There is no doubting the hurling talent of Tadhg de Burca. Despite being marketed as a sweeper, the Waterford number five has demonstrated nothing but quality since he was introduced to the senior side back in 2014. The uncertainty over his availability must have disrupted the Déise’s preparations for Sunday’s semi-final with Cork.
Now that it has finally been confirmed that Waterford will be without De Burca, we make three arguments as to why the final verdict may prove to be a better solution for Derek McGrath’s charges.
Throughout his tenure in charge and particularly since 2015, Derek McGrath has displayed real attention to detail in his preparation of the Waterford team. Some may say that the manager overthinks on behalf of his team at times, but overall Waterford have had more victories than defeats since the De La Salle clubman took charge.
There cannot be any doubt that the whole debacle with Tadhg de Búrca will have influenced McGrath and his preparations. The uncertainty over his availability and the integral role that he plays in Waterford’s system has surely led to two plans being at the ready, one with de Búrca, one without.
With the appeals process running on for so long, more attention has surely being paid to their sweeper not being available for Sunday’s game. Therefore the availability of de Búrca could well have seen Waterford refer back to type, throwing what they had prepared for out the window.
De Búrca’s suspension now means Waterford will enforce the plan that one would think the majority of the preparation has been based around.
2. Comfort Zone
De Búrca not being available for selection takes Waterford out of their comfort zone. This may not be that much of a negative coming into an All-Ireland semi-final. The comfort of defenders knowing they have sweeper alongside them is one thing, but the general psyche of knowing de Búrca is in situ is a cushion for many of the Waterford players.
But not having de Búrca forces Waterford players to stand up and move out of their comfort zone. There may be some fear in them before throw-in, but that fear can lead to nervous energy being released and this may force Waterford to play with a bit more freedom.
A sweeper may still be enforced, but players knowing that one of their main players is missing means that other players will have to stand up in his absence. This could work in reverse for the Déise and force players to play to a higher level.
Obviously, any team in an All-Ireland semi-final has absolute incentive to win it, but Waterford will feel so aggrieved at the treatment of their player, that it could help them to get an extra few percentages out of themselves on Sunday. Evidence on whether de Búrca ‘deliberately’ interfered with Harry Kehoe’s faceguard was debatably conclusive and the GAA’s stance on Galway’s Adrian Tuohy will spark Waterford to rage at the inconsistency within the rules.
The fact that it’s a one game ban, means Waterford making the All-Ireland final would see de Búrca available for selection. Calls of ‘do it for Tadhg’ may seem strange, but the Waterford players will want to see justice served and the best way they can do that is by doing everything they can to win Sunday’s game and give Tadhg de Búrca a chance to respond to the off-field controversy on the field of play.
Listen to our GAA writers talk about Waterford’s chances against Cork in this week’s episode of The 16th Man.