John Mullane says Cork are ready to “take off” and believes the Rebels are set to push on to a first All-Ireland since 2005.
“I had this feeling two years ago that Galway were going to win it. And I just have that feeling upon me that if Cork get over Kilkenny at the weekend, they can push on and win the All-Ireland,” the Waterford legend said at Independent.ie’s live broadcast of The Throw-In GAA podcast, in association with Bord Gais Energy, from the Hotel Kilkenny.
“At the start of the year I was asked to name the winner and I said it’ll be a Tipperary v Limerick final and Limerick will beat Tipp and I more or less got laughed at. But I now think one of them will get turned over.
“I think this Cork team are ready to take off, I really do. I think they’re after timing it nicely, I think they’re ready to explode and I think they’ll explode on Sunday.”
However, the five-time All-Star sounded a word of warning to the Leesiders defence in relation to free-scoring Kilkenny forward, TJ Reid.
“The question for Cork is do they have a player to tie down TJ Reid? For me, looking at that Cork back-line I don’t think they have a player capable of doing that,” he explained.
LIVE: Conor McKeon and Micheal Verney are joined JJ Delaney and John Mullane to preview Sunday’s All-Ireland Hurling…
“But the over-reliance on TJ is a problem or Kilkenny. He’s after scoring something ridiculous, 5-54 over the course of the summer. Their next down is Aidan Mullins with 1-8.
“It’ll be interesting to see how Kilkenny will set up. Will they zonal mark or man mark and follow their players all over the pitch? Midfield will be a key area, (Darragh) Fitzgibbon and Bill Cooper coming up against (Conor) Fogarty and Richie Lahey.
“I think they’ll ring the changes but I don’t know how..Cillian Buckley could be key. The last two days against Wexford, you could see he’s not fit. Is Conor Delaney going to come back? He was very good throughout the course of the league. Tommy Walsh?”
But despite the danger of Reid and regardless of set-ups, it’s up front when Mullane sees the game being won and it’s advantage Cork in that department.
“They lack pace in that back-line and the one thing Cork have is pace and they have it in abundance. If you give them any bit of space, they’re going to punish you all day long,” he concluded.
“The Cork firepower will be too much. I said at the start of the year that Cork’s biggest challenge would be to get back to Croke Park.
“I think they’re a Croke Park team albeit they’ve been a bit unlucky the last two seasons. I expect them to win by three or four points.”