The clash of Waterford and Wexford will see two of the most tactically-minded managers face off. Both Derek McGrath and Davy Fitzgerald will likely set their teams up in a nightmare style for the hurling traditionalist.
The game of hurling has evolved so much in the space of the last five years with sweepers, two man full-forward lines and packed midfields are all part and parcel of the modern game.
Of course some teams do still set up in a relatively traditional formation. Tipperary, Galway and Kilkenny being the prime examples, although this is not to suggest they just pick 15 and let them hurl.
Two sides who make no apologies for abandoning the traditional set-up are Waterford and Wexford. Both McGrath and Fitzgerald have their own vision on how the game should be played.
In relative terms, both have had success with their styles. Davy Fitz has won an All-Ireland with Clare while also revolutionising Wexford hurling this year.
McGrath has taken a Waterford side who appeared to be on the decline to consecutive All-Ireland semi-finals. Though it must be said, he has shipped some criticism for his style of play.
Last year, both of these men squared off three times in a row – the National League final (which went to a replay) and the Munster semi-final. The games, which were tactically battles saw mixed reviews.
The drawn league final was highly criticised as a boring affair. The replay and Munster semi-final did contain some more action, though neither would be described as classics.
There are of course those who do enjoy these styles. Hurling hipsters if you wish, but nevertheless hurling supporters.
If both teams line out to form, both Shaun Murphy and Tadhg de Búrca will operate as sweepers when the sides clash. Murphy is still developing as a sweeper while de Búrca has the art down to a tee at this point.
It’s also highly possible that we see both sides operating with two-man full-forward lines, or at times, just the one man inside. This is what will likely frustrate the hurling traditionalist.
Waterford in particular seem to strike a heap of aimless high ball into their sole operator in the full-forward line. This problem is what frustrates the Déise public most.
Wexford so far have played decent ball into their forwards, Galway however counteracted their style with ease.
You can be sure that entertainment will be the last thing on either manager’s mind, and rightfully so. Their sole focus is achieving a result.
Likewise the 30 hurlers who take to the pitch aren’t participating for our enjoyment, they want to climb the steps of the Hogan Stand in September.
Sure, Conor McDonald and Shane Bennett would love to be receiving the perfect delivery. But both men would be quick to acknowledge that the game is more important than them.
In the form books, this has the makings of a classic. More likely than not though, this game could be among the most difficult to enjoy all year.
Waterford struck a staggering 17 wides when these sides met in this round last year. That said, they still won on the day by ten points. Their shooting will have to improve if they wish to advance to the semi-finals this time around though.
In the other corner, Wexford struck just 0-11 last year in the Semple Stadium clash. No matter how tactical and low-scoring this one becomes, 0-11 will most certainly not be enough.
Don’t expect a free-flowing game, this one will most certainly be a nightmare for the hurling traditionalist.
Kevin Daly, Pundit Arena
Listen to this week’s episode of The 16th Man where we spoke with former Tipperary hurler Shane McGrath ahead of the Premier’s clash with Clare and we previewed Waterford v Wexford.
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