Waterford selector Dan Shanahan says previous clashes between his side and Kilkenny will have no bearing on Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final.
Last year Kilkenny put Waterford out at the same stage of the competition, while earlier this season Waterford turned the tables on the Cats in an NHL clash in Walsh Park, but those meetings are history now, says the big man from Lismore.
“Obviously, you try to learn from each game,” says Shanahan.
“And Kilkenny have been on top for so long that you try to learn as much as you can from playing them, but I don’t think those games will have any bearing on this Sunday’s game.
“When we played Kilkenny last year in the championship, for instance, we knew well that TJ Reid would be a danger man, but that didn’t stop him from getting the crucial goal. We know well this year that he’ll be a danger man as well.
“As for the game in the league this spring, it was good for the lads to get a win over Kilkenny but we’re not codding ourselves that it put a huge dent in their confidence. They’re still the top team.”
Shanahan laughs at mention of former Clare manager Ger Loughnane’s unflattering description of Kilkenny earlier in the year.
“Functional? I saw that. A lot of us would like teams as functional as Kilkenny!
“I can kind of see a point in that Kilkenny may not be as spectacular as they were.
“If any team lost the likes of Henry (Shefflin) and JJ (Delaney) you mightn’t think of them being as good, but this Kilkenny side keeps on going and keeps on winning.
“I think that’s a huge tribute to the players’ attitude, that even if lads retire or get injured they don’t rely on excuses, they just get on with it and keep driving the thing on.
“And obviously it’s a tribute to Brian Cody and the rest of the Kilkenny management, because they’ve put that culture in place where the players are driving the whole thing.”
As for Waterford, Shanahan acknowledges that the recent Munster U21 title won in fine style in Walsh Park has been a boost to the senior camp.
“Absolutely, it raises everyone’s spirits. There’s 12 or 13 of the U21s who’ve been on the senior selection, so they were obviously in great form after winning that championship, they come into training and they’re buzzing — and that rubs off on everybody else then as well.
“We obviously haven’t won that many provincial titles that we’d be taking them for granted, so it was a fantastic occasion, the lads turned it on in the second half that evening against Tipperary and they were outstanding.
“We’ll be hoping a few of them will bring that form into the game this Sunday in Croke Park.”
The devastating loss to Tipperary in the Munster senior hurling final seems a long way in the past now: “True, and the U21s were a big part of that, too. Three nights after the game in Limerick (the Munster senior final) they were very good against Clare in the Munster semi-final, so that gave us a bounce for the Wexford match.
“Those games — U21 and senior — have helped us all to move past that Munster final, disappointing though it was.”
Waterford put Wexford to the sword in their last outing, in Semple Stadium, without ever looking under pressure.
They accounted for Liam Dunne’s team easily, but hit a lot of wides in doing so.
“That was a concern we took out of the game,” says Shanahan.
“We’d have been happier to see some better shooting, because we were making good chances, but as Derek (McGrath, Waterford manager) always says, even though you’d prefer to put them over the bar, hitting wides isn’t as big a worry as you might think.
“The lads make the chances and have to go for it. The fact that we’re making those chances is the significant thing for us.”
And the suggestion that that Munster final was the end of the sweeper system?
“If that’s what people want to think, let them. We’ve more important things on our plate than worrying about people’s opinions about structures and systems - that’s their look-out.”
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