Preview: Allianz Hurling League Final

by Michelle Fortune , 04 May 2012

Cork and Kilkenny will battle it out for the Allianz Hurling League Division 1A title on Sunday and as always a thrilling encounter is expected at Semple Stadium.

Jimmy Barry-Murphy has revived Cork's fortunes since taking over from Denis Walsh ahead of this season and there is every chance that it will be the Rebels who will be celebrating come Sunday evening.

Kilkenny started the year brightly but things have slowly turned with injuries not helping the Cats' cause, but this has not prevented them from reaching yet another decider and few would bet against Brian Cody's men emerging victorious at the home of hurling.

Sunday's match will be the first time the two sides have met in the hurling decider since 2002 when Kilkenny won by a point. Kilkenny went on to win the title in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2009, while they were beaten by Dublin in last year's decider.

Cork have not won a title since 1998 but they have looked strong under Barry-Murphy and they were deserving winners against Kilkenny when the sides met in the League earlier this year.

They defeated Tipperary last time but the victory came at a cost as influential goalkeeper and skipper Donal Og Cusack suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury.

Martin Coleman has been tasked with replacing Cusack between the posts, while Brian Murphy has been names at corner-back in place of Conor O'Sullivan.

Conor Lehane has been a star performer for Cork this campaign and he takes over at wing forward at the expense of Jamie Coughlan, who drops to the bench. Patrick Hogan, meanwhile, will captain the side in Cusack's absence.

Kilkenny have been hit with an injury crisis of sors with Henry Shefflin, Richie Power and Aidan Fogarty all missing from the Thurles showdown. Cody has been boosted by the news that Richie Hogan should feature for the first time since sustaining two broken ribs and a collapsed lung against Galway.

Eddie Keher has warned that Kilkenny will struggle to match Cork's scoring power but the All-Ireland champions do not like to lose and they will be fired up for the match. Cork and Kilkenny always serves up a treat and Sunday is sure to be no exception.

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