Monday, September 8, 2008

Superlative display by Kilkenny puts Waterford to the sword

This was arguably the greatest display ever by any Kilkenny hurling team in an All Ireland Senior Hurling final. The crushing of Waterford by 3-30 to 1-13 at Croke Park was accomplished by team work of the highest order. Kilkenny manager Brian Cody has honed the players skills to new levels. Their speed of striking, hooking, blocking, hunting in packs and execution of scores has reached a new level of competency. No team in Ireland could have withstood the Cats onslaught. Inded it is doubtful if a rest of Ireland team would stand a chance against the Black and Amber. This Kilkenny team is a hurling machine and is undoubtedly the most skilful ever to grace the hallowed turf of Croke Park. There were no weaknesses evident. The three in a row has been achieved. Cody will now go in search of the four in a row.

What of Waterford?
Quite simply the team froze on the big occasion. The excessive levels of hype and expectation in Waterford in the wake of the defeat of Tipperary in the semi-final certainly affected the team. Try as he could Davy Fitzgerald could not insulate the team. This was reminiscent of Limerick in 2007. Fitzgerald and the backroom team did everything possible to prepare the team for the final.
Interestingly Nicky Brennan president of the GAA made reference to the fact that President McAleese had noticed a degree of nervousness among Waterford players.

In addition several players have a high degree of mileage on the clock. This has begun to take its toll. Players such as Dan Shanahan and Seamus Prendergast appear to be burnt out and probably need a long rest. It is noticeable that both players have failed to rediscover their form in the wake of injury.

Major problems in defence have continued to dog the team. Efforts to protect the full backline place too much pressure on the players further out field. Kilkenny ruthlessly exploited Waterford's defensive frailties. It is highly unlikely that Waterford can win an All Ireland Senior Hurling title with such defensive weaknesses. However there is the nucleus of a good team with players such as John Mullane , Eoin Kelly , Michael Walsh and Stephen Molumphy still in their prime.

Waterford needs to play more ground hurling. Ground hurling can upset the rythm of teams such as Kilkenny. Players need to to strike the ball much quicker. Too much ball watching is also a weakness in defence. Defenders need to improve under the dropping ball. Overhead striking must be improved.

It is quite possible that players such as Tony Browne and Paul Flynn will retire. So it is now time for the rebuilding process to commence. Davy Fitzgerald and his backroom team must remain in place. The county hurling championships may hopefully throw up some new talent. The search should not be confined to senior clubs only but should extend to intermediate and junior also.

The National Hurling League campaign can be used for experimentation. It is best to risk relegation in an effort to unearth new talent.

Undoubtedly the players feel badly bruised. However time is is a great healer. Come January they will be champing at the bit to set the record straight.

Davy Fitzgerald should ignore sniping from critics such as Tony Considine. Incidentally Tony Considine failed dismally as manager of Clare hurlers.

Waterford is a great hurling county. Waterford supporters are resilient and will continue to support the team. Waterford will rise phoenix like from the ashes of defeat. To hell with the critics. We will drive on until we win the elusive All Ireland Senior Hurling title. Indeed this defeat will only increase the determination to bring this about. This is our burning ambition.

This team has won three Munster senior hurling championships and a National Hurling League title. We are justifiably proud of the players.

Finally thanks to Davy Fitzgerald, the selectors , backroom team and players for for all their hard work.

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