Waterford may have lost Tadhg de Búrca but in doing so have gained another rallying call. The multiple motivations the Déise have going into tomorrow’s All-Ireland semi-final:
It seems the majority of people believe the official judgement of his exchange with Harry Kehoe was harsh. Getting three chances to contest the one-match ban would seem entirely fair if the final one of them wasn’t arranged less than 72 hours before throw-in.
At the same time, the question may now be asked why de Búrca was getting involved with the Wexford player when Waterford had all but won the All-Ireland quarter-final.
On the other hand, the sending off is understood to have deeply affected de Búrca and his family. A player so integral to their operation, he will be sorely missed but might his absence provide them with the carrot to progress? In 2008, Kerry were determined to beat Cork in their semi-final replay so that the suspended Darragh Ó Sé would have a final to play in. If Waterford do win, don’t be surprised to hear stories about how his team-mates wanted to provide their own justice for de Búrca.
Twelve All-Ireland semi-final matches since 1998. Ten defeats, one victory, one draw. Their average margin of defeat over those games? Just over three points. It’s at this semi-final stage where the frailties (eg 2010 v Tipperary) and the near-misses (eg 2001, ’06, ’17) have haunted Waterford most. The question for this Waterford team is this — do they make this opportunity a seminal moment or do they become just another statistic?
After beating Kilkenny, Noel Connors revealed the players had been stirred to win for the sake of manager McGrath.
The defender cited the pressure their chief had faced following the provincial loss to Cork: “We’ll be the first to say as players that we didn’t perform on the day. Derek has taken a lot of criticism. One of the motivational factors was playing for Derek.”
A manager revered by his players, McGrath has since had to brush away speculation about him joining Dublin. All the same, there is a sense of finality for him this season. He might be one year into a new three-year term but then so was Rory Gallagher in Donegal before he stepped down.
Earlier this week, Mark Ellis confirmed what most Cork hurling followers had suspected: That taking a leaf out of Waterford’s book last year was a backward step.
Ellis, who admitted that it seemed some teams felt they had to replicate Waterford’s tactics to be successful, said: “When you’re playing a standardised sweeper and a fella sitting there it probably is as negative and going against the grain of what Cork hurling traditionally would be about, and purists would have been against it,” he said.
The Waterford camp know how others feel about the way they go about their business but as if they didn’t need more incentive to avenge the Munster semi-final defeat...
Twice now, Galway captain David Burke has made comments that could be perceived as pops at Waterford. Last month, he spoke of the de Búrca ban. “In actual fact, it (his suspension) 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.”
This past week, he tipped Cork to win. Burke should be complimented for speaking his mind although going 15-on-15 didn’t help Waterford the last day and speaking so freely about a team his county who they may yet face in the final is a perilous exercise.
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