Sweeper might go if Waterford lose another semi-final - Browne
Waterford legend Tony Browne believes Derek McGrath might have to move away from the sweeper system if it doesn't bring his native county to an All-Ireland final this year.
The debate has raged in reccent weeks as to whether teams can go all the way playing with a sweeper, with Galway captain David Burke amongs those who believe that any team employing the tactic can't lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
And ahead of their All-Ireland semi-final clash with Cork on Sunday week, Browne feels that the Déise - while acknowledging that they have improved the attacking side of their game - might have to reconsider their approach if they fall at the penultimate hurdle for the third year on the bounce.
"The stats are there to prove they have pushed on slightly and this sweeper role is adjusting," said the Mount Sion stalwart yesterday as the GAA launched an initiative (#hurlthehabit) which will see them ask people not to smoke while attending the Cork-Waterford All-Ireland SHC semi-final.
"If we are being honest about Waterford, this is their third year in a row in an All-Ireland semi-final. I think if they don't get to an All-Ireland final with a sweeper this year, maybe then it's time for change and that would answer everyone's question on it. "
Browne admits that the tactic has divided opinion in the county, but agrees they've looked more comfortable when playing with added security at the back.
"If I'm perfectly honest about it, it is very 50-50 in Waterford. A lot of people think it's positive and a lot of people think it is negative. If you look at that Munster semi-final (against Cork), I think Waterford went to a more conventional system …. the way the Waterford U-21s won the All-Ireland last year and the perception was out there that we should push on a bit and go for it.
"I think maybe Derek tried that in the Munster semi-final and the team looked a little bit uncomfortable in that system. Derek is the guy, and Dan (Shanahan) and the boys are the guys that see them in training every day and these lads are playing that system three or four years, so I think it is going to take time to maybe change from that system. And as I said you saw them against Offaly, Wexford and Kilkenny, and they looked so much more comfortable in it.
"They've pushed on a small bit up front but they are very comfortable in that and it is going to take a good team to break it down."
As things stand, Waterford's first-choice sweeper Tadhg de Búrca is set to miss the game through suspension and should he not win his appeal, Browne reckons either Darragh Fives or Austin Gleeson could be pressed into that role.
"Is he the best sweeper out there at the moment? He probably is - he's doing it this last three or four years," said Browne. "He's a huge part of their structure and game plan but the talk in Waterford the last year is that this team has real strength in depth, compared to my time. It finally has a panel of players.
"In two weeks' time, that's going to be the first test of that, if Tadhg de Búrca's red card stays. That's going to be the real test of that panel. There's obvious choices there - maybe in Darragh Fives, maybe Austin Gleeson, but as I said, this is the real test of what we have as a panel."
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