Editor’s note: John Mullane is the brand ambassador for JJ Kavanagh & Sons and will be bringing his thoughts on the 2016 Hurling championship. In John’s latest post, he takes a closer look at the All Ireland Hurling Semi – Final clash between Kilkenny and Waterford.
So John, everyone wants to know what style of play should Waterford use if they are to overcome Kilkenny?
JM: The public perception is that Waterford have to go for it and throw caution to the wind. I agree to a certain extent with this but the Waterford management will be mindful of what happened in the Munster Final when gaps opened up and this will play on their minds. With this I suspect that Waterford will play and stick with the sweeper system and go ultra defensive early on in the game, trying to concede as little as possible with a view to opening up in the second half.
I think Kilkenny over the years have a tendency not to have it all their way when they do come up against the sweeper system. Therefore, starting off I think it’s a good idea to keep it tight and try get off to good start and not concede any goals. The sweeper as been successful for other counties in overcoming Kilkenny within the last 5 years and this is why I think that the Waterford management will stick to the sweeper system in the hope that this will get them over the line.
Will it be an advantage for Waterford having played more competitive matches than Kilkenny coming into this Semi Final?
The U-21 Munster Hurling Championship win will have helped to flush out the defeat against Tipperary.
JM: From a Waterford players point of view, it was more important to play more competitive matches both in the Quarter Final and in the U-21 Munster Hurling Championship to try flush that Munster Final defeat out of their system. I’m putting Waterford’s defeat down to a really bad day at the office. There is way too much talent in the Waterford panel to have another defeat like this. They have come a long way in the past three weeks in regaining confidence that will stand to them going into this match. However, Kilkenny will have gone the route that they would have wanted to take. With less games to play they have gone the freshness route and seem to be masters of the five or six week break, so they are ready for the battle that awaits!
From your experience playing against Kilkenny, what advice would you give to the Waterford players?
JM: My advice would be to the relish the challenge of facing the champions. Have no fear and no doubts when facing this match and fully believe in your ability that you are good enough to overcome them. You’re then hoping that the other lads on the team are singing off the same hymn sheet as yourself.
Waterford have nothing to loose in this game and everything to gain. Waterford supporters are going up to the match in hope rather than belief. I don’t think this is a bad thing considering in the lead up to the Munster Final there seemed to be a an air of overconfidence in the county and it had the opposite affect on the team. Maybe this could be the ideal scenario for these Waterford players to approach the game.
Where do you think this game will be won and lost on Sunday?
It will come down to the concession of goals scored on the day and which team can prevent them from happening!
JM: Usually I go for the mid third area of the field where it’s flooded with bodies and whoever wins this area. But I honestly think it will come down to concession of goals scored on the day and which team can prevent them from happening. Whichever team can prevent the least concession of goals will most likely prevail to this year’s All Ireland Hurling Final in September. If Waterford concede two or more goals to Kilkenny, it will be an uphill battle to win this game. If they concede one or less they have a great chance of overcoming Kilkenny for the first time in 57 years.
Where will the key battles be?
JM: I’ve three key battles for this match. Darragh Fives on Walter Walsh. If you look at last year, Darragh needs to be fit to go toe to toe with Walter. Michael Fennelly and Kevin Moran in the middle of the field. These are two power houses of men and it will be a fierce battle and finally Kieran Joyce and Pauric Mahony. These will be the three areas where it will be won and lost.
Also, Austin Glesson is the one fella that can swing it for Waterford, as at the present time he is a flowing genius and a big performance from him could do it for Waterford.
Do you think that Kilkenny will be able to create as much space or gaps upfront like Tipperary did?
JM: If Waterford can nullify the treat of TJ Reid and Richie Hogan I give Waterford a great chance. However, Cody will have his homework done and will know what Tipperary did by nullifying the influence of Tadhg De Burca with going long for every ball into the ‘D’ and got an awful a lot of bodies in there and then had the runners coming through. It will be interesting to see if Cody implies the same tactic on Tadhg this Sunday or will he play his own game?
What’s your score predication’s?
JM: After watching a rerun of last years Semi-Final I’ve renewed hope that Waterford could actually do the unthinkable and pull off a shock win against all the odds. Everything will have to fall right for them to achieve this and they will have to bring their ‘A’ game to the table. However, Kilkenny really don’t lose Semi-Finals, I mean there is an incredible stat of winning Semi-Finals over the course of the last 10 years. But if Waterford pick the right personnel for this game they have a chance but everything will have to go right on the day. Waterford will have to inject some more pace into their game if they are to overcome a full fit Kilkenny side.
It will be an awful lot closer than people think it will be and we’re going to be for a titanic battle!
If you’re a Waterford Supporter join them and travel with JJ Kavanagh & Sons to All Ireland Hurling Semi – Final in Croke Park on Sunday 7th August.