Cork’s senior footballers are in the unusual position of having a full panel to pick from for the biggest game of the season so far.
Cork face Kerry on Sunday at Páirc Uí Chaoimh as they open their 2012 championship campaign with a mouthwatering Munster SFC semi-final. While injuries played a large part in the Rebels unsatisfactory defence of their All Ireland title last year, they are at full strength ahead of the clash of Munster’s most successful counties.
Key forwards Ciarán Sheehan and former All Star Daniel Goulding have shaken off niggles and will be available for selection alongside Colm O’Neill who won the player of the spring award for his performances in the title winning league campaign.
“We’re looking okay,” says manager Conor Counihan. “Everyone is injury free and there’ll be some tough decisions to be made.”
If familiarity breeds contempt, then Counihan must truly despise the Kingdom. Cork have faced the Kingdom nine times in the heat of Championship fare during his four year tenure as Rebels boss and have won on just two occasions. They have drawn three times and lost four. Cork have of course, never beaten Kerry when it really counts – at Croke Park.
Counihan maintains that beating Kerry – and relieving them of their Munster title – is a clear incentive for his charges.
“You wonder sometimes is it a matter of ticking a number of boxes each year or doing something different because you have to take every game on its own merits. But I’m looking forward to it. Cork and Kerry have their own rivalry and everyone loves bragging rights.
“There’s also more certainty in going through the front door – and less games. We’ll have players involved with their clubs and club championships and that always carries the risk of injuries so you’d be anxious not to play any more matches than you have to.”
Counihan will name Cork’s starting XV on Thursday night while Kerry supremo Jack O’Connor will give All Star forward Bryan Sheehan as long as possible to shake off a knee injury before naming his Kingdom starting lineup.