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Friday, 14 December, 2018

Cork's lack of goals could prove fatal as champions make return

Sligo could struggle to cope with O'Connor brothers

Seamus Callanan (left) is the spearhead of Tipperary's attack
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Hurling: Tipperary v Cork
RTE2 4pm Sunday

Tipperary conceded a total of only 1-32 on the way to winning last year's Munster championship, an average of 11.66 points per game, yet you can back Cork to score 21 or fewer points in today's provincial opener at 5-6 with Paddy Power. That is far too tempting to resist. 

These sides met at the same stage in 2016 where Cork managed to score only 0-13. Even allowing for their improved displays during the league this spring, it is hard to see where the Rebels are going to get nine extra points from.

Indeed, they didn't even reach 22 points when they exited the qualifiers in round two at the hands of a poor Wexford outfit. They only got 1-17 then.

Cork won three of their five outings in Division 1A, but they only found the net twice. They accumulated 2-97 in those five games, an average of 20.6 points per game.

Supporters of the Rebel County will point to the fact that their side edged out Tipperary in round five of the league but the All-Ireland champions had safely secured their slot in the knockout stages by then.

Having toppled Tipperary, Cork must have gone into the Division 1 quarter-final brimming with confidence but they could not contain Limerick. More misery looks in store.

Cork boss Kieran Kingston has named his son Shane in the starting line-up and he is one of five championship newcomers. Mark Coleman, Colm Spillane, Darragh Fitzgibbon and Luke Meade are the others to get the call-up from Kingston and is it a mammoth task for them against the All-Ireland champions.

Tipperary conceded a massive 3-21 in their landslide league final loss to Galway and Michael Ryan will have done a lot of work on their defensive game over the last few weeks.

The big plus for Tipperary is the return of Seamus Callanan, who has recovered from a broken thumb in time to take his place at full-forward. With John McGrath and Bubbles O'Dwyer either side of him it is hard to see how Cork can come out on top.

This should prove to be a straightforward assignment for Tipperary. A small wager on Tipperary keeping a clean sheet could also pay.

Cork under 21.5 points
4pts 5-6 Paddy Power
No Cork goal
1pt 3-1 Paddy Power


Sligo struggled to shake off New York in a low-key start to the All-Ireland football championship earlier this month and it is hard to see them staying in touch with Mayo in their Connacht clash at Castlebar.

Mayo once again begin a campaign after a gut-wrenching All-Ireland final loss, this time after a replay. Their character will again be called into question and, while last season they went the scenic route through the qualifiers, expect Stephen Rochford to have his charges primed to go well in the provicial race this time.

Mayo were unpredictable in the league but they fended off Tyrone at a time when a relegation dogfight was on the cards and they were operating at a far higher level than Sligo, who finished fourth in Division 3 and conceded 8-89 in their seven outings.

Although the layers seems to have got the handicap spread about right, they may have underestimated Mayo's goal threat. You can back the home side to score three goals or more at 7-2 with BoyleSports and that looks generous given how many chances they are likely to create.

While Cillian O'Connor will always be Mayo's main man, his younger brother Diarmuid could enjoy a terrific campaign now that he is injury-free. He was dogged by niggling problems last season but expect him to express himself properly this term and he could cause Sligo all sorts of problems. His pace and guile is always a joy to watch and a nibble at 9-1 in the man-of-the-match market is advised.

Laois look like a team in decline and they could fall at the very first hurdle in Leinster, despite having home advantage in O'Connor Park.

When Longford visited Laois in the league, the home side came out on top on a scoreline of 1-13 to 0-13 but they needed nine points from Donie Kingston to do so and the final scoreline was not a fair reflection of the game.

Laois ended up getting relegation to Division 4, finishing rock-bottom of the third tier after conceding a massive 9-103 along the way. They look in turmoil and should not be such strong favourites for their Leinster opener with Longford.

Their opponents finished two places ahead of them in Division 3 and have far more to look forward to this summer. Backing Longford to win by two points or more on the alternative handicap looks great value.

Donegal should advance to the semi-final of the Ulster championship but expect them to suffer a few scares along the way and Antrim appeal with a nine-point start.

Mayo over 2.5 goals
2pts 7-2 Paddy Power
Diarmuid O'Connor man of the match in Mayo v Sligo
1pt 9-1 BoyleSports
Longford -1
2pts 11-4 Paddy Power
Antrim +9
2pts Evs Ladbrokes, Coral, Betway

These sides met at the same stage in 2016 when Cork managed to score only 0-13
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