Pauric Mahony insists Kilkenny are beatable ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland SHC semi-final, despite Waterford’s underdog status and the continuous debate over their sweeper system.
The Déise head into the weekend’s clash as 10/3 underdogs with the bookies and questions still surrounding Derek McGrath’s side after their whopping 21-point Munster final hammering to Tipperary and their inconsistent All-Ireland quarter-final win over Wexford. In contrast, Kilkenny breezed through Leinster after seeing off a first-half fight from Galway in their provincial decider, leaving the All-Ireland champions ominously poised ahead of Sunday’s clash.
But while the Cats are money-on 2/7 favourites to book their place in a third final in a row, Waterford full-forward Mahony believes Kilkenny are beatable.
“Absolutely. If I didn’t think we could win I wouldn’t be playing,” said the 24-year-old. “That’s the feeling certainly in the Waterford dressing-room at the moment - that we firmly believe that we can win and go on from that.”
Waterford came in for major criticism after their provincial final loss as their infamous sweeper system malfunctioned with Tadhg de Búrca left exposed by Tipperary’s successful efforts to target him.
However, Mahony insists Waterford will not abandon their set-up for Sunday’s game.
“As a group we all buy into the way we play and we still believe the way we play is the best way to move forward,” said the Ballygunner clubman. “If you’re winning games, the way you’re playing is fine but it’s flagged then if you have a big loss like we had against Tipperary. You can find flaws in any system on the back of a bad performance.
Déise boss Derek McGrath has consistently defended Waterford’s style of play, even going so far as to argue past defeats such as last year’s semi-final loss to Kilkenny came partly as a result of his side’s failure to stick to their system. Mahony agrees with his manager.
“We felt that as players we didn’t follow the plan in the Munster final,” said the Waterford forward. “That was one of the most disappointing things because we felt we did abandon it - Derek highlighted that himself after the defeat.
“You’re going up against Kilkenny now and if there’s any sign of a slip-up they’ll certainly exploit it,” added Mahony, who missed last year’s defeat to Kilkenny due to an horrific leg break.
While Waterford bounced back from their loss to Tipp by recording a commanding 10-point win over Wexford, their quarter-final victory was marred by a poor wide tally, hitting 13 in the first half alone.
“I suppose maybe the fact that we had a 10-point win, it covered over the wides to a degree,” he said.
“But I think the thing about the game was the majority of the shot selections were probably the right selection.
“If you’re taking shots and they’re pot shots and maybe there’s a man in a better position, then questions have to be raised. But the way it was [against Wexford], I think the majority of the shots were right so you can’t have any qualms with that because they were just going wide.”
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