Waterford’s performance last Sunday reminded many of the Déise’s team that reached the 2008 All-Ireland final. We have decided to compare two great Waterford sides.
Waterford’s young crop of players came of age last Sunday against Kilkenny. Although, they haven’t managed to qualify for the All-Ireland final just yet, they showed remarkable talent in their draw with Kilkenny.
The Déise’s team of 2008 were a far more experienced bunch. They managed to reach the 2008 decider but ultimately fell short to a far superior Kilkenny side, who were in their prime back then.
Here, we individually go through the starting fifteen sides from the 2008 All-Ireland final and the 2016 semi-final.
1.Stephen O’Keefe v Clinton Hennessy
There is only one winner here. Stephen O’Keefe is a magnificent shot-stopper for the Déise and has brought consistency to an area where Waterford have struggled for years. Hennessy was a solid keeper, prone to the odd mistake.
2.Shane Fives v Eoin Murphy
A tough call so therefore we have decided to call this particular individual battle a draw. Fives is a rock at the back for Waterford and has been consistently reliable for Derek McGrath’s side. The same could be said for Eoin Murphy who was a neat, tidy and reliable corner back.
Winner: A draw
3.Barry Coughlan v Declan Prendergast
Coughlan is certainly one of the more underrated players at the back for Waterford. Arguably, his task has been made easier by the fact that Tadhg de Búrca normally sweeps in front of him but Coughlan’s performance last Sunday illustrated how good a man-marker he is. The Ardmore man Prendergast is unlucky to miss out.
4.Noel Connors v Aidan Kearney
Last year’s All-Star Noel Connors claims this spot ahead of Tallow man Aidan Kearney. Kearney was a superb corner-back in his day but Connors’ added class sees him get the nod here.
5.Philip Mahony v Tony Browne
Despite Mahony’s hugely impressive performances for Waterford this year, he still has a long way to go to catch up to Tony Browne’s level. Browne played a staggering amount of games for Waterford in a career that spanned from 1991 to 2014. The Mount Sion man claimed three All-Stars throughout that period.
6.Tadhg de Búrca v Ken McGrath
De Búrca is unlucky to be pitted against Ken McGrath here. Like Mahony, de Búrca has a long way to go to fulfil Ken McGrath’s legacy. McGrath was Waterford’s inspirational leader for many years, and was one of the finest fielders of a high ball.
7.Conor Gleeson v Kevin Moran
Waterford’s 2008 half-back line complete a clean sweep here which doesn’t reflect the quality of the current half-backs. Rookie Conor Gleeson had a fantastic first championship start last Sunday but Kevin Moran was a superb half-back, even at the tender age of 22 back in 2008.
8.Kevin Moran v Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh
Moran represents the 2016 team at midfield here and is pitted against 2008 captain Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh. Picking a winner from these two proved to be too difficult so we have decided to mark this one down as a draw.
Winner: A draw
9.Jamie Barron v Jamie Nagle
Barron is a superb hurler and once again his performance against Kilkenny displayed his remarkable talent. Barron’s sheer work-rate and fitness level means that the Fourmilewater man covers every blade of grass in almost every game he plays. There’s only one winner here.
10.Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh v Dan Shanahan
Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh represents the 2016 team here. Two top quality hurlers with two significantly different roles. Walsh is a work-horse for the Déise team at present while Shanahan was certainly a more charismatic player who delivered much more in terms of scoring.
11.Austin Gleeson v Seamus Prendergast
The most-talked about hurler in Ireland is Austin Gleeson. He can play in any position on the field but last Sunday, he gave a phenomenal display from centre-forward. The 21-year-old scored five points in what a total display of class. Ardmore man Seamus Prendergast was a serious unit, well capable of hitting scores but it’s Gleeson who comes out on top.
12.Pauric Mahony v Stephen Molumphy
Stephen Molumphy was a fantastic servant to Waterford hurling. The Ballyduff Upper man and one-time All-star was a vital cog in Waterford’s run to the 2008 final. However, Pauric Mahony’s importance to the Waterford team of now cannot be underestimated. The Ballygunner man’s scoring ability from placed balls and open play is critical to Waterford’s success.
13.Jake Dillon v Eoin McGrath
McGrath’s inconsistency frustrated many Déise fans. Brother of Ken, Eoin was capable of producing moments of magic but also prone to simple errors. Dillon is definitely a more consistent player but has struggled to make Derek McGrath’s championship fifteen. His performance on Sunday was superb however.
Winner: A draw
14.Shane Bennett v Eoin Kelly
Like Pauric Mahony, Eoin Kelly’s scoring ability from open play and placed balls was critical to Waterford’s success. His ability to pop up with vital goals at crucial times was one of the Passage man’s best traits. Young Shane Bennett is a prodigious talent but has a long way to go yet to be categorised in the same league as Eoin Kelly.
15.Colin Dunford v John Mullane
Only one winner here. John Mullane was a superb corner-forward and 2008 was a year where he showed the hurling public his best. The De La Salle man claimed one of his five All-star awards after the 2008 season.
When you add up the total tallies of each individual battle, it remarkably finishes level. With six wins for both the 2008 and the 2016 side and three draws, the teams are inseparable.
The 2016 are yet to achieve significant success. Youth is on their side however and Derek McGrath’s young side can become a real force in the championship for years to come.
Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena