Galway hurling captain David Burke doesn’t believe any team employing a sweeper will lift Liam MacCarthy and has claimed Waterford could benefit from not having Tadhg De Búrca available for next month’s All-Ireland semi-final against Cork.
Burke isn’t a fan of the seventh defender and having had to negotiate packed defences against Offaly and Wexford during Galway’s successful Leinster campaign, he’s looking forward to the “pure orthodox” formation Tipperary will bring to their All-Ireland semi-final meeting on August 6.
Cork and Waterford square off a week later, with De Búrca set to miss that fixture due to the red card he picked up for interfering with the faceguard of Wexford’s Harry Kehoe last weekend.
No other Waterford player, according to Burke, is as comfortable or as efficient in the spare-man role as the 2015 young hurler of the year. And if he was to miss the game through suspension the Déise may be forced to abandon their preferred system according to the Galway skipper.
“Depending on whether Tadhg De Búrca gets off, that could have a big factor on the Cork game. I don’t think Waterford have a player who can play that role as good as he does. In actual fact, it might be a blessing in disguise for them. It might actually suit them if they go toe-to-toe with Cork. They’d probably beat them. If they sit back, they mightn’t. I don’t think a sweeper is going to win you an All-Ireland. Even when Clare won the All-Ireland, they didn’t really play a sweeper.”
Given the hurling conversation over the past three days has been dominated by Davy Fitzgerald’s attack on RTÉ pundits Michael Duignan and Henry Shefflin, it was inevitable that the attractiveness and effectiveness of the sweeper role would be discussed at yesterday morning’s Galway press event.
Teams who operate with an extra defender, according to Burke, are basically saying they are “afraid” of the forward unit they’re coming face-to-face with.
The three-time All Star was keen to stress, however, that the sweeper system put in place by the Wexford manager isn’t as defensively orientated as is being portrayed.
“His half-back line are attacking all the time. To say it is a very defensive system, it isn’t really (correct). If you look at their half-back line, Diarmuid O’Keeffe is one of their top goal scorers. He and Matthew O’Hanlon are always going forward.”
The Galway midfielder added: “A team that plays a sweeper, there is that fear that their backs might not be good enough to handle the forward unit. That is why they play a sweeper. There is no hiding that fact. Davy was obviously afraid of some of the forwards Waterford have. He wanted to put a player back there to stop the goals. If they had stopped that goal in the first-half — it was a Wexford mistake — it would have been a different game.
“Derek McGrath realised last year against Kilkenny that playing a sweeper for a certain amount is not going to get you to where you want to be — an All-Ireland final.”
Galway boss Micheál Donoghue says those on the sideline are only concerned with one thing: results.
Providing entertainment isn’t their job.
“From this side of the table, it’s a result driven business. You do whatever it takes to get a win. If Wexford won at the weekend, would people have been going on about it?
For me, you devise your game-plan down to the players you have available to you. It’s about what you have at your disposal and what gets you over the line. When you are this side of the table, that’s all you are worried about.”
Donoghue reported a clean bill of health, with Joe Canning (knee), Jonathon Glynn (knee) and Cathal Mannion (ankle) on their way back from recent knocks.
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