Wednesday 28 September 2016

Cyril Farrell: It will be Déise's day if they roll the dice and go for broke

Cyril Farrell

Published 08/08/2015 | 02:30

Richie Hogan
Richie Hogan

Those of us who are old enough to remember Arkle in his pomp will recall that there was a limit to the amount of weight that even the greatest steeplechaser of all time could give away to rivals.

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In the 1966 Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury, the then triple Cheltenham Gold Cup winner was caught on the run-in by a horse call Stalbridge Colonist, who was carrying two-and-a-half stone less.

Weight and circumstances had beaten the great one. Carrying actual weight won't be an issue in Croke Park tomorrow, but I wonder if Kilkenny - the undoubted Arkle of hurling - are about to discover that not even they can continue to overcome all obstacles.

Injuries and retirements are testing Kilkenny's resources and while they improvised as only they can to win Leinster quite comfortably, they have since lost Jackie Tyrrell, one of the best corner-backs ever to play hurling. He is a huge loss.

With JJ Delaney retired, it changes Kilkenny's defensive dynamic, and with various others carrying niggles, this is Waterford's big chance.

Proviso

In fact, I think they will win, but there's one very large proviso attached. They have got to be more adventurous and more gung-ho.

Backing on to the ropes and taking what Kilkenny have to offer won't get them anywhere.

I'm not suggesting that they deviate completely from the structure that has underpinned their spectacular rise this year, but it needs to be accompanied by a more bullish approach.

Based on how Waterford have set up so far, it's reasonable for the Cats to assume that they will again face a packed middle-third and a fairly sparse area close to their goal.

Kilkenny will counter that by dropping the various lines - rather than individuals - back in unison.

If I were Derek McGrath, I'd go for broke. Push a few extra bodies closer to the Kilkenny goal. Try and set the agenda. Present Kilkenny with a different challenge.

Conservatism won't beat the Cats. Waterford stuck to their game-plan against Tipperary in the Munster final, even when it was obvious that they weren't going to win the game via points alone in the closing 10 minutes.

They needed a goal, but it was very unlikely to come with the system they were playing.

In fairness to McGrath, you could understand what he was at. If the Deise had really gone for it and the goal still hadn't come, they might have been caught at the other end and finished up with a much bigger defeat than five points.

That would have a deflating affect, whereas instead they emerged with their confidence intact and ready to go again, which they did successfully against Dublin in the quarter-final.

Tomorrow is different. It's about keeping the season alive, winning a place in the All-Ireland final - a target which seemed way beyond Waterford's reach in February.

Whatever happens, the season will be a success for Waterford and they can look forward to exciting times over the coming years. So, having banked that large deposit, why not really go for it?

McGrath has a great balance to the team, with the older lads like 'Brick' Walsh and Kevin Moran providing invaluable leadership to the fine young talents around them.

These lads have no fear of Kilkenny. They have grown up as winners so they think like winners, which wasn't always the case with past Waterford teams.

It's all about balance for them now.

Obviously, they need to be tight and secure early on - no team is better than Kilkenny at hitting opposition for something like 2-3 in 10 minutes - but they must also raise questions of the Cats' defence, not just from the middle third, but also closer in.

A lot of Waterford scores in the Championship have come from Maurice Shanahan frees, which resulted from him - and several others - running at defenders.

That's hard to handle, but if anyone can deal with it, Kilkenny can. That's why Waterford need to have another string to their bow.

Rare

If Kilkenny are to be caught, the All-Ireland semi-final is the time to do it. Losing in Leinster - admittedly a rare experience - allows them to regroup, as they did so successfully in 2012.

And in seasons when they win Leinster, you generally find that there's a big improvement between the All-Ireland semi-final and final.

The thing about Kilkenny is that they know how to win, whatever the circumstances.

Limerick had enough chances to beat them in last year's semi-final and seemed at one stage as if they were on their way to doing it, but the Cats found the goal when they needed it.

They have been doing that for years, which is why they are the most amazing force the game has ever seen.

Still, as Arkle discovered all those years ago, there's always a day when the weight is too much.

I just have a feeling that Tyrrell's absence may have added that extra lead. It could be Waterford's day.

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