Winning all that matters to Waterford says Dan Shanahan

Dan Shanahan makes no bones about it: “Semi-finals are about winning; if it’s eight points to seven with 10 sweepers, we’ll take it.”

Shanahan’s Waterford face Cork on Sunday, marking the Deise’s third All-Ireland semi-final in a row.

“We played two unbelievable semi-finals against Kilkenny last year and what was the result?” says Shanahan. “We were beaten. It’s about winning. If you win one... we haven’t won one since 2008, then you’re back to the ’50s.

“The lads know that, too, they’re an intelligent bunch. We need to start winning these semi-finals. Some days you have to play badly and win rather than play well and lose, like we did last year with Kilkenny, and those games took a lot of steam out of Kilkenny for the final, while we might have rattled Tipp on the day.

“Next Sunday is different. Cork are the best team in the country. They have six of the best forwards playing well this year. Luke Meade, Kingston, Fitzgibbon, Coleman. They’re on a high.”

Waterford still don’t know if Tadhg de Burca will be free to play. Shanahan recalls 2004, when John Mullane’s absence through suspension might have cost Waterford an All-Ireland final berth: “An unbelievable player, and there was a lot of people, by all accounts, willing to support an appeal. The manager made the decision that we weren’t going to appeal it.

“Times have changed. I don’t know who’s on these CCCCs and who’s making the decisions, but Mullane got caught. There was a small bit of malice in what he did, there was nothing in Tadhg’s [de Burca].”

The Lismore man had a word on tactics and the much-maligned sweeper system: “I’ve been watching hurling a long time... Walter Walsh against Limerick in Nowlan Park was back in his half-back line clearing ball. Is that a tactic? Of course, it is. Brian Cody told him to do that. Eoin Larkin did it to a tee for years, clipped his few points, but went back then working for his team mates. Shane Kingston was clearing balls from the corner-back position in the Cork-Clare game. Everyone has an opinion, and because Derek and Davy [Fitzgerald] have done this, others are talking about sweepers. Other teams have done that, but those people aren’t commenting on it, or else they don’t see it. One of the two.

“The lads commenting are great men. They’ve won All-Irelands and I have the height of respect for them, but every team is doing this. Cork are working, Kingston and Meade are working, Mark Ellis sits deep... I don’t know if it’s a sweeper system, but it’s tactical.”

Waterford’s system has gotten them to three All-Ireland semi-finals, after all.

“It has. Go back to 2007. {What] if we’d brought in a sweeper against Limerick? That’s no disrespect to the lads in charge then, but if Derek McGrath had been in charge then, I think we’d have won All-Irelands. No disrespect to the lads then.”

Shanahan doesn’t expect Cork boss Kieran Kingston to change tack this weekend.

“Every game is different, every manager is different and Kieran Kingston is no different. He’s going to have his lads doing the same thing they’ve been doing all year. Why change it? We’ve won a few games by playing a seventh defender, dropping a forward. Why change it?

“I thought we over analysed it too much against Cork (in the Munster championship), maybe gave it too much time. You’d say, ‘why didn’t you get it right’ but the key thing for Cork is not their runners, it’s that the keeper can ping it anywhere. If we have seven defenders he’ll give it to Cahalane and take it back off him and launch it. If we push up, he’ll pick out Conor Lehane going in to space.

“If you can cut out Anthony Nash’s puck-outs, you’ve a good chance of rattling Cork. On Sunday. You’ll see, they’ll start Alan Cadogan and Pat Horgan inside. Then you’ll see Pat Horgan out on the 45 and Seamus Harnedy inside. They’ll keep rotating. They’ve hurt a lot of teams like that [with diagonal ball].

“When you have the legs they have, it’s hard to defend against that speed: Conor Lehane, Shane Kingston, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Luke Meade, they all have speed. Bill Cooper’s very underrated. Last time we got on top of their young fellas, but the experienced fellas won it for them: Cooper, Ellis, Horgan. Cooper’s hit on Kevin Moran that day was worth a goal to them, the terrace erupted.”

Shanahan hinted that Austin Gleeson will operate around centre-forward against Cork, the Mount Sion man benefiting from a move outfield: “It’s hindered Paudie [Mahony] a bit more maybe, we had to move him to the wing to get Austin into the middle, and there’ll be a lot of rumours going around about Austin going back or whatever, but I think he’s gotten 17 points or so from four games from play, maybe one free. Two or three points against Cork, five against Kilkenny, four the last day. You’d be taking a scoring threat, an aerial threat, and take him back.”

Waterford must take their chance this weekend, he adds: “It is a great opportunity and, in my day, we didn’t take our opportunities. Better teams beat us; the Kilkennys and the Corks were great teams, which took their opportunities. We were a good team, but we didn’t take our opportunities. Some of our key lads are going to get extra attention. They did it in the Munster championship, but you must be man enough to take it. If you’re a good hurler and you’re on a Corkman who knows you’re a good hurler, he’s going to do what he can to stop you. That’s the name of the game but it’s up to the man to win his battle.”


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