Cork were outstanding on Sunday. The Déise, however, will be extremely disappointed with their showing.
But, as the dust slowly settles on Sunday’s Munster Championship semi-final, what does this defeat mean for Waterford?
Coming into the game the mood in the south-east was optimistic. Despite a positive showing in their first round victory, the general feeling was that the Déise had the measure of this Cork side.
In an unusual sequence of events, the people of Waterford were even beginning to express faith in their defensive brand of hurling. It was believed that Cork would not be afforded the same space on Sunday afternoon.
What followed, however, has created a depression amongst followers of Waterford. A flat performance has left huge question marks hanging over the team.
The biggest question being, where does this defeat leave Waterford hurling?
Well, they now face into the nightmare that is the 2017 hurling qualifiers. Similar to each other county dumped in here, they hold no great optimism. Is all as bad as it seems, however?
Let’s look at what can be learned from Sunday’s defeat.
Firstly, Sunday was Derek McGrath’s side’s first competitive game in eleven weeks. This is a serious problem as flatness was clearly an issue. Only Stephen O’Keeffe, Conor Gleeson and Jamie Barron can come in for praise for their performances against the Rebels.
The Déise have not become a poor side overnight, the majority of their players will improve and there is most certainly more in Kevin Moran, Austin Gleeson, the Bennetts and Maurice Shanahan.
Austin Gleeson had an off day, and it was disappointing to hear jeers from opposition supporters as he was subbed off. Have no doubt, there are bigger things to come from Aussie yet. Sunday was just a bump in the road.
There is one issue which stands out by a mile to spectators, though. With five minutes remaining, and the Déise trailing by six, Waterford still persisted with their tactics. This meant no inside forward line, which in turn meant no goal opportunities.
What McGrath has done for this side must be commended, however, the obvious flaw in their game is the lack of a creative attacking plan.
At no point during Sunday’s semi-final did Waterford’s attack look threatening. The Déise could seriously use an injection of flair into this forward line.
Perhaps McGrath’s biggest downfall is his failure to unleash the attacking duo of Stephen Bennett and Patrick Curran, which proved so lethal at minor and under-21 level.
Bennett spent the majority of his game around the 40, while Curran only received roughly five minutes to showcase his talents. Waterford are crying out for a goal threat and these two may be the answer.
Another issue appeared to be Waterford’s failure to win clean possession from Stephen O’Keeffe’s puck outs. Not even in the 26 named, DJ Foran would have to be considered here.
When McGrath first arrived into this set-up, the Déise were a side that were constantly at risk of a heavy defeat. McGrath, in turn, developed a system to prevent this.
Now it is time to throw caution to the wind. A 20-point defeat will provide the same end result as a one-point defeat: elimination from the championship.
Waterford are by no means finished, and they may yet have a big say in this championship. Learning from Sunday’s defeat will be pivotal to their season and, who knows, perhaps it could prove to be the catalyst.
Kevin Daly, Pundit Arena