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6 big selection posers for Kilkenny and Waterford ahead of All-Ireland semi-final replay

Managers Brian Cody and Derek McGrath have plenty to chew before revealing their weekend selections.

Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

IN THE WAKE of a thrilling draw at Croke Park, Kilkenny manager Brian Cody and his opposite number, Waterford supremo Derek McGrath, have been left with plenty of food for thought ahead of next Saturday’s All-Ireland senior hurling semi-final replay in Thurles.

Many players justified their inclusions in the respective starting line-ups but others will feel they have a chance of getting in after some colleagues under-performed.

For Waterford, the big question is whether they will be as adventurous again after throwing off the shackles and attacking Kilkenny head on at Croke Park.

Here, we muse over some of the key issues that will exercise the minds of Messrs Cody and McGrath in the coming days.

1. Will Waterford stick or twist?

Derek McGrath let his players operate in more conventional fashion against Kilkenny and reaped huge rewards.

Gone was the defensive mindset that we’ve become accustomed to as the Déise played essentially man-on-man hurling and trusted themselves to go toe-to-toe with the stripey men.

But is the cat now out of the bag from a Waterford viewpoint? Will the same be good enough at the second time of asking?

Forewarned is surely forearmed as far as Kilkenny are concerned and Brian Cody will surely make contingency plans for another Waterford onslaught – and if his opponents revert to type.

Having operated up to now with plan A, before reverting to plan B on Sunday, can McGrath produce a three-card trick at Semple Stadium?

2. Do Waterford stick with Colin Dunford?

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Colin Dunford was excellent in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final, shooting four points from play and enjoying himself in the wide-open spaces at Croke Park.

In a horses for courses selection, McGrath went with the Colligan man again in the hope that he could make a similar impact.

But Dunford was unusually off-colour, letting two excellent diagonal balls bypass him in the opening half, both leading to Kilkenny scores at the other end when he’ll feel he should have claimed possession twice and hurt the opposition.

Now, McGrath must decide whether Dunford will retain his starting place or if he’ll replace him up front.

Patrick Curran, Maurice Shanahan, Stephen Bennett and Brian O’Halloran are all more than useful options to call upon and after being left out of the starting line-up, will be champing at the bit for a chance to impress.

3. What do Waterford do if Darragh Fives is fit?

McGrath revealed that Darragh Fives was devastated when he failed a fitness test on Sunday morning, ruling him out of the first Kilkenny instalment.

But if the Tourin man is passed fit ahead of the replay, surely he’s in line for an immediate return?

McGrath will have a big call to make in that regard, however, as Conor Gleeson came in and acquitted himself very well on his full senior championship debut.

Gleeson played at wing-back, did very little wrong and will feel that he’s in line for another outing next Saturday in a starting role.

But this is a lovely position that McGrath finds himself in, with a real depth of options to call upon from the bench in defence and attack.

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4. Do Waterford have to man-mark Richie Hogan?

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

In this week’s column, our analyst Tommy Dunne has brilliantly described the conundrum that faces managers when a player of Hogan’s calibre decides to roam.

In the first half on Sunday, Hogan got away for four points from play and drifted to devastating effect as his direct marker, Tadhg de Búrca, was more concerned about holding his position. 

Hogan went into the full forward line in the second half, where his impact lessened, but he has the undoubted ability to hurt Waterford again if given those pockets of space in which he loves to operate.

So, does Derek McGrath decide to man-mark the Danesfort wizard or decide that defensive shape is the necessary by-product of perhaps conceding more scores to Hogan?

Perhaps Dunford could even fulfil the man-marking role, which would still leave five Waterford forwards up front.

Dunford, if deployed as an auxiliary midfielder, has the dynamism and energy to stick with Hogan for the 70 minutes while also getting free himself to possibly pick off scores.

5. How will Kilkenny shut down Pauric Mahony and Austin Gleeson?

Similarly, Kilkenny must now decide how to put the shackles on Waterford’s twin terrors.

Between them, Mahony and Gleeson contributed 0-19 on Sunday, with four of Mahony’s 14 points contributed from play.

Gleeson was superb throughout and caused Kieran Joyce all sorts of problems, with the Kilkenny man substituted.

Gleeson scored five points from play as he roamed to great effect while Mahony, on more than one occasion, was the recipient as he popped over points to reward Waterford’s industry in attack as they hunted in packs and forced turnovers from Kilkenny.

While Waterford will concern themselves with one ‘drifter’ in Hogan, Kilkenny have two men to worry about as Mahony and Gleeson can both operate successfully in the number 11 role.

6. Has Eoin Larkin done enough to earn a start?

Eoin Larkin came off the bench for Kilkenny on Sunday and made a big impact.

He provided a valuable extra body around the middle third as the Cats worked their way back into contention, while also scoring a point.

Larkin will hope that he’s done enough to force his way back into contention for a starting place, having been dropped for Sunday’s encounter.

John Power and Jonjo Farrell may be looking nervously over their shoulders now after below-par performances.

But Farrell’s enjoyed a productive season to date and his goal threat may see him retained if Cody plumps for change.

What changes will Cody and McGrath make on Saturday? And how do you see them setting up their teams ahead of the Thurles replay? Leave your feedback in the comments section below. 

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