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Tuesday 27 September 2016

Deise set to edge premier

McGrath's team must end goal 'drought' to see off their multi-talented Tipp opponents

Derek McGrath
Derek McGrath

If not quite the unstoppable force, Waterford are starting to look like the sort of team that will only be delayed or momentarily stalled on their route towards their goals.

They put so much into last year; time, emotion, energy, that Derek McGrath openly questioned whether they could do so again this year.

When it became clear very early on that they could, they invested so much of the above into that two-game League final saga with Clare you half suspected defeat in the replay to poleaxe their momentum.

Not so.

Waterford have put themselves in a position to take a more realistic crack at the trophies they crave most and tomorrow in Limerick, we'll see how much ground they've made.

Goals are vital here.

Last year, Waterford scored none against Tipp in the Munster final (though, to be fair, they conceded none either) and never really threatened one against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Energy

They were, therefore, deprived that of that pronounced and instant lift a raised green flag brings, not alone to their running scoring tally, but to the energy of their players and the mood of their fans.

It was, manager McGrath admitted, a very obvious area requiring very clear and necessary improvement but after the five games of this year's Division 1A campaign, his team had managed just a single goal.

In their three games against Clare between the League final, its replay and their Munster opener, Waterford got three and in this, the returns of Maurice Shanahan and Pauric Mahony have given them greater variation in attack, leading to a less predictable forward line.

But the fact remains that no team - not even Kilkenny - possess the same goal-scoring ability as Tipperary.

Ball-winning, movement, pace and finishing - Tipp have every sort of forward imaginable and even without the suspended 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer, their attack is no less multi-talented.

Absence

Niall O'Meara and Jason Forde are the class of forwards most managers would build a team around, not - as is the case for Mick Ryan - decide which comes off the bench first or, in this instance, replaces O'Dwyer.

In his absence though, Dan McCormack and 'Bonner' Maher - the heavy lifting part of their attack - must add some scores to their performance.

Michael Breen has been a revelation this year down the central column of this Tipp team, though his two goals against Limerick were the sort of bonuses Ryan won't be relying upon in future.

If you were to take a more medium-term view of the benefits of winning this year's Munster title, you'd have to factor in the added prize of avoiding Kilkenny until September.

Already, they cast a very long and disheartening shadow over the eight teams left in the Championship.

That might, on the basis of their recent second-half displays, be delaying the inevitable.

But both Waterford and Tipp looked much more stoutly equipped to take advantage of a blotchy performance from the Cats than either Galway or Dublin. Indeed, they are the most likely.

That's for further down the line though.

We've been inclined to think a Munster title - at the very least - has been coming to this team ever since McGrath began the process of rebuilding it.

His energy has been admirable. His plan, while not immediately meeting approval from everyone in Waterford, is starting to look visionary as all the elements come together.

That this team is a more mature, secure and physically stronger version of the side that didn't quite manage it last year.

With the obvious proviso that Tipp possess the forwards (though fewer of them in light of O'Dwyer's absence) to explode open any defence, regardless of shape, size or constitution, we've a feeling tomorrow could, if they manage to find the net at least once, be the Déise's day.

ODDS: Tipperary 8/13, Draw 9/1, Waterford 13/8

VERDICT: Tipperary

Munster SHC final: Tipperary v Waterford, tomorrow, live RTE 1 (4.0)

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