales executive.
“They have excellent forwards so our defence is in for a big test. I think that Martin Clarke, Benny Coulter and Danny Hughes represent a big threat to us.”
John Miskella, another of Cork’s three Allstar defenders from last year, loses out this time round while Ray Carey switches to left-full-back in the Rebels' only other change as they face into their third All-Ireland decider in three years, still chasing a first title since 1990.
A hamstring injury meant that Canty has not finished either of Cork’s last two games but he reportedly trained fully on Tuesday and again last night.
He has played only 35 minutes of football since tearing his hamstring in the All-Ireland quarter-final over Roscommon at the start of August.
After limping out of the All-Ireland semi-final win over Dublin, he has been restricted to light training.
Canty (pictured) though is known for his fierce commitment and dynamic leadership and he made his desire to play abundantly clear when Cork hosted their media night.
“I have no worries. I have been making very good progress with the injury and I’m looking forward to facing Down,” declared Canty.
Counihan has still resisted the temptation to start veteran midfielder Nicholas Murphy — a midfield starter in last year's All-Ireland final against Kerry — or full-forward threat Colm O’Neill, holding them in hand for the sort of ‘impact sub’ roles which could yet prove very vital.
Down select their team tonight and are expected to be unchanged from the side that pipped Kildare, with Peter Fitzpatrick likely to again start in place of their injured midfield captain Ambrose Rogers.
However, Rogers is expected to lead the side out at Croke Park with Coulter then assuming the responsibility of captain when the game gets under way.
And like Counihan, Down boss James McCartan is likely to keep Ronan Murtagh and Conor Maginn on his bench given the huge contributions they have made as substitutes in recent games.
“Everyone knows that championship football is now a 20-man game and that’s what we are preparing for on Sunday,” said McCartan.
While this may be the only championship meeting between Cork and Down apart from the 1994 All-Ireland SFC semi-final, Sunday's rivals have one interesting bit of 'previous'.
The Rebels snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in last year's All-Ireland U-21 football final and the fact that it was Down they beat that day certainly adds spice to the mix.
“Both teams will probably have two players each from last year's final —(Cork's) Colm O'Neill and Ciaran Sheehan and (Down's) Paul McComiskey and Peter Fitzpatrick — who will definitely be involved on Sunday,” said John Cleary, who managed the Rebels’ youngsters.
It is not the fact that they beat Down, but the dramatic last-gasp nature of the victory which makes Cleary believe that the younger players can provide some vital resilience if things get tight.
CORK: A Quirke; E Cadogan, M Shields, R Carey; N O’Leary, G Canty (Capt), P Kissane; A O’Connor, A Walsh; C Sheehan, P O’Neill, P Kelly; D Goulding, D O’Connor, P Kerrigan.