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Saturday 1 October 2016

Hope for Déise: Cats don't win every replay

Richie: Dubs defied odds in 2013 and so can Waterford

Waterford’s Austin Gleeson leaves the field looking dejected after Kilkenny forced a late draw in last Sunday’s All-Ireland SHC semi-final. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Waterford’s Austin Gleeson leaves the field looking dejected after Kilkenny forced a late draw in last Sunday’s All-Ireland SHC semi-final. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Richie Stakelum was in Croke Park last Sunday, entranced just like everyone else by a semi-final that brought this slow-burning hurling championship to life.

But the former Tipperary captain doesn't go along with the consensus that the replay script is already penned in favour of a routine Kilkenny win in Thurles this Saturday.

Maybe it's the "old romantic" in him. Or the intimate knowledge that, contrary to stereotype, Brian Cody can be toppled on day two ... as happened in 2013 when Stakelum was a selector, under Anthony Daly, as Dublin defied the odds and history to make Leinster SHC replay headlines in Portlaoise.

But Stakelum, in fact, has a fancy for Waterford precisely because it is Waterford. "I'm not so sure that this is a foregone conclusion. I'll tell you why," he begins.

He then launches into a roll call of players whose outstanding form last Sunday was part of a two-year trend, not out of leftfield: the likes of Austin Gleeson, Kevin Moran, the unsung "hunter-gatherer" that is Jamie Barron, Pauric Mahony's free-taking (while his brilliance from play, he surmised, was a sign of someone now fully over last year's leg break).

"So there was nothing that I saw Waterford do that I haven't seen them do before," Stakelum stresses.

"Now, they definitely pushed more forwards up in a more orthodox fashion. At the end they retreated - but I think that was more to do with looking for the finishing line and the lack of experience, and the fact that they're playing against arguably the greatest team of all time and there's still that aura.

"So I would be confident that what you'll see next weekend in Thurles is more of the same. And I won't be one bit surprised if Waterford win. And I would go so far as to predict that Waterford will win."

Harking back to 2013, he can see similarities with the six-day turnaround and reckons this won't be an issue, physically, for Waterford's younger team. The big "fillip" for Dublin, then, was the belief derived from day one that "We can do this".

"So the following day there was definitely more of a confidence that we shouldn't be overawed ... and if Waterford play with that same freedom and abandon, I give them absolutely every chance."

Still, there are grounds for caution. Why, you wonder, are Kilkenny usually so good in replays?

"Two things. Cody is the master learner. He learns more from game to game than most other managers," Stakelum surmises.

"And the second thing is purely the aura that 'Jesus, it's Kilkenny we're playing.' And I think that really seeps deep into the psyche of players. 'Ah Jesus, we missed our chance.'

"The first (reason) is more tangible. The difference about this one is I didn't see Waterford catching him with one man up; I saw Waterford almost catching him by going toe-to-toe."

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