Wednesday 20 September 2017

Cyril Farrell: Tipp gave Cork room to dance - Déise will stand on their toes

Hungry Waterford will be tighter and more aggressive as they look to test Rebels’ suspect defence

Mark Ellis (left), getting to grips with Sean Curran the last day, hurled a lot of ball against Tipperary but will need to be more vigilant against Waterford. Photo: Sportsfile
Mark Ellis (left), getting to grips with Sean Curran the last day, hurled a lot of ball against Tipperary but will need to be more vigilant against Waterford. Photo: Sportsfile

Cyril Farrell

Interesting times on planet hurling. You don't find Kilkenny and Tipperary tip-toeing around to the back door very often, and certainly not before mid-June.

Of course, the other counties won't admit it publicly, but they are delighted by the unexpected turn of events. The two biggest beasts have been wounded, with the full extent of their injuries unknown at this stage.

I would advise caution before going too close to either of them. They might be bleeding but many a world title has been won by a boxer who sustained a cut along the way. And many a title was lost by a boxer who hadn't a glove laid on him in the early rounds.

Tipperary and Kilkenny are patching up the cuts and will be ready to go again in the qualifiers. The first round comes a day before the Leinster final, which in all probability will feature Wexford against Galway.

Disintegrated

The following week brings Munster final day, where I expect to see Clare face Waterford.

The last we saw of Waterford was when they disintegrated against Galway in the League quarter-final in early April, losing a 10-point lead in the second half.

Conspiracy theorists claim they were happy to exit the League at that stage, allowing them a long, quiet run-in to a date that has been ringed on their calendars since last October.

I don't believe a word of it. Granted, they may not have targeted the League to the same degree as in the previous two years but can anybody seriously suggest that Derek McGrath was happy to see his team crushed in the final quarter?

Sport is not like the water mains - no taps are fitted. You can't turn on and off at will. The big defeat by Galway left Waterford exiting the spring campaign on a low.

Cork lost to Limerick on the same day but have since enjoyed the biggest possible confidence-booster by beating Tipperary.

It was a fabulous victory but, despite that, there seems to be a lack of trust in them, certainly outside Cork. If Tipp had won, they would have been short odds-on favourites to win tomorrow, whereas Cork are 13/8.

It's a generous price. Tipp were short of their best in the first round but credit must go to Cork for the clever manner they exploited that drop-off from the All-Ireland champions.

Anthony Nash's precision puck-outs caused Tipp a problem they never came close to sorting out.

Conor Lehane, Shane Kingston, Luke Meade, Mark Coleman and Darragh Fitzgibbon thrived in the open spaces that remained available all day.

You can be sure of one thing tomorrow: Nash will find it a lot harder to ping his targets off the puck-outs.

Waterford will push up to stop him going short and when he goes longer, he will be firing into very crowded territory. There were times when the Cork-Tipp game looked like an exhibition match, with scores flying over from all angles and distances. Waterford won't allow that to happen tomorrow.

If you give Cork room to dance, they'll dance, so you can expect Waterford to step on their toes at every opportunity.

Under McGrath, Waterford have been good at blocking channels and making life very difficult for the opposition. With the exception of last year's Munster final, that approach has functioned consistently, taking Waterford very close to the top.

However, it hasn't quite got them there, so we're all curious to see if any modifications have been added. Teams that use a particular strategy as a starting point need to keep evolving all the time because opposition wise up.

That's why it will be so interesting to see if McGrath has come up with anything different. With the exception of their ill-fated use of a sweeper against Tipp last year, Cork adopt a more orthodox approach.

The problem with that for a few years was that their defence weren't good enough. And while a win covers a multitude, there are still question marks over Cork's security arrangements.

Mark Ellis got a lot of praise after the Tipp game - and in fairness he was on the ball a lot - but Michael Breen still scored six points from play. I'd prefer my centre-back to hardly touch the ball but make sure the centre-forward touched it even less.

Tipp scored 1-26 and missed a few goals chances so all isn't as tight in the Cork defence as might appear to be the case.

In terms of need, Waterford's is much greater. They reached the Munster finals and All-Ireland semi-finals for the last two years and while they didn't get past Tipp or Kilkenny, they could claim to be third in line.

Defeat tomorrow would drop them down the rankings. Not only that, it would leave them in the company of Tipp and Kilkenny sooner rather than later.

Cork aren't as advanced in their development and could cope better with a setback. Chances are they will have to do that.

Irish Independent

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