Waterford icon Ken McGrath says the Déise have reason to be confident, based on last week’s draw against Tipperary, but he describes playing away from home as a “massive disadvantage”.
McGrath was enthused by Waterford’s formation against Tipperary last weekend.
“For 50, 55 minutes of that game, you’d be delighted. They played with six forwards up and that keeps defenders on their toes. The other thing is that five of those forwards played on the U21 All-Ireland team a couple of years ago, so they know each others’ moves.
“They attacked Tipp and created space, while the previous game they were very congested. We opened Tipp up and it was brilliant for Waterford. I’ve said for a couple of years that the team is good enough to go man-on-man, that you can trust the defenders, and Waterford did that last Sunday in Limerick.
“That’s not to gloss over losing an 11-point lead. I thought Waterford went for some crazy shots in the second half, that there were pop passes on which would have worked, but lads went for a couple of fist-pump points, if you like.
“That can happen, a fella feels he wants to get on the scoreboard, but if they’d worked the ball through the lines, which they did brilliantly for a lot of the game, they’d have been better off.
“Jamie Barron was a classic case: Against Clare, the ball was going over his head and he was bypassed. I never saw him as quiet, but he hit three points against Tipp, he was in the game straightaway.
McGrath doesn’t dwell on the ‘ghost goal’ awarded to Tipperary, paying tribute to the Premier’s resilience.
“Derek (McGrath, Waterford manager) said it after the game, there was no blaming, though there were three or four other decisions that could have been questioned.
“Hurling’s mad, the way the momentum shifts. You’re nine up, but you concede a goal and it’s six, then a point or two and it’s four, everyone is getting tetchy... I thought Bonner Maher’s goal was the turning point, they got the impetus to kick on then. The Mahers stepped up, and they have class. Seamus Callanan got a game into him and looked sharper, so did Bonner. Cathal Barrett came on and gave them the kind of aggression they were lacking, but is this Sunday a game too far for them?”
Waterford’s opponents have impressed McGrath, who points out that there’s more to Limerick than their physical power.
“They can play either way. They can mix it with you if you want to do that and they can hurl away with you. That half-back line, Diarmuid Byrnes, Declan Hannon, and Dan Morrissey, is a big powerful line, the midfield is always moving and probing, and their forwards, all lads who’ve won at underage level, they’re used to winning.
“I saw them up close for the last couple of years and there’s a togetherness there, a determination to make the most of their careers. In their league game against Dublin, though Dublin were obviously in the middle of heavy training, Limerick destroyed them.
“They could have scored whatever they wanted and I remember thinking, ‘they’ll be a force’.
“(Manager) John Kiely has them focused and grounded. I think they’ll go close in the championship. Ciaran Carey said it a couple of weeks ago and he was right: It’ll take a good team to beat them.
“When you see Na Piarsaigh, who’ve been a very good club team for the last couple of years, and they only have one player on the team, that shows how settled they are and how happy John Kiely is with what he has.”
It’s Waterford’s third game in a row, and that worries the Mount Sion man.
“Waterford won’t fear them, but the third game seems to be catching teams out, teams seem to be flat in that game,” said McGrath.
“You’d hope they can keep going, though playing in the Gaelic Grounds is a disadvantage. I think if Waterford had had a home crowd last weekend, they’d have roared them on in the last quarter and they’d have won.”
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