Kilkenny v Waterford
So we arrive at the All Ireland hurling semi-finals with the same teams and the same pairings from 2015. On paper and in reality, little has changed since 2015. These 4 teams are the best in the land and deserve to be here yet again.
I believe 2016 has had better learnings for Derek McGrath than 2015. Even though Waterford hit two road blocks in the shape of their League final defeat and their Munster Final hammering to Tipperary, they have bounced back well on both occasions and the performances of their U-21’s has added some positivity around the camp. This surely has given him food for thought. While systems and structures may not be as prevalent in the U-21 grade, the Waterford team showed how much potential they have with two hugely impressive performances. However, will they be allowed unleash that potential against the reigning All Ireland champions? I believe they should go for it. What have they to lose? Nothing in my eyes as they have reached the same stage as 2015 and now need to take that leap forward.
Much has been said about Waterford’s defensive structure and how they crowd inside their own 65. However, Kilkenny broke this system down last year and have all the ingredients to break it down again this year. Kilkenny know their style of play inside out and have the know-how to work around whatever structure Waterford put in place on Sunday. Their forwards ability to win primary possession is the best in the business and in Richie Hogan, TJ Reid and Jonjo Farrell, they have 3 forwards that will cause endless problems. Richie Hogan will find space anywhere and once he does, he rarely wastes possession. TJ Reid will punish any indiscretion by the Waterford defence and that free count was high in the Munster Final.
Instead of fearing a loss, I hope Waterford change it up and try to embrace a victory. If they do, then I give them a big chance.
My head says Kilkenny but my heart says Waterford. Going to chance going with my heart this time. Waterford.