Friday 24 November 2017

'Sweeper system in hurling is just a phase' - The Sunday Game panel

Waterford's Maurice Shanahan, Waterford, in action against Kilkenny's Joey Holden, Shane Prendergast and Paul Murphy in Croke Park. Murphy adopted the sweeper role during the All-Ireland semi-final victory
Waterford's Maurice Shanahan, Waterford, in action against Kilkenny's Joey Holden, Shane Prendergast and Paul Murphy in Croke Park. Murphy adopted the sweeper role during the All-Ireland semi-final victory

Michael Verney

Ger Loughnane and Donal Óg Cusack believe the sweeper system adopted by Waterford throughout 2015 is just a natural phase that hurling is going through and they don't expect it to last the distance.

Derek McGrath's young side suffered only their second loss of the competitive year when falling to neighbours Kilkenny on a scoreline of 1-21 to 0-18 in Croke Park today.

Their defensive system has been hugely successful and despite not satisfying the needs of many purists The Sunday Game pundits are intrigued by its evolution but they are not convinced it is here to stay.

"I remember not so long ago there were sweepers in soccer and everyone had to have a sweeper. Now if a soccer manager played with a sweeper people would say he's a Neanderthal," the All-Ireland-winning Clare manager said.

"It worked for a while but will it last this sweeper? I think eventually we'll go back to like what we had a couple of years ago and I think there'll be a bit more method than there was there today."

Former Cork goalkeeper Óg Cusack agreed that it's just a passing phase as seen in other sports, "I think it's a natural evolution of the game," the Cloyne man reasoned.

"Soccer started off 4-4-2 and the tactic was to get the ball up to the big man and play off him. Gaelic Football was a bit like that too, it was catch and kick. Hurling was strike the ball as long as you can.

"Now all those sports are becoming very fluid and I think it's a natural evolution. It might not have been as absorbing as some of the games we've seen over the last couple of years but you still felt it was intriguing."

Loughnane cited a change in tactics by the reigning All-Ireland champions as being crucial to securing yet another final place on September 6 and lauded their ability to overcome every style that is thrown at them.

"Tadhg de Búrca had been very influential in the first 20-25 minutes. Kilkenny wanted to take him out of the game so they upped the work rate and they started playing ball down the wings. They started playing more diagonal ball," Loughnane said.

"In the second half the sweeper was cast aside, he was eliminated from having any importance in the game and the same thing happened when Cork played Galway."

Elsewhere, Waterford defender Darragh Fives and Cats duo Cillian Buckley and TJ Reid received nominations from the panel for the Man of the Match award but surprisingly there was no place for Richie Hogan, the scorer of five excellent points from play.

It was the Ballyhale Shamrocks maestro Reid who picked up the gong and he said he was looking forward to spending a week with the club before regrouping to watch the other semi-final where they await the winners of Galway and old rivals Tipperary.

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