Waterford selector Fintan O’Connor admits Derek McGrath’s management are often amused by how the team are viewed as a side straitjacketed by a sweeper system.
Not for the first time this season, the Déise opted for a more traditional format against Kilkenny on Sunday although O’Connor isn’t promising the same approach will be adopted in Thurles tomorrow evening.
“Sometimes we would be smiling a little bit at the commentary we only play with a sweeper because there are times when we don’t have an out-and-out sweeper. Talk about the shape or system is over-exaggerated and it comes down to hard work. We set up like that a few times during the year.
“I know people will say ‘that’s the way Waterford should be’ and maybe it’s something we can look at it in the future but when we review the match what will stand out is our hooks-blocks-tackles count is higher than in games we were poorer in and that’s the key for every team trying to compete with Kilkenny, Galway and Tipperary.
“I think Tipperary showed us that in the Munster final. You could give them massive praise for the class hurlers they have and the scores they took but the basic for Tipperary was their work-rate. When the lads looked at that, that would have been something they identified wouldn’t be let happen again.”
The 21-point hammering in the Munster final dimmed some Waterford people’s perceptions of their own team but O’Connor hopes they won back a lot of hearts and minds on Sunday. All he knows is the All-Ireland quarter-final win over Wexford didn’t convince many.
“People didn’t talk up Wexford but we gave them huge respect and rightly so because they had a massive performance against Cork. Lee Chin and Conor McDonald had played exceptionally well. In the week leading up to the match, most people would have said a win for Waterford by a point or two points would be a massive achievement and then you go out and win by 10.”
We were disappointed with the wides and some elements of our play but we were happy with a lot of it too.
“Maybe supporters now will say they played Kilkenny in Croke Park and did okay. We weren’t oblivious to the fact people wouldn’t have given us a great chance either; we’re only human as well.
“We made mistakes and maybe didn’t finish the game the way we wanted to finish but then Kilkenny just kept going and showed massive composure to work a score off a puck-out, which we were hugely disappointed about but that’s sport. That’s why Kilkenny are winning All-Irelands year-in, year-out.
“And that’s what are lads are trying to learn from.”
It’s understood Kilkenny officials were privately unhappy with the game being moved to Thurles but Waterford weren’t quibbling.
“In fairness, the venue and where it’s on, Croke Park, is massive thing for a young team. Having said that, we’ve had a lot of good days and I’m not saying we like it more than Kilkenny. Thurles is a great venue and it’s more familiar to our lads than Croke Park.
“Coming up to Croke Park was part of their development and trying to grow a team. Earlier on in the year, we didn’t know why all the league quarter-finals couldn’t be all in Croke Park just to get more experience for lads. No matter where the match is on, we just have to try and match the workrate Kilkenny have brought for how long I don’t know.”
KILKENNY (SH v Waterford) Eoin Murphy; Paul Murphy, Joey Holden, Shane Prendergast(Capt); Padraig Walsh, Kieran Joyce, Cillian Buckley; Conor Fogarty Michael Fennelly; Walter Walsh, T J Reid, John Power; Jonjo Farrell, Colin Fennelly, Richie Hogan
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