Tuesday 27 September 2016

John Mullane: That Waterford performance won't be enough to beat Kilkenny

John Mullane

Published 25/07/2016 | 02:30

Referee Alan Kelly tries to seperate players from both sides. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Referee Alan Kelly tries to seperate players from both sides. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Redemption day for Waterford and Galway in Thurles. Beaten provincial finalists but back on the horse in this year's championship.

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I predicted victory for Waterford but I didn't foresee this Galway win. Both must be commended on their displays.  

In Saturday's column, I stated that leaders need to stand up for Waterford - and they did.

'Brick' Walsh led the way early on, Kevin Moran was colossal and there were big performances from Shane Fives, Tadhg de Búrca and Austin Gleeson.

The wides tally of 17 is a big worry though - 12 of those came before half-time. The injury suffered by Darragh Fives, the recurrence of his quad muscle problem, must leave him as a serious doubt ahead of the Kilkenny game on August 7 but I did mention Conor Gleeson before this game.

This fella has the temperament for inter-county hurling. He was brilliant when he came in and starting him against Kilkenny won't weaken Waterford's defence.

Clare’s Colm Galvin and Johnny Coen of Galway get to grips with each other. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Clare’s Colm Galvin and Johnny Coen of Galway get to grips with each other. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

In fact, it will make it stronger. That's how good this lad is.

I'm not going to be too hard on Wexford. They've had a terrible run with injuries and Waterford are further down the road in terms of progression and where they want to go.

I hope their defender Eoin Moore will be ok too, but that looked like a nasty injury that saw him stretchered off.

Waterford shut down Lee Chin and Conor McDonald and this went a long way towards winning the game. They were in-form but managed just three points from play between them.

Another worry I'd have for Waterford is fatigue. I could see it at certain times during the game, that flatness and lethargy creeping in. It was evident around this time last year too and it remains to be seen what effect going gung-ho for the league will have.

It certainly seemed to catch up with Clare and the two counties fought out two energy-sapping league finals, before meeting again in the Munster Championship. We'll only know how much has been drawn from Waterford's tank against Kilkenny at Croke Park.

Waterford centre-back Austin Gleeson shows his determination as he fends off the challenges of Wexford pair Matthew O’Hanlon and Diarmuid O’Keeffe during yesterday’s All-Ireland SHC quarter-final in Semple Stadium. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Waterford centre-back Austin Gleeson shows his determination as he fends off the challenges of Wexford pair Matthew O’Hanlon and Diarmuid O’Keeffe during yesterday’s All-Ireland SHC quarter-final in Semple Stadium. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Being realistic, that performance yesterday won't be good enough against the Cats, and Derek McGrath will know that. But, look, they got the job done and the response to leaking five points in a row was impressive in the second half, as Waterford hit back with six of their own. Brian O'Halloran made a big impact off the bench and helped to steady the ship.

Wexford leave the championship with their heads held high. Matthew O'Hanlon and Paudie Foley were excellent for them at the back.

Now, Waterford have a fixture to look forward to at Croke Park. It mightn't be a bad thing that nobody gives us a chance against Kilkenny. It's the opposite to the Munster final when, and I'll freely admit this, I was one of many in the county to get carried away about our prospects.

If you'd told Derek and the lads at the start of the year that they'd be preparing for an All-Ireland semi-final in August, they'd have taken that but what's really important is that the U-21s win the Munster final against Tipperary during the week.

Turning to the second game on the double-bill and you have to give great credit to Micheál Donoghue and Joe Canning - two men pilloried after Galway's Leinster final defeat.

Joe inspired Galway and we discovered that Micheál could push on and become an extremely good inter-county manager.

He got his match-ups spot on with Joe operating out around the middle of the field, and Johnny Coen moving out there too.

Adrian Tuohy was excellent and I'd love to know where they got this lad. What a hook that was on Tony Kelly! He was excellent on Podge Collins and Dáithí Burke really commanded the full-back line, with Padraic Mannion in the number six role performing an effective man-marking job on Tony Kelly.

Aidan Harte played the sweeper role well but David Burke was my man-of-the-match. I thought he was colossal and as for big Joe, well, he answered the hard questions in the second half particularly, hitting some massive frees into the breeze.

And there were times when he was back in his own full-back line near the end of the game.

Physically, Galway out-muscled Clare and had a lot more energy about them.

Their work rate was phenomenal and they were really out to prove a point - more so for themselves than to prove any doubters wrong.

They'll have to go up another gear to take on Tipp on August 14 but, as we saw last year, they won't fear the Premier County.

There was a crucial stage in yesterday's game when that Hawk-Eye score that was given to Cyril Donnellan in the 58th minute, and that was massive.

Colm Galvin was the stand-out performer for Clare with five points from play but Tony Kelly was the only one of the starting forwards who managed a point from play - and that's nowhere near good enough.

Where to now for Davy Fitzgerald? Next year would be his sixth in charge, if he stays on, but this is an amateur game after all and there's more to life than just hurling.

When you consider what Davy went through this week, your health is everything. Inter-county management is a very stressful business and this is another year that's slipped by for Clare without championship success.

There will be huge disappointment within the county, considering the personnel Clare have at their disposal.

It's hard to believe that the Clare footballers will be playing at Croke Park but the hurlers won't.

Irish Independent

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