Waterford defeated Wexford in this exciting game played at Semple Stadium today by 2-19 to 3-15.
The game had some excellent passages of hurling and in fairness Wexford probably deserved a draw.
Once more Eoin Kelly, Eoin McGrath and John Mullane were Waterfords outstanding forwards. Today we saw small glimpses of the Dan Shanahan of old. He scored 1-1 and was far more involved in the play. However he is not at full throttle yet.
The Waterford forward line is not functioning fully as a unit.
More combined play, ground hurling and diagonal balls are an essential prerequisite for the Semi Final against Tipperary. In addition the half forwards must continuously harry the Tipperary defenders who are clearing ball. This involves 70 minutes of concentration. As a Waterford forward carries the ball towards the Tipperary goal others must run off the ball and be prepared to take a pass a la Ben O’Connor, Gerry O’Connor or Cathal Naughton for Cork
Brick Walsh struck a lot of good ball at centre field. Jamie Nagle is improving from game to game and struck a beautiful point.
Unfortunately Waterford has major defensive problems. Ideally Ken McGrath is a centre back. However I think that Davy Fitzgerald has no option but to play Ken at full back.
The Waterford defence plays too much loose hurling. Backs are too prone to ball watching. They must man mark. It was noticeable today that Wexford forwards continuously roamed the field without being picked up. Each back is responsible for the man he is marking. His function is to prevent the forward from scoring.
Today the Waterford backs were caught flat-footed by diagonal balls. Loose Wexford forwards picked up soft scores. Each defender must pick up an opposing forward and mark tightly. Once more this demands concentration.
Players such as Rory Jacob and Stephen Doyle got too much room today and nearly snatched the game for Wexford.
The looseness was not confined to the full back line. It also extended to the half back line.
This problem has dogged Waterford for the last five years and has probably cost the county an All Ireland.
Failure of the backs to tighten up will result in a hammering by Tipperary. Tipperary forwards play with blinding speed and skill. Backs should not be afraid to use the shoulder once it is not into the opponent’s chest. Each back must continuously ask himself the question: Where is the player I am supposed to be marking?
Tipperary followers-after Waterford’s performance today- are now speaking in terms of their opponents in the All Ireland final. They fancy themselves against either Cork or Kilkenny.
Davy Fitzgerald and his backroom staff have done well to revive this Waterford team which had a poor National League campaign and which performed very poorly against Clare in the Munster Championship.
Notwithstanding Waterford’s sluggishness the team is now in the semi-finals. After the debacle against Clare few supporters could have hoped for as much.