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Battle stations: Where Kilkenny v Waterford will be won and lost

We’ve identified the four key areas that will decide who goes forward to the All-Ireland final.

Image: ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Waterford’s full-back line

THE FULL-BACK position has been Davy Fitz’s biggest headache throughout the championship, with no standout candidate claiming the number three jersey.

After experimenting with Wayne Hutchinson and youngster Jerome Maher in the Munster Championship, Davy finally settled on Fourmilewater man Liam Lawlor for the quarter-final win against Galway.

Alongside Darragh Fives and Noel Connors, both of whom have had excellent seasons to date, whoever gets the nod at full-back this afternoon — probably Lawlor — will have his work cut out for him.

As Brian Cody showed in the Leinster final against Dublin, he will not be afraid to send his big guns into the full-forward line right from the off, pumping high ball in to them in an attempt to keep Waterford under pressure.

If the Déise defence struggle to hold their own in these early exchanges, the game could be over before it even starts.

“Brick” v Richie Power

The head-to-head between Michael “Brick” Walsh and Richie Power is set to be the most intriguing of this afternoon’s individual battles. Both players are hurlers of the highest class and the match-up between the two will certainly influence the course of the game.

Though only 25, Power has already become one of the Cats’ key playmakers. On his day, “Brick” is rarely bettered by the man who he is detailed to mark.

If he can stay tight on Power and disrupt his ability to direct Kilkenny’s play, it will minimize one important aspect of the Cats’ attacking thrust.

Puck-outs

The quality of Clinton Hennessy’s puckouts has rightly come under scrutiny in Waterford hurling circles this summer.

In the first half of the Munster final against Tipperary, far too many of his drives ended up in the opposition’s hands, giving Tipp the platform from which they could run amok.

Hennessy adopted a different strategy in the game against Galway, varying the length and often picking out one of his backs with a short puckout.  Waterford, however, looked less than comfortable with the system that day. Any similar mistakes today will play right into Kilkenny’s hands.

Midfield

Kilkenny had a bit of a scare last week when one half of their preferred midfield pairing, Carrickshock man Michael Rice, picked up a hand injury in training. He starts today, but it will be interesting to see how comfortable he is in the opening exchanges.

As with most positions on the pitch, midfield is an area in which the Cats expect to dominate their individual battles.For their part, Waterford have struggled again to settle on a partnership at eight and nine. Shane O’Sullivan and Richie Foley have both been used in midfield this season, but it looks as if Stephen Molumphy and David O’Sullivan are now Davy Fitz’s first choices.

Molumphy was part of the midfield that went AWOL against Tipp in the Munster final but, on his day, he is one of the best winners of breaking ball in the game. If he can impose himself in the middle third against All-Star opposition, Waterford will stay competitive.

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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