Saturday 18 January 2020

Cyrill Farrell: Déise can rise above De Búrca ban and derail Rebel bandwagon

McGrath's men will reach the final if they force Cork to play on their terms rather than the other way around

Waterford's Austin Gleeson
Waterford's Austin Gleeson

Cyrill Farrell

I was at Mallow races on Tuesday where, it must be said, there was more than a fair degree of confidence among Cork people, not just about tomorrow's game but about winning the All-Ireland final too.

I'm sure the attitude in the camp is far more circumspect but there's no doubt that the supporters have locked onto the idea that the team will finish what they started and bring Liam MacCarthy to Leeside.

I don't agree. In fact, I have an inkling that it will end for Cork tomorrow.

It has to be said that Waterford's prospects will be hit by the absence of Tadhg de Búrca on a suspension which is extremely harsh.

Still, the attempts to get him off failed and they have to move on without him. It's unfortunate for both the player and Waterford, but they wouldn't want to overplay it either.

Players miss games through injury all the time, or else are forced off early on, so it's all about the size, strength and depth of the panel. In Waterford's case they are well equipped to handle it.

They brought on Maurice Shanahan, Brian O'Halloran, Stephen Bennett, Colin Dunford and Tommy Ryan against Wexford and still had Patrick Curran, Mikey Kearney and Shane McNulty on the bench. Now that's strength in depth.

Okay, so they probably don't have anyone as good as De Búrca for the specific job he does, but they have plenty scope for improvisation. Darragh Fives can move back and Kevin Moran is also comfortable around the half-back line.

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That allows Austin Gleeson (right) to operate around midfield with Jamie Barron. Both are playing much better than they were two months ago so Derek McGrath will expect the middle third to be more efficient this time.

The important thing for Waterford is that they have been playing their system for a long time so they all know precisely how it works.

It didn't function against Cork in the Munster semi-final but that was more a case of players under-performing than the system letting them down.

For whatever reason, Waterford were off the pace that day. Indeed, if it weren't for goalkeeper, Stephen O'Keeffe, they would have lost by much more than five points.

They are usually so good at imposing themselves physically on games, especially in the middle third, but instead Cork were allowed to dominate.

Anthony Nash was also given an easy day with his puck-outs. He delivers them with great precision but his targets should not be able to take them so easily.

Against Cork, Conor Lehane picked up a few which had been so signposted that they should have been cut off. And when Nash went short to one of his full-backs, they in turn were allowed to find their targets far too easily.

I would expect Waterford to push up on Nash's puck-outs this time and revert to their usual system once the ball is back in play so as to make life a whole lot harder for Cork than they did in June.

Cork have brought a breath of fresh air to this championship. Starting as outsiders of five in Munster, they stunned Tipperary in the first round and improved as they went.

Granted, they didn't have to play particularly well against Waterford, and they were a bit too clever for Clare but the fact remains that they beat three Division 1A teams.

You could sense their confidence rising with every game and they will now feel they can go all the way to All-Ireland glory.

Interestingly, Cork haven't found themselves chasing any game, so we don't know how they would respond to falling five or six points behind.

Early on, McGrath will have primed his side to be much more aggressive, more intense and more driven than they were in the Munster semi-final.

He'll want to see how Cork cope with a really frantic situation, which Waterford are usually so good at generating.

For instance, Cork midfielders, Bill Cooper and Darragh Fitzgibbon have been allowed far too much room so far.

They have exploited it well but I would be very surprised if they don't find themselves snarled up in a lot more heavy traffic tomorrow.

If logjams form out there, the threat to Waterford will be greatly decreased, irrespective of how opportunist Lehane, Alan Cadogan and Patrick Horgan are.

I don't go along with the view that De Burca's absence will provide extra motivation for Waterford.

They are in an All-Ireland semi-final, so what more motivation is required?

They need to concentrate on what tomorrow is all about - reaching the final for the first time since 2008.

I fancy them to do it.

Irish Independent

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