Déise stick to game-plan but sweeper system looks flawed
Published 17/02/2016 | 02:30
As you all know, I'm not one to brag but exactly this time last year, on this page, I predicted Waterford would be the surprise package of the hurling season.
I have a soft spot for the Déise and, along with many others, would love to see them lift the Liam MacCarthy some day soon. So I watched with interest their first league game of the season against Kilkenny last Sunday.
Would they make a few tweaks to their system and kick on this year? Last season they came up short against Tipperary and Kilkenny because they couldn't put enough scores on the board. Yes, they frustrated opponents with their defensive system, but at the other end, all too often, Maurice Shanahan cut an isolated figure alone up front.
Now 'I know it's only the league' but I didn't see much evidence of a change from Waterford on Sunday. They continued with their sweeper and dropped four forwards into the middle third. They packed the breaking-ball area with bodies, at times up to nine players contesting breaking ball from puck-outs.
The flipside of this was when they won the ball and put it long into their two inside forwards they were outnumbered and had to scrap for possession. I'm not saying inside forwards in the traditional sense either, I mean two inside forwards in Kilkenny's half of the field.
A feature of Waterford's failures against Tipp and Kilkenny last summer was clearing ball down to the opposition's sweeper. Waterford dictate these defensive tactics so they should be better prepared for how the other team reacts. They were guilty of the same failings on Sunday - knocking long ball to a three-versus-two situation up front.
When they have so many bodies in the middle third why not run the ball more? Play a style like Cork in 2004/2005 - their defensive system is made for it.