Waterford have now qualified for the All Ireland semi-finals in two consecutive years. Despite this level of consistent achievement doubts still remain about the management, system and players. They have caused unrivaled discussion among pundits and supporters alike due to their apparent inconsistencies and flaws.
On Sunday evening, for my sins, I found myself tuned into “The Marty Squad” on R.T.E. Radio 1. The premise of the show is for the ever enthusiastic Marty Morrisey to interview fans to cajole a bit of “craic” for the purpose of light entertainment. Unfortunately for Marty The Deise supporters were resistant to his charms and were in no mood for any post match predictions of All-Ireland glory for Waterford. Every supporter chatting to Marty was satisfied with the win, not happy with the performance and did not fancy their chances against the mighty Kilkenny.
An exasperated Marty let out one last bellowing roar to get the supporter’s riled up,
“Does anyone on this bus believe Waterford can beat The Cats?!”
The response was as enthusiastic as a GP’s waiting room!
The mood of the fans is borne out of a fear to put too much faith into this young team. This Waterford side has been defined by its inconsistencies. Their last two championship outings tell a tale of opposing fortunes.
They are renowned as masters of a defensive game plan but shipped five goals to a clinical Tipperary in the Munster Final. Against Wexford on Sunday they surrendered five scores in a row in the second half, only to rattle off six unanswered points the seal the win.
They attack without any full-forward line and rely on long-range shooting to win games. They have no goal threat going forward and have an unerring ability for accumulating wides at a worrying rate. In the first half against Wexford their wide’s tally exceeded their score. And yet despite these unusual contradictions they find themselves in another Semi-Final.
Their talismanic no.6 Austin Gleeson regularly mixes the ridiculous with the sublime throughout a match. His trademark powerful runs through the heart of defences can be offset by his errant shooting. On Sunday he contributed seven frustrating wides. Gleeson appears to have been given a blank canvas by Derek McGrath to create havoc wherever he sees fit. McGrath has put an admirable amount of trust into his young star and is hoping his undoubted talent will provide Waterford with a platform for success against Kilkenny.
Gleeson is able to bomb forward from centre back safe in the knowledge that Tadhg De Burca will covering in behind. De Burca has a Masters in reading the game, regularly picking up loose balls and snuffing out attacks. Despite his free role his use of possession and delivery from defence can be extremely wasteful. With no direct opponent marking him he generally has time to pick out a teammate but against Wexford especially his distribution was wayward. While a sweeper’s primary role is his defensive duties he needs to be more accurate to help build attacks from deep.
The inconsistent theme continues to the sideline too. Derek McGrath and Dan Shanahan appear like the most unlikeliest of pairings. McGrath, a well spoken and articulate student of the game, is flanked by “Dan the Man” with his backwards baseball cap and sleeve of tattoos. Davy Fitz and Donal Og Cusack have nothing on this improbable pair. Despite the bizarre mix in their management team the players carry out their instructions to the letter of the law and appear to have real trust in McGrath.
Amid these flaws Kevin Moran has been the one consistent performer all season. Among the circus of youthful exuberance he has managed to provide leadership and drive at the right times. He bottled up Lee Chin in the first half against Wexford and added some fine scores from play when the need was greatest. His steady presence a perfect foil for this side packed with youthful potential.
The Waterford supporters have been hurt in the past and have suffered mixed fortunes in following their side . Despite the unpredictable nature of their young team they will flock to Croke Park hopeful of a big performance against The Cats. The concern for their loyal fans is can Waterford overcome their inconsistencies to produce a positive result?
Article written by: @offsidejob