Written by Brian Condon, @offsidejob
How would you describe momentum? Is it a feeling of invincibility? A sense that you are in complete control of your destiny? Or just an inner belief that whatever your opponent does you can beat it? Momentum has no affiliation to any team and can shift at the bounce of a ball. A team playing with momentum can appear unstoppable but if they lose it can be impossible to regain. After Waterford dominated the drawn game for sixty-five minutes and with Kilkenny almost snatching a dramatic late winner which side of the river Suir will the momentum lie with for the replay in Thurles?
When the final whistle blew last Sunday it was noticeable that some Waterford players sank to the turf in a mixture of exhaustion and frustration. The Deise delivered their most complete performance of the year but still were unable to finish off their illustrious opponents. Kilkenny, for their part, were uncharacteristically poor but like the great champions they are refused to surrender to Waterford’s advances. With such a short turn around between the games physical training and sweeping tactical adjustments will be kept to a minimum.
The real work for the Waterford management this week is to have their players mentally ready for the replay. Derek McGrath needs his young players to remain positive and not let the disappointment of failing to see off Kilkenny affect their mindset. If this Waterford team are an inch off their peak performance The Cats will take a mile. Their aggressive game plan worked to perfection for large portions of the game. They pushed high up the pitch preventing short puck outs, they starved the Kilkenny half forward line of primary possession and produced a superb exhibition of long-range scoring for the first 60 minutes. With a bit more conviction and belief a repeat performance could see them secure a place in the All-Ireland Final.
Kilkenny by comparison have plenty of big game experience and maturity so their preparation may be more focused on a few tactical adjustments. Tadhg De Burca was given the freedom of Croke Park last Sunday and was able to hoover up possession inside his own ’65. Due to Waterford’s relentless pressing game Kilkenny’s distribution was surprisingly poor and it allowed de Burca and his half back line to contest for the breaking ball. The Cats may be better suited by-passing their half forward line with a more direct ball and have Walter Walsh on the edge of the square. Having taken his goal brilliantly on Sunday it might be a ploy that Cody reverts to again.
The other real issue for Kilkenny is how they are going to deal the phenomenon that is Austin Gleeson. He was simply outstanding on Sunday and caused carnage any time he was on the ball. He can be extremely elusive and must be a nightmare to mark as he roams around midfield and the half forward line seeking out possession. A nominated man marker may be required as his influence on the game last week was astonishing.
Supposing that Waterford can bring the same intensity on Saturday and if Kilkenny are back to their dominant best this replay could be a spectacular event. Whichever team can convince themselves that they have the momentum from the drawn game will be in pole position to secure the victory. Bring it on!