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Dublin: 10 °C Saturday 4 April, 2020

John Gardiner: Waterford maturity, Cork disaster, and Galway's supporting cast shine

All-Ireland winner John Gardiner assesses Sunday’s All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

YOU CAN RELY on this Waterford team to put in a performance, and they certainly did that against Dublin.

It’s difficult for a young team to bounce back from defeat, especially in a big championship game like the Munster final, but these guys are so grounded that it was never an issue.

It did take them a while to get to grips with Dublin’s tactics. The Dubs were nearly playing with five at the back at times, and Ryan O’Dwyer pushed on to mark Tadhg de Burca who was Waterford’s sweeper. That really disrupted Waterford’s rhythm in the first half.

Dublin’s tackling around the middle of the field was far superior. There were a lot of Waterford bodies in there but Dublin kept coming away with the ball, even though they probably gave away a few too many frees.

Another problem was the fact Waterford played Austin Gleeson at wing-forward and it took him a little while to get into the game. He’s a big player and a commanding presence when he’s at centre-back and I’d imagine a lot of the half-time talk will have focused on getting him more involved.

Joey Boland, Shane Barrett and Chris Crummey with Shane Bennett Joey Boland, Shane Barrett and Chris Crummey all try to stop Shane Bennett. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Ger Cunningham must have thought that if Dublin could hang in there, they’d have the experience over Waterford when the pressure came on.

This side showed some unbelievable maturity though, and you have to hand it to Derek McGrath. He’s stuck with guys like Brick Walsh and moved them to fit into his system because he knows that he needs the experience. It was a bit of a workmanlike performance from Brick but he did a fierce job bringing the younger lads into play in some good positions.

The game changed completely in the second half. Waterford started winning primary possession and they totally took over in the first 15 minutes. Dublin will be very disappointed; they went out of the game in the second half,  and 1-6 isn’t going to win any game for you.

Shane Bennett’s goal was spectacular, an absolute rocket. He has all the hurling, he has pace, and he has great composure.

If you were the manager on the line looking at the ball that came to him, and you saw him pulling back his hurley to pull on it with the amount of time he had, you’d be gone off your game. To be fair to the guy, it was a cracking strike and unstoppable from the goalkeeper’s point of view.

He probably deserves to get man of the match, and I think he’ll have to start now in the semi-final. He looks to be experienced beyond his years. Their system is all about giving the ball to a man in a better position and even when the pressure was on, he did that for Maurice Shanahan’s goal.

Shane Bennett scores a goal Shane Bennett scored Waterford's first goal early in the second half. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Looking ahead to the semi-final, I think Waterford’s youth is going to be in their favour. They play with a fearlessness.

When you move on in your career, you have that experience of playing against Kilkenny and you know that if you’re not at the top of your game, you’re going to get wiped out in 20 minutes. These lads won’t have that in the back of their mind. They’ll look forward to it — they’re young, they’re fit, and they’re well able to last the pace for 70 minutes.

They trust the system, Derek McGrath trusts them, and they obviously trust Derek McGrath. They won’t go out to do anything different. They’ll go out in the exact same way with the exact same system because they trust it.

In the past, they were relying on their big names to carry them through games but now they’ve a bench that they can use. It’s a big ask to beat Kilkenny but even if they lose, this year will stand to them.

One way or another, they’ve been a breath of fresh air in the championship and I’ve really enjoyed watching them. We know what to expect from Tipperary and Kilkenny most years but Waterford have brought something different, with some new faces that have really stood up.

Source: Luke Duffy/INPHO

It has been a nightmare weekend for Cork GAA and after the football on Saturday night, it took less than a minute for things to go wrong for the hurlers.

Cork were all over the place defensively for Jonathan Glynn’s goal and it set the tone for a the whole game. He was 65 yards out when he picked the ball up and he was able to run to the 13 without anyone putting a finger on him.

If you pause the video when he gets to the 20-metre line, Cork are actually in a good position defensively with Shane O’Neill on one side, Aidan Walsh in behind, and Mark Ellis covering in front of the goal.

But Mark Ellis never made contact — you have to stop the man in that situation. Even then, Anthony Nash should have been off his line like a shot. Glynn had to take a touch before putting it in. I don’t think any other goalkeeper would have stayed like that, and I was surprised that he did.

Jonathan Glynn runs in on goal before tapping over his opponents and scoring A montage showing Jonathan Glynn's first-minute goal. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The surprising thing was that Cork were still in it at half-time even though they hadn’t played at all. They couldn’t handle Glynn or Cathal Mannion but they were still within touching distance.

Joe Canning had his chances but he didn’t produce anything near what he is capable of. I’ve said before that Galway need more out of Joe and I still believe that.

It was the other Galway forwards that did all the damage because of their movement and because of their workrate. The Cork defenders got nowhere near them, they couldn’t get tackles in, and it was all too easy for Galway’s front men.

I thought Cork were going to do their usual thing where they play below par and they sneak over the line but the second half was a disaster. They lost their way completely.

They don’t play to a system. They tried to introduce a sweeper this year and it worked against a team playing a sweeper but it didn’t work against Galway’s flat 15. Galway weren’t under any pressure clearing the ball so they were able to avoid hitting into the key areas where the sweeper was.

Padraig Mannion and David Collins celebrate after the game Padraig Mannion and David Collins celebrate. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

They’re more consistent this year and that’s the major thing for Galway. I’d say Anthony Cunningham’s psychiatrist is the most well-paid fella in the country with him trying to figure this Galway side out every winter!

But they’ve got new lads standing up now in Cathal Mannion and Jason Flynn, and Cyril Donnellan back from injury at centre-forward doing fierce work.

Cork couldn’t live with Glynn. He destroyed Cormac Murphy for the first 15 minutes, and then they brought Aidan Walsh over, one of Cork’s better fielders, and Glynn was well on top of him all day.

Then there was Conor Whelan scoring 1-2 against Shane O’Neill who is a very experienced defender. He looked like a real handful and every time the ball came to his corner, he either did something positive or held it up. You can see why Anthony Cunningham gave him his chance, and I’m sure he’ll go with him again the next day.

Tipp will know now that they won’t have it all their own way in the semi-finals. Galway have good players, they’ve the physicality, they’re willing to take their scores. They matched Kilkenny, the most physical team in the country, for long periods of the Leinster final, and then got 2-28 against Cork without their main man firing.

If Joe can add five or six points from play now while lads are stepping up all around him, they’ll be a definite force to be reckoned with.

5 talking points after Waterford bounce back to down the Dubs

5 talking points after Galway dominate to send Cork to the 2015 exit door

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About the author:

John Gardiner

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