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Dublin: 9 °C Saturday 16 February, 2019

'Their captain said Waterford won’t win an All-Ireland with a sweeper. It’s up to them to beat us'

Waterford selector Dan Shanahan was referencing comments made by Galway skipper David Burke said last month.

JOE CANNING’S COMMENTS about Henry Shefflin in the build-up to the All-Ireland hurling final replay in 2012 added further spice to the rivalry and drew the anger of the Ballyhale Shamrocks man after his sportsmanship was called into question.

Henry Shefflin and Joe Canning Henry Shefflin and Joe Canning in the 2012 final replay Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“In one instance in the first half, Henry ran 30 or 40 yards down the field and was giving out to Barry Kelly and Damien Hayes for a free,” Cannning told reporters at press event.

“That’s not sportsmanlike either at the same stage. That’s the way it goes… that’s probably the experience they have.”

During the drawn game, Shefflin took a point from a 68th minute 21m free, rather than going for goal. Speaking about Shefflin’s decision, Canning said: “JJ (Delaney) wasn’t too impressed anyway behind me.”

The 10-time All-Ireland winner later wrote in his book: “I’m probably well known for giving out to referees but as one of the more experienced players on the team I would have felt it was natural that I should be the one fighting our cause.

“And I was particularly angry what Joe had said about JJ, apparently trying to create some tension between team-mates. My initial reaction was ‘I’ll shove these words down Galway throats the next day!’”

David Burke celebrates Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

This time around it’s Galway captain David Burke who has drawn the ire of their final opponents. A couple of weeks ago, Burke told reporters he felt Tadhg de Burca’s suspension may actually benefit Waterford against Cork.

“In actual fact, it might be a blessing in disguise for them,” Burke said. “It might actually suit them if they go toe-to-toe with Cork. They’d probably beat them. If they sit back, they mightn’t. I don’t think a sweeper is going to win you an All-Ireland. Even when Clare won the All-Ireland, they didn’t really play a sweeper.”

Dan Shanahan brought up Burke’s comments unprompted outside the Waterford dressing room yesterday.

“They’re (Galway) the red hot favourites, they’re the team to beat, their captain has come out and said that Waterford won’t win an All-Ireland with a sweeper. It’s up to them to beat us.”

Derek McGrath took a different tone and insisted the final won’t be a ‘grudge match.’

Dan Shanahan celebrates a Waterford goal Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

“Our motivation wasn’t what someone else had said about us, which it might have been previously,” he said. “This year, there wasn’t a mention of Galway or sweeper systems or anything. I have candidly said there is never a mention of that anyway.

“I have always said and I harp on it, a lot of the centre-backs are just sitting deep anyway. I am not sure how many balls Gearoid McInerney caught by the end of the game last week but he certainly got a good few, sitting fairly deep.”

For a team with the reputation of being overly defensive, Waterford did plenty of harm at the far end. They shot 4-19 and still finished with 16 wides.

“Semi-finals are about winning,” continued Shanahan. “We performed well today and we pushed on and the sending off had a bit of an effect on it, being honest with you, space opened up in their backline.

“We have been getting grief about the sweeper system but we knew coming here that we had to get goals, and we did, we got four today, and we made three or four other half-chances.

“We’re dealing with a most professional group of lads. I think they deserve this day. I don’t think anyone would begrudge us this day because we’re four years trying to get there. Since ’08, whatever number of years, we’re trying to get there.

“But Galway are an unbelievable team. The way Joe Canning is playing…it’s interesting, the Cooneys, they’re outstanding lads. Again, with the death of Tony Keady they’ll have this thing for it as well. What a man, my condolences to his family and to everyone involved in Galway.”

Finally, the Waterford selector confirmed they will do everything in their power to ensure Conor Gleeson is free to play in the All-Ireland final.

The centre-back earned a late red card for a pull across Patrick Horgan in the dying minutes of yesterday’s game.

“He’s distraught, absolutely distraught, we have said we’ll do what we have to do to get him back,” said Shanahan.

“He’s a man-marker. He’s been man-marked himself playing football before. He’s a good corner-forward in football and he’s been man-marked by men and he knows how to mark fellahs. He’s leggy, he’s saucy, he’s everything you don’t want to be on and that’s what he’s all about.

“If Conor’s not there, please god he will be, Tadhg is back and we’ll just have to drive on.”

Austin Gleeson in danger of missing All-Ireland final through suspension after helmet grab

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Kevin O'Brien

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