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Friday 30 September 2016

Cats to end Waterford's final dream

Champions have too much in attack for Deise defence

Eoin Murphy is wary of Waterford’s physicality. Photo: Sportsfile
Eoin Murphy is wary of Waterford’s physicality. Photo: Sportsfile

If Tipperary proved anything about Waterford in the Munster final, it's that their system - renowned as it is - can be easily disarmed by the simple act of a majority of your players winning their personal battles.

No team has exploited that very basic tenet of hurling in the past 15 years more than Kilkenny.

Brian Cody is unlikely to over-think things here. He has already said that he cannot predict where some of Waterford's key players will line out and how long they'll spend there, so his team will be more in tune with their own intentions tomorrow in Croke Park - rather than obsessing about the opposition.

If the Deise's game plan is partly designed to open space, it didn't show last year.

They got 18 points in the All-Ireland semi-final but never threatened Kilkenny's goal, and you would imagine that they would have to be successful on that front at least twice to win here. Tipperary got too much joy with direct ball in the Munster final, too.

Tadhg DeBurca has become arguably the most effective sweeper in hurling, but the deployment of TJ Reid or Walter Walsh in the inside forward line for Kilkenny tomorrow will test just how sturdy the recent reconstruction of that area of the Waterford team has been.

"Physically, they have come on leaps and bounds with the amount of young players they have," noted Kilkenny goalkeeper, Eoin Murphy, when asked of the change in Waterford since last season.

"They aren't afraid to go man-to-man. One minute you could be playing against two extra men in the backs or whatever it is - the next minute they are running alongside a midfielder as support players. They can play an orthodox 15 on 15."

Murphy's job is made trickier by Waterford's fluency.

Sometimes, they will drop and offer the uncontested short puck-out. Other times they'll press right up and force a more direct restart. "You try to make the best decision every time," Murphy explains.

"You could say to someone 'you are going to get the first ball or puck-out'.

"After the first minute, the whole game plan could be thrown out the window. Depending on how the other team sets up, you just have to play with your head up."

Waterford were rusty against Wexford, particularly in their shot selection, but Kilkenny's fierce tackling all over the pitch won't facilitate a more comfortable possession experience here.

Vitally, Kilkenny have too much up front for any defence - regardless of constitution - to stop to any manageable degree.

ODDS: Kilkenny 2/7, Draw 11/1, Waterford 10/3

VERDICT: Kilkenny

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