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Why Kilkenny are the masters of winning as they cruise into All Ireland final


Waterford Stephen O’Keeffe, Noel Connors and Barry Coughlan battle with Kilkenny’s Ger Aylward and TJ Reid.

Waterford Stephen O’Keeffe, Noel Connors and Barry Coughlan battle with Kilkenny’s Ger Aylward and TJ Reid.

Waterford Stephen O’Keeffe, Noel Connors and Barry Coughlan battle with Kilkenny’s Ger Aylward and TJ Reid.

In a hurling summer of striking predictability, we had the All-Ireland semi-final outcome we all pretty much expected.

Ridiculously, Kilkenny into a 14th final in 17 years.

Waterford, their reputation untarnished by their performance yesterday in Croke Park or 2015 as a whole, just simply not up to the exalted levels of the gods.

"It's a huge reflection of what the players are doing and of the whole set up really," read Brian Cody from a dog-eared winning script.


"It's the ambition of every team at the start of the year. To get to the All-Ireland final first and then to win it. We're there now.

"It's a fabulous thing to be able to come to an All-Ireland semi-final next Sunday and just be able to watch it and see what happens in it, knowing you're going to meet the winners."

This isn't the most talented Kilkenny team over which he has presided and nor is it the most experienced outfit or the one with the most depth, but they're as efficient as any and they've kept hurling's two 2015 'movers' , Waterford Galway, at arms length in successive matches.

For all that, Richie Hogan and TJ Reid compare favourably against almost any of the many and brilliant players Cody has managed in this wildly successful reign of his.

Waterford asked them different sorts of questions in Croke Park yesterday, yet TJ Reid's early goal gave them something resembling a cushion and never, after that score, did the Déise close the gap tighter than two points.

Paul Murphy, who played mostly spare, swept up a mountain of ball in the second half and as Cody acknowledged: "The game probably opened more for us in the second half. And we probably created a bit more."

You might, on the evidence provided, reasonably say that Waterford were too inexperienced and/or too young to beat Kilkenny in an All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park but so too did they fall shy of their own seasonal standards.

Their neat passing triangles met more frantic pressure than than before and their long deliveries, particularly in the second half, were often aimless and poorly executed.

"I think it's the exertions of playing Kilkenny rather than the exertions of a long season," Derek McGrath surmised.

"I think sustaining the effort against them was more taxing than any other game had been up to this.

"Any analysis of us is balanced by a counter-analysis of how good Kilkenny are and how hard they are to physically compete with, and compete with hurling-wise as well.

"Sustaining the overall intensity against them is just so difficult," he added.

"You think you have them and there were sections of the game where we were doing a bit of fist-pumping ourselves on the sideline.

"We felt we had them . . . it's almost about how they are able to sustain it.

"You're all the time feeling that if you're conventional in your approach, invariably what will happen is when Walter Walsh wins a ball in the air he has a free run, there is no one to double up on him."

McGrath concluded with a palpable sense of awe and respect: "There is a lot of belief there as well which comes from the whole art of winning."

SCORERS - Kilkenny: TJ Reid 1-9 (0-7f), R Hogan 0-5, G Aylward 0-4, M Fennelly, E Larkin 0-1 each. Waterford: M Shanahan 0-9 (6f, 1 '65), C Dunford 0-4, A Gleeson 0-3 (0-1 sideline), K Moran, Shane Bennett 0-1 each.

KILKENNY: E Murphy 7; P Murphy 8, J Holden 8, S Prendergast 7; P Walsh 5, K Joyce 7, C Buckley 8; M Fennelly 7, C Fogarty 6; W Walsh 5, R Hogan 8, C Fennelly 6; G Aylward 7, TJ Ried 8, E Larkin 5. Subs: J Power 6 for W Walsh (66).

WATERFORD: S O'Keeffe 6; S Fives 7, B Coughlan 6, N Connors 6; D Fives 6, T De Búrca 7, P Mahony 6; J Barron 5, K Moran 6; Shane Bennett 6, M Walsh 6, A Gleeson 7; C Dunford 7, M Shanahan 7, J Dillon 6. Subs: P Curran 6 for Dillon (52), Stephen Bennett 6 for Shane Bennett (57).

WIDES - Kilkenny: 13 (4 + 9). Waterford: 9 (3 + 6).

BOOKED - Kilkenny: 1 (Holden 66). Waterford: 1 (S Fives 36).

REF: B Gavin (Offaly).


MAN OF THE MATCH: TJ Reid (Kilkenny).