For the first time since 1959, Waterford and Kilkenny will meet in an All-Ireland semi-final replay. Throw in 6:45pm in Thurles on Saturday.
Although, too young to remember Waterford won that replay and there is a chance on Saturday evening that they may repeat that famous victory. In fact, that was the last time Waterford won the All-Ireland as well so may be history will repeat itself.
The drawn replay between the two sides last weekend was the game of the year without doubt. Waterford ditched the sweeper for large spells of that game and attacked Kilkenny from the start. There forwards worked very hard, while the backs performed well on Kilkenny’s key players such as TJ Reid, although Richie Hogan scored 0-04 from play in the first his presence was nullified by Tadgh De Burca in the second half and he didn’t score. Similarly, Waterford full back, Barry Coughlan kept tabs on Reid and limited him to scores from placed balls. The question on everyone’s minds is that was that Waterford’s chance gone? Well look at this way, Brian Cody has only lost 1 replay as hurling manager of Kilkenny and that was to Dublin in 2013. However, I do feel Waterford can cause an upset in the replay if once again their top players perform, players such as Austin Gleeson, Kevin Moran and Pauric Mahony, if they don’t have big games it will be difficult for Waterford.
Kilkenny, the last day out showed why they are champions. They kept calm and either though they were 4 points down with 10 minutes to play they clawed back the required scores from Walter Walsh and Conor Fogarty. In Thurles though the Cats will be cautious, especially after their loss to Cork a few seasons ago. Also, it must be remembered Kilkenny played Waterford in Thurles in 2013, a game which went to extra time, with the Cats narrowly winning 1-22 to 2-16, so Waterford won’t fear them especially in Thurles. In terms of the winning of the game I think Waterford will still need a goal or two to beat Kilkenny and to be honest judging by the season so far they don’t like scoring one against a tough Kilkenny defence. In that defence Paul Murphy has been outstanding and is line for hurler of the year, while Cillian Buckley and Padraig Walsh have been playing well also. Conor Fogarty and Mick Fennelly form a formidable midfield pairing, although manager Cody will be looking for more from Fennelly on Saturday. In attack Walter Walsh was the goal scoring hero in the drawn replay and his aerial presence can cause any defences trouble, Richie Hogan who lined out at corner forward but was switched to centre forward will surely start there again. TJ Reid although accurate from placed balls more needs to come from him from play, while the inside line I fully expect Eoin Larkin to be starting alongside Colin Fennelly and Jonjo Farrell. Larkin’s work rate when introduced as a substitute was great to see and Kilkenny need him in the team just for that alone.
Waterford, on the other hand will look to leaders Austin Gleeson, Kevin Moran and Pauric Mahony once again to get the required score. Gleeson hit 0-05 from play in the replay but was playing at centre forward. Mahony hit 0-14 and was back to his best and a personal tally similar to this on Saturday evening will go a long way in deciding the outcome of this game. Moran has been outstanding and his leading his side from midfield, I expect him to have a massive influence once again.
In terms of predicting a winner of the game, I would go for a Kilkenny win by 2-3 points. The simple reason is they will play a lot better than they did in the drawn game. The forwards didn’t all click and if two or three players find form in their attack I can’t see them been beaten.
Betting Tips: Richie Hogan, Man of the Match.
Kilkenny by 1-3 points.
Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy, Paul Murphy, Joey Holden, Shane Prendergast (cpt),Padraig Walsh, Kieran Joyce, Cillian Buckley, Conor Fogarty, Michael Fennelly, Walter Walsh, TJ Reid, John Power, Jonjo Farrell, Colin Fennelly, Richie Hogan.
Substisutes: Richie Reid, Jackie Tyrrell, Robert Lennon, Conor O’Shea, Lester Ryan, Eoin Larkin, Conor Martin, Kevin Kelly, Mark Bergin, Liam Blanchfield, Michael Malone