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Talkin' tactics: what Waterford must do to beat Galway on Sunday

The Déise are drinking in the last-chance saloon following their humiliation by Tipperary. Here are some the key areas that Davy Fitz and his backroom staff should be looking at.

Image: ©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

AFTER THE MUNSTER FINAL debacle of two weeks ago, Sunday’s All-Ireland quarter-final could not be any more important for Davy Fitzgerald and Waterford.

If they play like they did against Tipp, the Déise are sure to be walloped by an improving Galway side, so we’ve have a look at five key areas that they need to concentrate on if they are to redeem themselves in Semple Stadium this weekend.

1. Mental approach

The first and most obvious task for Davy Fitz is to make sure that each and every one of his players goes into Sunday’s game in the right frame of mind.

The effects of their 21-point mauling by Tipp cannot simply be disregarded, so it is imperative that Waterford positively harness the hurt and embarrassment of two weeks ago, rather than let it fester.

Fortunately, this process began without delay when management called an early-morning training session the day after the Munster Final. Not only did the session allow the team to clear the air quickly, but it also reminded the extended squad of the extreme commitment and determination which is expected of inter-county players at the highest levels. If there was nearly a 100% turnout rate that morning, as has been suggested by some, it simply proves that the players had no desire to sit around feeling sorry for themselves.

What’s more, Galway will have their own mental obstacles to overcome – the Tribesmen have never beaten Waterford in the Championship. If Sunday’s game is tight coming down the stretch, it could be decided as much by brains as by brawn.

2. Play to your strengths, not the opposition’s

Any gameplan worth its salt is formulated with the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses in mind. The subtle balance between playing your own game and attempting to nullify your opponents’ is what makes the art of sporting tactics so compelling.

There is such a thing as overkill though, and Waterford’s approach to the Munster Final is a prime example. It would have been foolish to completely disregard the fact that Tipp are one of the best hurling units in the modern game but, in hindsight, the decision to play Michael “Brick” Walsh at full-back seems equally as naive.

The danger of having a player of Brick’s calibre at your disposal is that you could be tempted to ask him “do a job” practically anywhere on the field, and it’s likely that he’ll still be your best player. However, there can be no doubting that he has been one of the country’s standout centre-backs so far this season, and that is where he should line-out on Sunday, particularly if Ger Farragher slots in to a playmaking centre-forward role for the Tribesmen.

The same can be said for Darragh Fives, the youngster who excelled in the number two jersey in the early rounds of the Championship. There must be room for tactical flexibility, but too much chopping and changing will only weaken the team’s identity.

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3. Impose in the middle

Midfield was one of many problem areas in the Munster Final, when the Déise were completely overrun by Gearóid Ryan and Shane McGrath.

Up against Galway’s likely pairing of David Burke and Andy Smith, Waterford will need to be physical in the tackle and efficient in possession.

Shane O’Sullivan may not have covered himself in glory in the game against Tipperary, but he is one of Waterford’s better options in the middle of the field. The Ballygunner man has been used as somewhat of a utility player in recent months, plugging gaps where the need arises, but now is the time to return him to the middle where his work-rate and distribution could be decisive.

4. Give the forwards a fighting chance

The fact that Waterford managed to get 19 points on the board against Tipp shouldn’t paper over the glaring deficiencies of their forward line that day. Only seven of those points came from play and, of that seven, only four of those were scored by the half- and full-forward lines.

The men up top might claim that they were starved of supply against an industrious Tipp defence, and they have every right to. On too many occasions, the ball was too slow in getting to them, often leaving them to scrap for 50/50 balls or worse.

That said, there is two sides to every problem and it was obvious that Waterford were having problems in making the ball stick around the half-back line in the Munster Final. With players of Tony Óg Regan’s calibre in the Galway half-backs, management need to make ball-winning a priority and, in this respect, the potential loss of Maurice Shanahan to a hamstring injury could be very damaging.

5. Stay tight on the danger men

Nobody really needs to be reminded how good Joe Canning, Ger Farragher and Damien Hayes are. If Brick lines up opposite Farragher and Noel Connors on Hayes, both should be good enough to hold their own in these key head-to-head tussles.

Without an established full-back though, Canning is the real danger for Waterford. Whoever Davy opts for needs to have both pace and strength, as well as the discipline not to concede too many silly scoring chances from frees.

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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