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5 talking points after Waterford bounce back to down the Dubs

Shane Bennett and Liam Rushe left emphatic marks on yesterday’s All-Ireland quarter-final, but for very different reasons.

Austin Gleeson cuts a sideline puck towards goal.
Austin Gleeson cuts a sideline puck towards goal.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

1. Shane Bennett bursts onto the scene

By anyone’s standards, June was a busy month for Shane Bennett. After making his senior championship debut with a pair of points against Cork, he went on to turn in a man of the match performance for Waterford’s U21s against the same opposition — on the day that he finished sitting his Leaving Cert.

Yesterday marked another milestone in his meteoric rise: a first championship start and a central role in both of the Déise goals, including a bullet finish early in the second half.

Derek McGrath’s trust in his youngsters has been one of the hallmarks of this Waterford renaissance, and his decision to start 18-year-old Bennett firmly fit that mould.

It paid dividends — and Waterford now have another string to their attacking bow as they prepare for an All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny.

2. Dubs nearly crack Waterford’s code

Much has been made of the ‘system’ that has carried Waterford through to this point with just a single defeat to their name but, in the first half at least, Dublin seemed to have it cracked.

Ger Cunningham sent his players out to mark man-for-man; Ryan O’Dwyer pushed up onto Tadhg de Burca and the Waterford sweeper had nowhere near the amount of time and space he has become accustomed to this season.

Dublin and Waterford players clash during the final moments of the match Players from both sides clash during the final moments of the game. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

With quick ball into their forwards, Dublin were able to pick off their scoring chances and it’s hard to argue that they didn’t deserve their slender lead after a wide open first half. Had they not conceded so many scoreable frees, they could have been even further ahead at the break.

3. Players drive Déise’s second-half blitz

At half-time, Derek McGrath and his selectors departed the dressing room and allowed the Waterford players to air and address their own shortcomings.

Whatever was said between them certainly appears to have paid dividends. They outscored Dublin in the third quarter by 1-7 to 0-2 as a previously tight game shifted decisively in their favour.

The intensity of their play was summed up by Bennett’s goal just two minutes after the restart. Determined pressure forced Dublin into a turnover in a dangerous position and when Maurice Shanahan centred his pinpoint pass, the defence had been pulled out of shape, leaving Bennett totally unmarked to finish.

Shane Bennett scores a goal Bennett strikes for the game's opening goal early in the second half. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

4. Another Rushe of blood

It is impossible to defend the moment of madness that saw Liam Rushe sent off in the dying moments. He was undoubtedly frustrated before himself and Maurice Shanahan collided, but there is no excuse for striking an opponent across the face with a hurl.

It’s not the first time that Rushe has lost his cool in the heat of the battle. He infamously struck out at Cork’s Patrick Horgan in the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final, though he escaped punishment on that occasion.

Source: CorkGAA MatchReports/YouTube

There is no denying that he is one of Dublin’s biggest assets, but he is no good to them watching on from the sidelines or suspended in the stands. Expect the CCCC to take a dim view of this.

5. Waterford restate championship credentials before their biggest test

This was a performance which proved beyond all doubt that Waterford are no flash in the pan. The disappointment of their Munster final defeat to Tipperary was definitively put to bed and the remarkable form which has carried them to this point was restored.

Without doubt, though, their toughest tests are still to come with Kilkenny now awaiting them in the semi-finals on 9 August.

Maurice Shanahan celebrates with manager Derek McGrath after the game Maurice Shanahan and Derek McGrath celebrate. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

This team has come a long way since their last competitive outing against the Cats, a 20-point defeat in the league 16 months ago. They will be underdogs against the reigning All-Ireland champions but there’s nothing to suggest that they will be lacking belief in a fortnight’s time.

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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