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Waterford step up, Tipp favourites, Mahony scoring power - league semi-final talking points

It’s a local derby as the Premier County and their Déise neighbours prepare for a Nowlan Park clash.

Waterford and Tipperary go head to head this Sunday
Waterford and Tipperary go head to head this Sunday

1. How will Waterford cope with the step up in class?

Derek McGrath’s charges have answered every question thrown at them to date in the Allianz Hurling League, topping Division 1B to gain promotion to the top flight before seeing off Galway in the quarter-finals.

But facing last year’s beaten League and All-Ireland finalists Tipperary is a step up in class for an evolving Déise outfit.

McGrath will place a heavy emphasis on making sure that his team is defensively solid from the start and building from there.

In six League games to date, Waterford have shipped just 3-80, or an average of just under 15 points per game.

Derek McGrath Manager Derek McGrath has made Waterford difficult to break down Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

2. Tipperary’s strength in depth will be tested

Premier County boss Eamon O’Shea is planning without a host of key names for Sunday’s clash.

2014 Young Hurler of the year Cathal Barrett and Kieran Bergin, who was enjoying a brilliant year, are ruled out through injury while Noel McGrath underwent surgery for testicular cancer on Friday.

John McGrath, Denis Maher and Joe O’Dwyer are also unavailable while Michael Cahill, Paul Curran, John Meagher and James Barry are on the comeback trail.

The presence of talismanic forward Seamus Callanan is a boost, however, and his successful venture to the GAA’s Central Appeals Committee on Thursday evening may tip the balance back in Tipp’s favour.

Eamon O'Shea The depth of Eamon O'Shea's Tipperary squad has been tested Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

3. Could this be a Munster final dress rehearsal?

Tipperary and Waterford find themselves on opposite sides of the provincial championship draw in Munster.

Tipp will face off against the winners of Clare and Limerick on June 21, as Waterford prepare for a semi-final tussle with Cork on June 7.

Tipp and Waterford met in the 2009, 2011 and 2012 Munster finals, with Tipp winning them all, but neither county has appeared in the Southern showpiece in the last two seasons.

Both managers have yet to taste a provincial championship win as Eamon O’Shea has yet to break his duck in Munster while McGrath’s Waterford lost to Cork after a replay last year.

Padraic Maher and Shane McGrath celebrate at the end of the game Tipperary pair Shane McGrath and Pádraic Maher celebrate Munster glory in 2012 Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

4. Can Pauric Mahony continue in his rich vein of scoring form?

Ballygunner ace Mahony has been simply sensational for Waterford this year, shooting the lights out in the county’s Allianz Hurling League fixtures to date.

In six games, Mahony has helped himself to an incredible combined tally of 1-66, or an average of 11.5 points per game.

This prolific free taker is capable of punishing opposing teams from anywhere inside the 65m line, and beyond, which means that the Tipperary defence must keep the free count down to a minimum within scoring range.

But there’s much more to Mahony than just placed balls as he is a regular contributor from play also.

Pauric Mahony Pauric Mahony has scored 1-66 for Waterford in the Allianz Hurling League Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

5. Tipp will look to justify their status as League favourites

Tipp haven’t won the National League crown since 2008 and that’s a statistic they’ll be looking to address.

After losing that opening day fixture to Dublin in comprehensive fashion, the Premier men have won five on the trot and the manner of their victories over Kilkenny and Cork hinted at real steel lying beneath a silky exterior.

Tipp are capable of scoring at will but they now also possess an abrasive streak and in Eamon O’Shea’s last season in charge, his players will be desperate to reward the manager’s loyalty with silverware.

The championship is the primary concern for Tipp but they wouldn’t turn their noses up at league glory either, having lost the last two finals to Kilkenny.

A dejected Shane McGrath Tipperary suffered another League final disappointment against Kilkenny last year Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

– First published 09.00

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