Richie Power: 'There will have been a lot of soul searching in Kilkenny this week'
Knowing the Kilkenny mentality more than most, Richie Power believes there was a lot of "soul searching" on the Noreside this week and he expects the reigning All-Ireland champions to make amends in tonight's replay.
With several marquee players off colour against Waterford in last Sunday's epic draw, Power feels the brooding Cats have what it takes to get the job done at the second time of asking and senses that the Déise may have let their opportunity slip.
Walter Walsh's late goal and Conor Fogarty's long-range point secured an unlikely draw for Brian Cody's side and the retired Cats forward envisages a totally different proposition tonight.
"Waterford will definitely have been the most disappointed team after how they hurled and putting themselves in the position that they did with 15 minutes to go, I'd say they'll be kicking themselves that they didn't finish it out," he told Independent.ie.
"After the way Kilkenny hurled I'm sure all the lads wanted to do was get off the field into the dressing room, back to the hotel, get a bit of grub and start thinking about today.
"A lot of them will have done a lot of soul searching over the week, knowing that there's a lot of improvement in them and they're hoping to unlock that improvement.
"A lot of other teams would probably have crumbled and rolled over with 15 or 20 minutes to go but Kilkenny just seem to have that attribute where they're never beaten until the final whistle is blown."
The 30-year-old, who was forced to retire earlier this year due a long-standing knee injury, was itching to get into the action with 15 minutes to go last week but is adapting to his role as spectator and following the fortunes of his younger brother John.
The Carrickshock clubman details a quiet training week with the focus on ice baths, hydration, nutrition and getting the mentally ready "to go to war again" and feels there might be "more improvement in Kilkenny".
Cody has only lost one replay in his 18 seasons with the Cats and Power believes his job will have been made easier over the past six days with players eager to right some wrongs and deliver a performance against a rising Déise side.
"The players will know themselves that it wasn't good enough but what Brian will try and do is try unlock that improvement. Of course he'll look for a response, a reaction to how the game went last Sunday," he says
"Because being honest about it, Kilkenny were bullied. Waterford were let do it and it's not very often you'd see a Kilkenny team bullied like that but I certainly think you'll see a different Kilkenny team Saturday night. I think the leaders will really stand up.
"Physically I think it would have taken an awful lot out of Waterford to get that performance but Derek McGrath knows exactly how to manage these guys, he'll have them well up and they proved last Sunday that they're as good as anyone in the country."
Much has been made of Cody naming an unchanged side with many calling their strength in depth into question but while Power feels he places great faith in his starting team, he feels he's also well "capable of pulling rabbits from the hat".
"Kilkenny have a good panel but there's probably a good few boys on the bench that don't have a lot of championship experience so was it the right time to spring one of them from the bench with 10 or 15 minutes to go? I don't think so," he says.
"In the heat of battle, championship hurling, an All-Ireland semi-final, I just don't think it's the right place to blood someone but it could happen tonight that he bloods one or two of them.
"You just don't know with Brian, he's done it in the past so don't be one bit surprised if it does happen. The panel is still as strong as ever but Brian has faith in the guys that are on the field to do the job.
"Guys that were probably quiet enough in the game came up trumps in the end setting up the goal and you just have to have complete faith in the 15 you pick and then there's three or four boys chomping at the bit to get in."
All eyes will be set on Semple Stadium at 6.45 tonight with another thriller expected.