Wednesday 20 September 2017

Kingston's men ready to take progressive season to the ultimate destination

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Imagine how often Derek McGrath, Kieran Kingston and their respective co-strategists will have analysed the DVD of the Waterford-Cork Munster game eight weeks ago.

A lot has happened in both camps since then, with Waterford carefully re-building their All-Ireland challenge while Cork quickened their advance by winning the Munster title.

That success has made them favourites to book an All-Ireland final date with Galway but they will be deeply conscious how history shows that championship re-matches are often very different to the first encounter. Despite having beaten Tipperary, Cork went into the Munster semi-final as outsiders, but won by five points.

Waterford suffered a collective power failure on a day typified for them by the withdrawal of Austin Gleeson in the 63rd minute.

If Cork had any doubts about whether they could go on with 14 men - corner-back, Colm Spillane had been sent off on a second yellow card a minute earlier - they would have been dispelled when they saw the 2016 Hurler of the Year leaving the action.

It was a worrying sight for Waterford supporters too as Gleeson had also been well below his best in the Allianz League. The fear in Deise-land was that he wouldn't rediscover his real form at all this year but, happily for them, that is not the case.

He has since scored 0-12 from open play in three games while looking much more like the force of nature of recent seasons.

Inevitably, McGrath's set-up was blamed for the defeat by Cork when, in reality, it was indifferent individual performances that did most of the damage.

Tactics and structures, however sophisticated, count for little if players aren't on their game. And even the most generous assessment would show that, apart from goalkeeper Stephen O'Keeffe, no Waterford player delivered at anything like full capacity against Cork. In contrast, most of them hurled well against Kilkenny and Wexford, suggesting that they are hitting form at the right time.

Cork have had a five-week wait since winning the Munster final but then so did Galway prior to last Sunday's game, yet they still beat opposition that had two games in the intervening weeks.

Calibrating the break should not be a big problem, although Munster champions don't appear to have handled it very well over the last decade.

Cork won't have entertained that sort of negative in a season where their rate of improvement has been quite remarkable. It has been based on traditional Leeside values, playing an orthodox game, high on basic skills and low on complications.

The difference this season has been in the execution, where a relatively simple game plan is carried out with high efficiency.

It starts with goalkeeper Anthony Nash whose accurately pinged puck-outs caused Waterford enormous problems last time.

It's an aspect McGrath will have studied in detail because several of Cork's 23 points originated with Nash's deliveries.

Tadhg De Burca's absence is a setback for Waterford but not necessarily a fatal one.

However, the advantage appears to rest with Cork to book an All-Ireland final date with Galway.

Irish Independent

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