Sunday’s meeting between Cork and Down has the potential to be a thrilling encounter. It’s an unlikely pairing for this year’s final, as few would have predicted that Down would make it as far as the decider. But after an impressive league campaign, James McCartan’s side have only suffered one championship defeat which was at the hands of Tyrone in the Ulster semi – final. Since then they have produced some fine team performances throughout the championship and are worthy finalists. With a perfect record in All–Ireland Finals they will provide a stern test for an experienced Cork team. On the other hand, Cork started the year as many people’s favourites for the All Ireland. However, they have failed to ignite and haven’t shown any signs of the form which took them to last year’s final, although on route to this year’s final they have proved to have too much strength, depth and experience for their opponents. They go into Sunday’s game as favourites and with a lot of people of the opinion that it’s now or never for this team.
With Down the in-form side, Cork will need to be more clinical in front of goals than they have been in previous games, and will be looking to Donncha O’Connor and Daniel Goulding to lead the charge. The Down defence has yet to be really tested and how they cope with Corks pace and size will have a massive bearing on the outcome. Down will need big performances from Dan Gordon and Kevin McKernan if they are to prevail.
Up front Down have the quality to cause a lot of problems for Cork. Marty Clarke, Benny Coulter and Danny Hughes have been fantastic throughout the championship. It will be interesting to see who Conor Counihan matches up with Clarke, as he makes Down click and is top scorer for the Mourne men.
As always midfield will be key on Sunday. Ambrose Rogers is unlikely to feature, so Down will be looking for another big performance from his young replacement Peter Fitzpatrick. Cork haven’t really settled on a midfield pairing this year and have been using Nicholas Murphy as an impact substitute to great effect.
Overall Cork are the more experienced side and should have too much attacking power for this Down side who are new to the scene.
Down SFC (v Cork): B McVeigh; D McCartan, D Gordon, D Rafferty; D Rooney, K McKernan, C Garvey; P Fitzpatrick, K King; D Hughes, M Poland, B Coulter; P McComiskey, J Clarke, M Clarke.
CORK (SFC v Down): 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.