Thursday 24 October 2019

Brendan Cummins: 'Déise facing an early exit, but all is not lost for Rebels'

Hard to see Waterford recovering from Clare defeat on weekend of misleading scorelines

Colm Galvin of Clare consoles Mikey Kearney of Waterford. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Colm Galvin of Clare consoles Mikey Kearney of Waterford. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Brendan Cummins

The weight of Monday morning will have felt a whole lot heavier for Cork and Waterford yesterday, waking up to a blame game and wondering just how they got sliced open so badly at home.

For Waterford, it's simple: they got the match-ups wrong. They let Tony Kelly run around the pitch without Conor Gleeson tracking him and it left them structurally in trouble. Tadhg de Búrca was left with a choice: do I follow and have no centre-back or do I hedge around the middle third?

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Paraic Fanning knows his Waterford side must come up with the goods against Tipperary on Sunday. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Paraic Fanning knows his Waterford side must come up with the goods against Tipperary on Sunday. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

He was caught between both in the first half, which meant John Conlon and Shane O'Donnell were inside the full-forward line one-on-one. Clare's use of the ball was outstanding - they weren't wasteful, didn't turn it over - but Páraic Fanning did great work at half-time and after that Waterford got the match-ups right.

Tony Kelly was barely in the game after they moved Gleeson on him and Waterford threw Maurice Shanahan on the edge of the square after 65 minutes, which allowed a more direct style.

They very nearly pulled off the comeback, but it wouldn't have been the right result as Clare, in truth, were better by six points. If score difference ends up costing them they will regret this one.

The Cork-Tipp score was also misleading. To me, Tipp were 10 points better - it was a reality check for Cork about what happens if they don't bring the required aggression. I wrote last week that the big problem Cork have is they struggle when teams push up on their puck-outs and force them to go long - that was the root of Sunday's downfall.

Cork boss John Meyler will be hoping for some good news on the injury front ahead of their clash with Limerick. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Cork boss John Meyler will be hoping for some good news on the injury front ahead of their clash with Limerick. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

The easy thing is to blame Anthony Nash, but he's no different to the goalie of last year who was pinging balls 60 yards into Cork hands. In the past, Tipp went man-for-man with Cork and ran all around, allowing gaps to open but yesterday their half-backs stood their ground and there was no space.

The three Mahers cleaned out the Cork half-forward line, which tends to happen every time a team has to go long with puck-outs. Tipperary then opened them up with class and quality.

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For weeks Tipp players had listened to how fast Cork are but speed is no good without the ball. After they swept it up they pinged it with confidence and playing like that, you don't really need legs - the ball travels faster than any human.

And - crucially - deliveries went deep. The long balls didn't land on the Cork '45, but the Cork '21. That made it a two-on-two or three-on-three match and if that happens in your defence, Tipp will kill you.

It's a big problem for Cork because every team now will push up and when they can't run it out of defence, who will be their ball winner on the opposition's '65?

Next weekend Limerick won't let them tic-tac it out of defence, so I'd say Seamus Harnedy remains their best bet at 11 as he's one of their few ball-winners. They'll need more like him against the best half-back line in the country.

But I can still see Cork beating Clare and Waterford to get out of Munster. For Waterford, Sunday's defeat was more of a killer blow. There was no fire in them, no spark, and Walsh Park wasn't half the cauldron I expected it to be.

They need Maurice Shanahan at full-forward next time to anchor the ball. Any time it went in to the Clare 14-yard line, it came out just as quick, in contrast to the Waterford full-back line which was very, very exposed - if they offer that to the Tipperary full-forward line it's goals, not points, they'll concede.

Ideal

But take nothing from Clare. They were outstanding for long periods and left with an ideal scenario: they got the win but management can give players a right kick for not putting Waterford away. That's why I didn't tip Clare to come out of Munster - they go through patches where they have you on the rack but let it seep away.

In contrast, Tipperary were clinical. I know their players are angry with last year and, as expected, Liam Sheedy has infused confidence and belief.

But I know, too, that he'll have sat them down in the dressing room and asked the lads to look around: can any of you see a cup in here?

For the Tipp public, this win may be huge but the players know it's only a baby step, a fraction of what they're capable of doing.

They have to keep themselves away from public expectation now and keep doing the basics right. Can they do it again and again?

There's a long, long way to go in the Munster Championship - thoughts of anything beyond it will stay buried for now.

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