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All Ireland Football Championship: Cork manager Conor Counihan begins Down homework

Cork manager Conor Counihan had not quite expected that Down would be his side’s opponents in next month’s All-Ireland football final.

Indeed, Counihan had not ruled out the possibility of yet another confrontation with neighbours Kerry in the decider.

The sides met in last year’s final when the Kingdom won and they repeated their success over the Leesiders in this year’s Munster Championship final.

But Down’s defeat of Kerry in the quarter-finals and their semi-final eclipse of Kildare has forced Counihan to assess them from a fresh perspective.

“I think Down have taken a leaf from the books of Armagh and Tyrone. Ulster sides have figured in several All-Ireland finals since 2000 with considerable success and I have no doubt that Down will wish to continue this trend,” says Counihan.

Both Down and Cork will have to wear different colours for the final as both normally play in red shirts.

The Central Competitions Control Committee will meet to decide on this and it may well be that the teams will play in the colours of their respective provinces.

It will be the first time since the famous 1982 final between Offaly and Kerry that both the finalists will be forced to wear alternative strips. When Down and Cork met in the 1994 All-Ireland semi-final, Down wore a gold and black strip, while Cork played in white.

Yet on three occasions when Kerry and Mayo met in finals recently — 1997, 2004, '06 — Croke Park were happy to let both counties wear their traditional green strip despite the clash of colours.

In the meantime, Cork boss Counihan, one of the most thorough county team managers and known for compiling extensive dossiers on opponents, is already busily engaged in collating further information on Down to assist his team’s preparations for the final.

“Ulster sides are known for their defensive resilience and can be hard to play against,” insists Counihan.

“While we have confidence in our own ability nevertheless we would be extremely foolish to underestimate Down’s attributes. They have improved with every game they have played.”

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