Waterford face Kilkenny in today’s All-Ireland hurling semi-final showdown at Croke Park. Here, we look at the three main talking points before today’s clash.
Will Kilkenny target Waterford’s defence with high ball?
Tipperary’s Munster final victory over Waterford was a hammering and it was all down to Michael Ryan’s tactics on the day. The Tipperary defence launched high ball after high ball straight down on top of Waterford sweeper Tadhg de Búrca. The Waterford defence couldn’t deal with the aerial threat from the likes of John McGrath and Seamus Callanan.
Instead of playing the wings to avoid the sweeper, Tipperary went for the juggler. They attacked the sweeper and went for goals. It ultimately paid off. The question is, will Kilkenny do the same? Starting John Power suggests they may very well do.
Kilkenny are renowned for trying to kill games early with goals and Waterford should expect an early onslaught of high balls from the Cats.
Where will Austin Gleeson play?
Although, this is only Austin Gleeson’s third championship campaign, he is arguably the most-talked about inter-county hurler. The Mount Sion man’s best position has been up for debate all summer and manager Derek McGrath hasn’t settled on one position for the young star.
Gleeson featured in the forwards in the Déise’s Munster semi-final win over Clare but was out around the middle of the field in a roaming role against Wexford the last day Waterford were out.
There have been calls to position Gleeson at centre-back after his utterly sublime performance in the Munster u21 championship final. However, placing Gleeson at centre-back would go against McGrath’s policy of implementing his sweeper system and it is more than likely that Gleeson will go head-to-head with Michael Fennelly in the middle of the field.
Can Waterford rectify their shooting problems and score goals?
Waterford have had their fair share of wides this summer. With a lack of bodies in the forward line, Derek McGrath’s men have been forced to shoot from distance, resulting in staggering tallies of wides.
It was in the first-half of the Munster final where Waterford lost the game. Maurice Shanahan and Pauric Mahony in particular put far too many balls wide when the Déise had the wind at their backs.
Waterford have also struggled to get goals this summer and with the introduction of both Jake Dillon and Colin Dunford in particular, Derek McGrath will hope his side can have a change of fortune in front of goal today at GAA HQ.
There are many questions which will be answered in today’s first All-Ireland semi-final. The tactical battle will be nothing short of fascinating. Roll on 15:30.
Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena