“One hundred per cent,” said McGrath. The question was angled towards Kilkenny mirroring Waterford’s sweeper system, but the Waterford boss also saw his opponents finessing that system, offering a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer.
“Overall the ability of Pat Lyng and Martin Keoghan and TJ Reid to come deep right into our half and gather a bit of space there, they always seemed to have a bit space there.
“Lester Ryan just sat in front of the half-back line and left Cillian Buckley to sit back. Kilkenny had serious homework done for today, but they don’t do tactics though, do they? Sorry.”
McGrath’s analysis was accurate, though Kilkenny’s workrate and appetite was also a huge factor. They outfought Waterford significantly in the first half and won most of the breaks, the home side struggling to make the ball stick up front.
Walter Walsh and TJ Reid gave their attack an experienced spine and they weren’t flattered by a lead at the break of 0-11 to 0-5, watched by 5,859.
Though Waterford were better on the resumption, with sub Patrick Curran catching the eye, and they cut the lead to three points on 50 minutes, the game then swung decisively.
TJ Reid scored a tidy goal - though Waterford claimed a foul in the build-up - and on the puckout Curran was upended for a penalty at the other end of the field.
Sub Stephen Bennett didn’t catch it properly at all, however, Eoin Murphy saved easily, and Kilkenny saw the game out with some comfort. Waterford sub Tommy Ryan’s late, late goal was a mere consolation.
Kilkenny played through the lines yesterday, sparked by Murphy’s clever short restarts, but they brought that huge workrate and appetite to the game, which pleased their manager, who instanced newcomer Pat Lyng as an example on that score. “Massive, massive (workrate),” said Brian Cody.
“And that’s what he has been doing every time he has played with us, a trojan workrate, and that’s so important.”
As for the tactics, Cody was less forthcoming. “You have to play the game in front of you. Every game is a small bit different, some are a big bit different, depends where opposition players are, I suppose, and the players decide that on the field. We have good players and that is what happens.”
McGrath pinpointed his own side’s deficiencies as well: “We thought we’d be at a far greater intensity in the first half - we got up to a bit of intensity in the second half, but only sporadically overall.
“I’m trying to get the balance right between coming across as being too smart either in terms of preparation. We had enough there to be able to give more than we gave, I suppose. That would be my argument overall.
“We gathered a bit of momentum in the second half but yeah, we were in Cancun just over a month ago and we let them live for the winter, free for the winter.
“For the last three years ahead of the league matches we were training Christmas Day and almost kind of nomadic stuff. It’s on my head in terms of not taking that approach.”
As for the Kilkenny manager, while happy with his newcomers, he acknowledged the influence of his experienced leaders up front, in particular TJ Reid for that game-changing goal: “Yeah, it was a very good goal obviously, it was a split-second thing, he has that ability to do that. It’s obviously great to have TJ back on the field and he’s in good shape as well.
“Obviously himself and Walter up there were the only two really experienced forwards we had. The two of them played very well and I think Walter is showing great leadership in all the matches so far.”
The result makes next week’s clashes - Waterford v Cork and Kilkenny against Tipperary - all the more significant. Expect the intensity level to ratchet up again.
Allianz HL Division 1A: Waterford 0-12, Kilkenny 1-20
P. Mahony (0-7, 6 frees, 1 65); T. Ryan (1-0); P. Curran (0-2); A. Gleeson (free), T. de Burca, T. Devine (0-1 each).
TJ Reid (1-11, 9 frees, 1 65); M. Keoghan (0-5); J. Donnelly (0-2); L. Scanlon, J. Maher (0-1).
I. O’Regan, S. Fives, B. Coughlan, N. Connors, C. Gleeson, T. de Burca, Philip Mahony, J. Barron, A. Gleeson, K. Moran, Pauric Mahony, J. Dillon, T. Devine, M. Shanahan, M. Kearney.
P. Curran and C. Dunford for A. Gleeson and M. Kearney (HT); S. Bennett for J. Dillon (45); DJ Foran for M. Shanahan (57); T. Ryan for Pauric Mahony (60).
E. Murphy, J. Holden, P. Walsh, P. Deegan, C. Delaney, C. Buckley (c), E. Morrissey, L. Ryan, C. O’Shea, M. Keoghan, TJ Reid, P. Lyng, B. Ryan, W. Walsh, J. Donnelly.
L. Blanchfield for B. Ryan (33); J. Maher for C. O’Shea (41); L. Scanlon for L. Ryan (51) F. Horgan (Tipperary).