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Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 7°C
# Comment
Galway silence the doubters, plenty for Waterford to work on — Sunday hurling talking points
Plus we take a look at what went wrong for Clare after such a positive start to the year.

Galway respond to criticism

THERE WAS NO doubt a moment in the Galway dressing room at half-time today when the Leinster final defeat to Kilkenny was brought up. This game had an air of similarity to the provincial decider. On that occasion the Tribesmen led by five points at the interval but were completely outfought in the second period and outscored by 1-16 to 0-9.

Joe Canning at the end of the game Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

This time around, Galway again found themselves in a commanding position, leading Clare by seven points. And everybody was wondering at half-time if we’d see the same type of collapse from Galway as we did three weeks ago.

But there was no repeat of that disastrous third quarter here. The ball was thrown in for the second-half, and everything changed. Canning’s bullet goal 20 seconds after the restart was as much a statement by these Galway players as it was a pivotal moment in this quarter-final.

“It’s a long time since I saw Galway as fired up,” Clare boss Davy Fitzgerald said after the game.

Sunday was a sweet victory for Galway. They looked hungry and highly motivated. The criticism this group has shipped over the past few weeks clearly had a huge impact on their mindset. It was the best team performance we’ve seen from Galway in 2016. Physically they dominated Clare. Daithi Burke and, in particular as the spare defender, Aidan Harte were outstanding.

Michael Donoghue showed his nous with his excellent use of the bench. He also figured out a better role for Canning as a quarterback-type presence out the field.

Galway head into a last four clash with Tipperary after a hugely encouraging performance. They answered some of the critics, but only an All-Ireland title would shut them up. Was this performance the turning point of their season? We shall see.

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Donal Og Cusack Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

What went wrong for Clare?

A season that promised so much has ended just like the last few. In July, without so much as a sniff of Croke Park. In the three years since they won the All-Ireland from nowhere in 2013, Clare haven’t made it back to the All-Ireland semi-finals.

Clare couldn’t compete with Galway’s physicality and they never got into a rythm up front. Their style of play is far more suited to defending a lead than trying to claw one back. They didn’t abandon the sweeper and send him up into attack until the last ten minutes and by then Galway had funnelled bodies back to protect Colm Callanan’s goal.

It’s entirely possible Clare just ran out of steam. They started training back in October and, like Roscommon in football, they may have peaked too early. The Banner looked flat and that spark from their thrilling league final clashes with Waterford was absent.

John Hanbury with Shane O'Donnell Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

Another possible explanation for Clare’s failure to return to the top table is that other teams have figured out how to play against Davy Fitzgerald’s system. Three years ago it blew people away, but in the time since then opposition managers have studied Clare’s gameplan and worked out ways to beat it.

Clare may need to unearth a different type of player. David Reidy, Conor McGrath, Colm Galvin, Podge Collins, Shane O’Donnell and Tony Kelly fit the type of player Fitzgerald is relying on, but he could do with a few more in the mold of John Conlon – a physical ball winner. That’s even more critical when you consider they’re often playing passes into a forwards who are outnumbered in attack.

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Aidan Nolan with Jamie Barron, Tadgh De Burca and Shane Fives Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Waterford shake off the cobwebs and bounce back

It wasn’t always pretty, but Waterford managed to firmly put their 21-point Munster final spanking by Tipperary to bed. The Deise set-up a semi-final showdown against Kilkenny in a repeat of 2015. This time Waterford are a year older and a year wiser.

Waterford were a wounded animal with a point to prove against Wexford. They controlled the game for long spells and showed tremendous ball-winning ability in midfield.

On an interesting note, for a period in the second-half Derek McGrath looked like he was testing out a Plan B with Kilkenny in mind. They went six-on-six in attack in the second-half and put Tadhg DeBurca on man marking duties in defence, taking him out of the sweeping role.

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Last year against the Cats, Waterford didn’t have a Plan B when the game was getting away from them and they left Maurice Shanahan isolated in attack. McGrath will be ready to shake things up earlier this time around.

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Dan Shanahan Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

The Deise have plenty to work on 

A game against second-rate opposition in the form of Wexford suited Derek McGrath’s side as they attempted to pick up their confidence off the floor after shipping five goals to Tipperary. But on the face of that display, there’s plenty for McGrath to be worried about.

Waterford hit 10 wides in the first-half against Tipperary, something which led to their downfall in the provincial final. They had 13 wides in the opening half today. If they’re to get close to Kilkenny, the Deise will have to be far more clinical in front of goal. Those wides can suck the energy out of their legs. Show a similar profligacy the next time out and the Cats will smell blood.

One of the main reasons Waterford are shooting so poorly is the lack of a target in the full-forward line. Without a consistant presence in attack, Waterford end up taking potshots from deep. Austin Gleeson alone shot seven wides.

Waterford are also not killing off teams like they should be doing. They allowed Wexford back into the game for a spell in the second half. They failed to score a goal again and Maurice Shanahan and Shane Bennett were both happy to take their points when goals were on.

They simply must find the net if they are to take out the All-Ireland champions. Waterford went 17 minutes in the second-half without a score – another worrying statistic. It’s now up to the leaders in the camp now to dictate the mood as they prepare for a season-defining game.

Neither Brian Cody or Michael Ryan would have left Semple Stadium shaking in their boots after those two games. But Galway and Waterford lived to fight another day. That’s all that matters.

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