Wednesday 21 March 2018

Cyril Farrell: Tried-and-trusted Waterford game-plan will rattle Galway

Cork’s Damian Cahalane is shown a red card by referee James Owens yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile
Cork’s Damian Cahalane is shown a red card by referee James Owens yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile

Cyril Farrell

I've made no bones about the fact that I feel this is Galway's time to finally step out of hurling's shadows and claim the big one but the last thing I wanted was to have Waterford in the opposite corner.

A bit of the confidence has drained out of me and I would've been much happier were it Cork or Tipperary on the first Sunday in September because they play straight up whereas Waterford won't and they'll ask a lot of questions of Galway.

Galway want a shoot-out, 15 on 1,5 hip-to-hip hurling and a great spectacle and while they have encountered sweepers already this year, this is going to be in a different stratosphere. They've never come up against something like this, as Cork found out in the closing half of yesterday's thrilling semi-final.

Waterford have been playing this style for three years, they have it down to a fine art. They ping balls to the man in the best position and shoot from distance while Stephen O'Keeffe is like a seventh defender. Some old-timers might be pulling their hair out but that's their system and they're sticking to it.

Waterford won't change the winning recipe for the All-Ireland so Galway will have to adapt and it'll be interesting to see how Micheál Donoghue tries to counteract it. Knowing that it's coming is one thing, knowing how to deal with it is completely different and the first port of call is designating a sweeper.


I'd expect to see Aidan Harte in that role after excelling against Offaly and Wexford but Waterford will set the tactical tempo and Aidan must pick out loose men and ensure he isn't playing ball down on top of the sweeper. Other teams that are playing sweepers aren't half as efficient as Waterford and Galway must be intelligent.

Waterford will play to their strengths and cause Galway trouble, there won't be a repeat of the aerial bombardment against Tipp. Instead they'll play the channels and they won't be making heroes of Gearóid McInerney and Pádraic Mannion.

Joe Canning is having a huge influence from deep and he'll be man-marked as they attempt to crowd that middle third and turn it into a war zone. Waterford haven't lifted Liam MacCarthy since 1959 but, funnily enough, all the pressure will be on Galway.

The favourites' tag has been dangling around their neck for the whole summer and the contrast in styles makes for a refreshing final and it's a change from the Kilkennys and the Tipps ruling the roost recently.

The turning point for Galway's year was coming from 10 points down against Waterford in the league quarter-final, their season has soared since and now the wheel turns full circle as they meet again. That game still worries me, however, because Waterford were well ahead with an experimental team and this really is a 50-50 game. The team that looks forward to the challenge and embraces it the most will perform better on the day. There's no point in locking lads away and not letting them go to the toilet or speak to anyone, because you have to handle the heat in front of 82,000 people.

The mistakes that were made before Waterford's last All-Ireland final appearance in 2008 won't be repeated, Derek McGrath is far too shrewd for that. He's been planning for the big day all season and they thoroughly deserve to be there.

Derek made a huge decision taking the year off his teaching job to focus on Waterford - he put his head on the block. When things went wrong against Cork in Munster, he had shots fired at him from every angle but he's doing a fantastic job.

He went back to his tried-and-tested game-plan and the squad are playing to his tune. The players are backing him to the hilt, they've bought into what he's selling and getting to an All-Ireland final vindicates what he's been trying to do in the county.

All the so-called experts said Waterford don't score goals but they score them nearly every day. It's just that they're scoring different goals than what we would have seen in the past but they're so good coming from deep, particularly Jamie Barron.

Barron broke Cork's hearts with his pace but it was their work-rate that won the day, summed up by Austin Gleeson's steal on Chris Joyce before setting up Barron for his first goal. Waterford could do no wrong from then on.

obscurity Kieran Kingston can be proud of what Cork achieved this year, they came from obscurity to win Munster the hard way but they met an inspired Waterford side, who face an anxious wait over Conor and Austin Gleeson before planning to do finish the job.

Conor Gleeson kept Conor Lehane on the periphery, but his red card means he is unlikely to feature in the final and that will hurt their charge but Austin might get away with his helmet pull on Luke Meade as a precedent has been set from the Adrian Tuohy incident against Tipp. They were both deliberate but there was no malice in either.

For the spectacle of a final, it would be a disaster for all concerned if Austin missed out. The guy can do anything with a ball and his goal, after selling a series of brilliant dummies, showed his true value. I'd hate to see him miss out.

Irish Independent

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