ANTHONY DALY: Wily Waterford had warriors all over the field

I’ll never forget the impact our win against Kilkenny had on the Dublin players in 2013, writes Anthony Daly

They grew six inches taller. They looked, and felt, like new men. That confidence propelled us to a historic Leinster title a week later. A win against Kilkenny lifts your confidence, but it also lifts your soul and I think that victory against Kilkenny in the qualifiers last month has lifted this Waterford team to a whole new level.

I think they got even more out of that night, because it
almost felt like two wins, after seemingly having blown it in normal time. You cannot quantify how much that has done for this group, because, when they finally got control of the match yesterday, Waterford showed a maturity that allowed them to kick on and win the match at their ease down the home straight.

Waterford were a completely different animal from what they were in Thurles in June. They were without Tadgh de Búrca, but they never strayed from their
system or core philosophy. They shut down the Cork long puckout. They dragged Cork into the trenches. The sending-off of Damien Cahalane had a huge impact, but once the game opened up, and the space for Waterford’s runners appeared, they cut loose.

Cork never got going. They couldn’t establish any rhythm or fluency, but Waterford never allowed them to. The first half was a real contest, but it was poor stuff, which suited Waterford far more than Cork. Waterford had more shots at the target, most of which were pot-shots as
opposed to clear-cut chances, but that statistic still underlined how much the game was being played on their terms.

Cork looked like they had finally broken free of their clutches in the third quarter. Conor Lehane was getting on more ball. Darragh Fitzgibbon had thundered into the match. It looked like Cork might have the legs on Waterford, but the sending off completely changed the tone of everything.

I thought Cork could have dropped another man back to counter that threat, that they could have played with four forwards and allowed Mark Coleman to play as a sweeper to provide more cover. When the Cork defenders were
one-on-one, they were always liable to be exposed with Waterford’s runners coming at such pace.

It looked too like the word was sent out to Barron to push forward and look for killer openings, just like he had done against Kilkenny. Having the extra man gave Waterford more licence to take a chance, but it was far less of a gamble, with so much space having been created inside the 45.

The Waterford subs made a big impact, but Waterford took the right options and played the right passes into that space, with so many runners coming. When Austin Gleeson played that sublime pass across to Barron for his first goal, there was nobody near him. When Conor Gleeson got a massive point shortly afterwards, you felt the game was over. When Austin Gleeson went off and acted like Leo Messi from the next attack, everyone knew the game was over. To be outscored 3-7 to 0-6 down the home straight said everything.

Cork got three points on the bounce after Cahalane was sent off, but the goal just destroyed any momentum they had built at that stage of the game. In any case, too many of their forwards were struggling to make any real impact in the match. Apart from Patrick Horgan, Waterford were on top in almost all of their
defensive match-ups.

Shane Fives was outstanding. His brother Darragh was even better. Kevin Moran was heroic. Waterford had warriors everywhere, but the real downside is what is potentially coming next. Conor Gleeson will definitely miss the final after his straight red card. I know he reacted to Horgan, but you have got to hold your discipline at that stage, in the 69th minute, when the game is over. It’s easy to talk afterwards, but, in that position, you’ve just got to hold back, smile at Horgan, even let him know you’re going to the big show and he isn’t.

He will be a
colossal loss
because he has been the outstanding man-marker of this championship. He has now done serious jobs on Richie Hogan, Conor McDonald and Lehane. He would surely have been earmarked for Joe Canning the next day, but that option is gone for Derek McGrath now.

Waterford could have an even bigger headache yet with Austin Gleeson, who pulled the helmet clean off Luke Meade by the faceguard. I just don’t understand Gleeson,
especially after all the furore over Tadgh de Búrca and
Adrian Tuohy over the last couple of weeks. I don’t know what is going to happen next, but Derek will certainly be sweating in the coming days (maybe in his defence, Austin wasn’t looking at Meade either). I know how much this means to Derek, but you still can’t help feeling that the cloud hanging over the loss of one Gleeson, and possibly a second, slightly darkened what has been his greatest hour to date.

Yesterday was a tactical masterclass from him and his players. They really shut down Anthony Nash and his laser bombs to Lehane and Shane Kingston. They gave Cork the short puckout, but they were so short that the second ball was landing on top of Darragh Fives’ zone, which he continually mopped up.

Kingston got a great point at the start. He won a few frees, but he never really took off. Mark Coleman hit a fair bit of ball, but he was subdued for long periods. Fitzgibbon had some big moments in the
second half, but he was largely anonymous for the first half. Meade made no impact.

I’m not being hard on those young players. They will learn from the experience, but it was also too much to expect those guys to carry the team when so many of Cork’s big guns were not firing.

Waterford, though, shut down Cork from every angle. Coleman was the fulcrum of Cork’s style in Munster, but he was never the same launch pad yesterday and, once Waterford got a firm grip on the match in the decisive last quarter, the outcome was
inevitable.

A fantastic summer for hurling looks set for a gala ending. Nine days ago, a lot
of hurling people were half
expecting a Cork-Tipp All-
Ireland final. That would have been unique in itself, but the novelty attached to this final now will be off the charts.
The colour and anticipation will be something else. The
atmosphere and sense of
occasion will be like nothing else. The only thing nobody will be looking forward to
is the mad scramble for tickets.

When you see a Galway or Waterford number coming up on your phone over the next couple of weeks, don’t answer it, because the person at the other end of the line certainly won’t be asking if you want to go for a meal down by the Spanish Arch. Or for a stroll along Tramore beach.

Tickets won’t have been as valuable since Willy Wonka put those five golden wrappers into his Wonka Bars to secure a trip to see his
Chocolate factory.


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