Colm Bonnar believes Tipperary will miss John O’Dwyer more than Waterford will rue the absence of Darragh Fives in Sunday’s Munster final.
The former Tipp midfielder and Waterford selector has a lot of respect for defender Fives, expected to be sidelined due to a quad injury.
However, he expects the unavailability of O’Dwyer because of a one-match suspension will be more of a hindrance to Tipperary.
It was the Killenaule man whose move out the field in the second-half of last year’s provincial decider in Thurles turned the game in Tipperary’s favour.
Bonnar said: “Bubbles doesn’t need a lot of room to score and that’s just as well because Waterford don’t give too much of it away. The thing about Darragh Fives is he brings a lot of calmness to the Waterford defence but that extra defender role is one both he and Tadhg de Burca have shown they can play in. They have the system and that’s what counts most.
“Sometimes forwards can get lost in that middle third and you saw how Richie Hogan lit up the Leinster final when he came on for Kilkenny. He made a hell of a difference. Bubbles is capable of doing that too. He wouldn’t be known for his goal scoring but he can land points from anywhere. He was so important last year because Seamus Callanan was held scoreless (from play). I can’t see that happening again but Bubbles will be missed.”
O’Dwyer has the x-factor needed to help break down such a stacked defence as Waterford’s, Bonnar says. “He can change a game. He has that quickness of feet and thought. When you have a wristy player like him he’s usually going to give you three or four points. If Darragh Fives doesn’t play, Waterford will adapt. Their defence love the style they’re playing and they’re very quick.”
The Waterford IT officer suggests Derek McGrath may chose to go with something closer to a traditional formation. “A lot will depend on how much Tipp hassle Waterford coming out of defence because if there is savage pressure put on them it can be deflating looking up and seeing only one player up there and the ball coming back straight away. Maurice Shanahan is good in the one-on-two situations but I could see McGrath changing that.
“He knows Tipp will play orthodox. It will be interesting to see if Derek goes with the extra defender for if Tipp’s defence is sharp and can read the type of ball coming in he might have to commit more players to the forwards.
“Seamus Callanan will be conscious of what happened last year and keen for the same not to happen again. If he can get moving it will take a lot of pressure off the others. You know it’s going to be one of those games with nothing more than a few points in it.”
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