After a fascinating All-Ireland hurling semi-final between Kilkenny and Waterford which ended level at Croke Park yesterday, we take a look at the five players who stood out most.
5. Conor Fogarty
Fogarty has become one of Kilkenny’s most crucial players over the past few years and he once again displayed his importance to Brian Cody’s men. He was busy as usual at the heart of the Kilkenny team as the Cats battled back to claim a draw. Fogarty and partner Micheal Fennelly were faced with their toughest task this year, with Jamie Barron and Kevin Moran providing stiff opposition.
Fogarty didn’t stay at midfield for the whole game as Brian Cody made a tactical change which ultimately proved crucial to Kilkenny’s dramatic late surge. Kieran Joyce, who struggled at centre-back was replaced by Lester Ryan with the aforementioned Fogarty dropping back to centre back.
It was here where the Castlecomer man exerted most influence. Fogarty also showed courage, confidence and class to drive over the equalising point.
4.Tadhg De Búrca
Last year’s Young Hurler of The Year produced an awesome display from centre-back for the Déise men yesterday. Waterford slightly altered their tactical system, playing further up the pitch. Therefore De Búrca’s role was one of an inter-changing sweeper. The Clashmore man’s positioning altered between the edge of the ‘D’ and the 45 metre line.
His aggression and tackling set the tone for Waterford early on. Last year’s All-Star was on song in the aerial contests too, producing some outstanding catches which inspired his Waterford teammates. De Búrca’s performance was inspirational and Derek McGrath will hope the 22-year-old can produce a similar performance next Saturday evening in Croke Park.
3. Richie Hogan
Hogan was Kilkenny’s best player by some distance yesterday. Operating in a roaming role between midfield and the half-forward line, the Danesfort man managed five points from play for the Cats. His presence and leadership skills were crucial to Brian Cody’s side’s comeback.
TJ Reid had an uncharacteristically poor day at the office but Hogan didn’t disappoint. All five of his scores were of the highest order. If Hogan can produce another display like yesterday and Kilkenny can get Reid firing on all cylinders, Waterford may yet be left to rue this missed opportunity.
2. Austin Gleeson
Gleeson did it again. The young Mount Sion man produced another remarkable performance in what was only his second appearance at GAA HQ. Gleeson operated from centre-forward and scored five beautiful points from play. His non-stop movement caused Kieran Joyce multiple problems, before the Kilkenny man was replaced with twenty minutes to go.
The Waterford fan-favourite’s skill and enthusiasm on the ball was on show as per usual but the 21 year-old managed to keep his wayward shooting to a minimum in what was a controlled and more influential performance.
However, it wasn’t just Mahony’s scoring prowess which impressed. The Ballygunner man dropped off his marker Pádraig Walsh to get on an incredible amount of ball. His link-up play and work-rate was superb. It’s great to see Mahony back to his best after he suffered a horrific leg break last summer.
Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena