Four key points from the Allianz NHL Division 1 final

Four key points from the Allianz NHL Division 1 final

By Peter McNamara

We look at some of the key talking points from Sunday's Hurling League final between Cork and Waterford.

Four key points from the Allianz NHL Division 1 final

Relentless Waterford enjoyed a comfortable win against Cork.

1 How good are Waterford?

The application of Derek McGrath’s players on Sunday in Thurles was exemplary.

Waterford swarmed Cork relentlessly and it paid dividends as it forced their direct opponents in possession into errors all over the field, especially across the congested line of bodies where the Déise’s conventional half-back trio would have once frequented.

For their excellent work-ethic alone McGrath and Waterford deserve huge credit.

However, and this is actually a massive plus for Waterford, they wasted a lot of possession while transferring the ball from the middle-third into their front-line of attack and hit 14 wides but still registered 1-24.

If, like Clare through the qualifiers in 2013, Waterford minimise such wastefulness then they will be genuine contenders for provincial and national honours in the championship.

Cork had two distinctive goal scoring opportunities via Seamus Harnedy and Conor Lehane and a more ruthless opponent may overcome Waterford’s well-documented ‘system’.

Maurice Shanahan in action against Shane O'Neill and Mark Ellis of Cork.

2 Maurice Shanahan needs support

As an extension of the first point made, Waterford will have to tweak their game plan in order to guarantee Maurice Shanahan, or Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh when stationed in the position, is not isolated against a direct marker and a loose man sweeping up before him.

Regularly last Sunday Cork returned Waterford’s incoming balls with ease as Shanahan was not supported by runners from deep positions.

It is hugely encouraging how Waterford managed to create so many scoring opportunities given the number of players they had roaming inside their own half but there exists a nagging doubt if the system in its present guise will be sufficient to land further silverware in the summer.

Defenders mopping up around Shanahan will locate players on the flanks in the championship and counter-attacks will be developed quite easily by teams Waterford encounter down the tracks.

Shanahan needs a front-line ally.

3 Where does defeat leave Cork?

The answer to that question will obviously not be truly known until the sides clash again in the Munster semi-final but the portents are not good.

Cork have failed to fire on many occasions whereby a tangible carrot was on the line for them to earn and there are only so many excuses that can be made for a team.

As was highlighted here on Sunday morning, Cork simply had to win to elevate their status among the code’s elite.

However, a loss would represent a body-blow to their overall aspirations again this term and it is difficult to envisage Cork lifting the Liam McCarthy Cup now unless a dramatic improvement is forthcoming when the gauntlet is laid down to them in the future.

Additionally, Leesiders that play the ‘Sure t’is only the league’ card would be incorrect to do so.

It is a major setback.

Four key points from the Allianz NHL Division 1 final

Does Jimmy Barry-Murphy need to rethink the tactics for the Championship?

4 Cork’s ‘tactical’ approach is outdated

The days of expecting a victory to follow having detailed your side to play a generally conventional 3-3-2-3-3 formation in hurling, or Gaelic football for that matter, are long since over.

When Kerry were being dismissed by their northern adversaries in the noughties they adapted and evolved to safeguard their rich pedigree of flair further up the field.

Cork have to do likewise if their understandable All-Ireland ambitions are to be realised this year, or even next year.

Adapt, or at least die with your boots on trying but do not believe so rigidly in a system that no longer serves its purpose to the detriment of the team.

Jimmy Barry-Murphy, Mark Landers, Seanie McGrath and Johnny Crowley need to appreciate teams do not fear the blood and bandage anymore playing in a style better suited to a previous era.

However, the championship offers an opportunity at redemption for the Rebels.

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