Sunday 18 March 2018

Third Bennett brother gets championship debut to fill de Búrca void

Kieran Bennett. Phot: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Kieran Bennett. Phot: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Jackie Cahill

Kieran Bennett has been named to replace suspended defender Tadhg de Búrca in the Waterford team for tomorrow's All-Ireland hurling semi-final against Cork.

The Rebels have gone with the same starting 15 for a fourth consecutive championship game.

If Derek McGrath's starting team lines out as selected, Bennett will make his Championship debut against the Munster champions at Croke Park.

Of three brothers on the Waterford panel, Kieran (22) is the oldest, with Shane (20) named in attack and Stephen (21) listed among the substitutes.

And Déise sources indicated last night that the team named is the one that will go into battle - with the inclusion of Kieran Bennett (pictured) making sense in light of de Búrca's absence.

With de Búrca ruled out, Bennett's call-up will allow Darragh Fives to operate in the sweeper position, while also leaving Waterford with seven defenders, similar to how they lined out in the quarter-final victory over Wexford.

Bennett for de Búrca is the only change in personnel from that game, and McGrath is anxious to play with an extra man at the back, considering the difficulties faced against Cork in the Munster semi-final when he went with a more conventional set-up.

Since that game, Waterford's return to the sweeper system has seen them register victories over Offaly, Kilkenny and Wexford to reach a third successive All-Ireland semi-final.

The remainder of the Waterford team remains untouched, with Maurice Shanahan, who's made a big impact off the bench, having to be content with a place on the bench once again.

The potential inclusion of Bennett had been touted, but deemed unlikely, by former Waterford defender Brian Flannery.

Speaking on Tipp FM's Straight Talk programme last evening, prior to the Déise team announcement, 2002 Munster medallist Flannery said: "Waterford played with seven defenders against Wexford.

"Tadhg is out, so what person comes in to fill that role? If you look at the bench (against Wexford), there were 11 substitutes. One was a goalkeeper, ten outfield players were listed, only two of them defenders - Shane McNulty and Kieran Bennett."

Waterford (SH v Cork): S O'Keeffe; S Fives, B Coughlan, N Connors; K Bennett, A Gleeson, Philip Mahony; J Barron, C Gleeson; K Moran, Pauric Mahony, J Dillon; S Bennett, M Walsh, D Fives.

CORK: A Nash; S McDonnell, D Cahalane, C Spillane; C Joyce, M Ellis, M Coleman; B Cooper, D Fitzgibbon; S Harnedy, C Lehane, S Kingston; A Cadogan, P Horgan, L Meade.

Irish Independent

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