Tadhg de Burca decision may be crucial to Cork-Waterford repeat

Michael Moynihan previews the repeat pairing of Cork v Waterford in the All-Ireland semi-final.

When and where?

Croke Park, August 13, throw-in 3.30pm.

Who’s happier with the draw?

Good question. Waterford will be keen to avenge that Munster SHC defeat earlier this summer at the hands of Cork. Rebels milling around Páirc Uí Chaoimh over the weekend seemed to have a Wexford-Waterford-Tipperary order of desirability in terms of semi-final opponents.

Could both be equally happy?

Without a doubt.

Who’s in better shape?

Up to the 65th minute last Sunday, Waterford. An experienced side building to an expected win and returning for their third All-Ireland semi-final in a row. Then Tadhg de Burca got sent off. Most of Cork’s newer players haven’t played a championship game in Croke Park, and the Munster champions must also manage a four-week lay-off on top of that. Advantage Waterford, but only slightly.

Anyone missing?

Ah, that’s the complication. As of today Waterford are without Tadhg de Burca, the key component in their defensive strategy. Sent off for an off-the-ball entanglement on Sunday, if he’s missing from the semi-final it’ll mean a lot of readjustments for Waterford.

Then again, with the appeals process, the man from Clashmore-Kinsalebeg may not miss the game at all. Cork have a clean bill of health as of today. Advantage Cork.

Any distractions?

See above. Waterford management are expected to go the distance with the disciplinary process to see if they can free de Burca for the game, but the danger of a long-running saga is that it sucks up energy and provides an ongoing distraction humming away in the background for players and management alike. Cork don’t have any such issues to take up their time and blur their focus. Advantage Cork.

It might be a dirty word but...

Tactics? Take your pick. Whether de Burca is playing or not Waterford will have a pattern of play, the only question is whether it will resemble Sunday’s fare against Wexford or last year’s All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny, when the men from the southeast opened up considerably.

Remember Waterford manager Derek McGrath’s comments last Sunday: “Each game is planned differently. You mightn’t see it, but it’s actually planned completely differently.” Cork will have their own approach to the game based on the energy and athleticism of those operating in the middle of the field. Waterford will know that, of course, and plan accordingly. Given they’ve been playing their system for the last four years, advantage Waterford.

How long a shadow will the last game cast?

The small pool of hurling counties means repeat fixtures are almost inevitable, and in this case that Munster semi-final is still fresh in the memory.

Waterford were flat then and kept Austin Gleeson too far from the action; both errors won’t be repeated next month.

Cork won but had their own concerns approaching the game and during the contest — they sweated on the fitness of Conor Lehane for that game and lost Colm Spillane to a red card with 10 minutes left.

Assuming that both sides are fit and neither loses a player to a red card, advantage Waterford.

How important will the referee be?

He’s always important even when he isn’t important. Waterford wouldn’t have been happy with Fergal Horgan last weekend, for instance, and not just because he sent Tadhg de Burca off. Discussing counties’ preferences for officials can become a never-ending rabbit hole of prejudices and dislikes, though. Suffice to say Barry Kelly, the best in the business, is likely to find favour with both counties here.

The winner will be ...

Are you kidding? Between then and now a player could stand on a nail or get the ‘flu, not to mention the alphabet soup of disciplinary bodies that Tadhg de Burca is likely to encounter over the next fortnight. Talk to me again 48 hours before the ball is thrown in.

 

Bonus PaperTalk: Peter McNamara talks to Cork U21 hurling coach John Meyler ahead of Wednesday's Munster final with Limerick.

John discusses his emotional reaction to semi-final victory over Waterford, Cork hurling's renaissance, his love of coaching, sweeper systems and tactics and much more.



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