Club form is translating to county for the Cork hurlers but Waterford will be a major test

Club form is translating to county for the Cork hurlers but Waterford will be a major test
Seamus Harnedy was impressive against Tipp and shone for Imokilly too last weekend. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The John Horgan column

IT wasn’t meant to be like this, Cork and Waterford going into Semple Stadium next Sunday with a Munster final place on the line.

Waterford had been guaranteed that semi-final spot after the provincial draw decreed that they, like Limerick and Clare, avoided being involved in the one quarter-final.

Cork and Tipperary pulled that short straw and when the dates for the games were announced and it meant that Derek McGrath’s management team and the players would be able to have a good, hard look at all four of their provincial rivals.

That might be viewed as a positive but, at the game time, it meant that the other four had a serious championship game under their belt before Waterford entered the ring.

Their interest in Limerick and Clare last Sunday week would not have been as great as it was for the Cork and Tipperary encounter because of the fact that they were awaiting the winners.

McGrath would not admit it but he must have been focusing on Tipperary that bit more as they were the strong fancy to be coming out of the tunnel alongside his team in Thurles next Sunday.

What his preference on that day was is something that will never be revealed but it’s Cork now standing in the way of another Munster final appearance for his men.

It has been difficult to get an insight into Waterford in the season thus far.

It was no great secret that the national league was not top of their priority list this time and retaining their status as a Division 1A team was their only real target.

That objective was accomplished and their entire focus since has been on this Munster semi-final next Sunday.

They might have liked a crack off Tipperary again because of the trouncing they received at their hands in last season’s Munster final.

The counties may well collide further down the line in the qualifiers or in an All-Ireland quarter-final, semi-final or final but that’s not here nor there now.

Waterford’s game plan in recent times has centred around the deployment of a sweeper system but many of their fans are now believing that strategy is past its sell by date and that it is having a restrictive influence on the team.

Waterford's Tadhg de Búrca is a vital cog in their team, whether as a centre-back or a seventh defender. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Waterford's Tadhg de Búrca is a vital cog in their team, whether as a centre-back or a seventh defender. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Waterford have had a month now to prepare for this game next Sunday and it will be mightily interesting to see how they will set up.

Will it be a return to more conventional ways or will the focus still remain on a more defensive strategy?

Waterford have the physicality and the undoubted talent but have they know how to take them the extra few miles that are now required more than ever.

While Waterford’s form is very much of an unknown quantity, it is the very opposite with Cork after their stunning victory over Tipperary.

They had a good enough league campaign too and that campaign included a win over Waterford in Walsh Park.

Nobody puts a whole pile of store into league games but that day in Waterford is seen by many as a sort of a turning point and one remembers the players and management in a very positive frame of mind in the aftermath.

For young players, setting out on their inter-county careers, winning in hostile environments like Walsh Park can be a significant psychological advantage going down the line.

And, after all, didn’t Cork defeat Tipperary in the league as well.

One important aspect of Cork’s season thus far has been the form of the players in club games.

That was something that the management stressed to them, the importance of playing at the top of their game in club games.

All too often in the past inter-county players have not measured up in club games and have often been more or less anonymous.

That has not been so this time and only last weekend we saw some outstanding individual returns from a few players.

Seamus Harnedy was in superb form for Imokilly against UCC, scoring 1-5 from play while panel member Brian Lawton had a fine game too in that match also.

Danny Kearney staked a big claim for inclusion next Sunday with a very impressive display for Sars against Duhallow and whether he starts or not his presence adds considerably to the wealth of the squad.

The greater likelihood is that the status quo will prevail and that the starting 15 will be unchanged.

You could not put forward a case for even one player to be omitted from the 15 that lined out against Tipp because it was probably as complete a team performance as we have seen from a Cork team in quite some time.

More often than not on the best of days you would get eight or nine players playing very well, three or four average enough and three not really impacting at all.

However, on that day all 15 made a contribution of significance.

In Clare’s win over Limerick last Sunday you could say that only 50% of their attack functioned to the required degree.

You had Shane O’Donnell and Conor McGrath supplying 3-5 between them, John Conlon securing a few points but no return at all from Tony Kelly, Alan Shanagher or Podge Collins.

They still won the game and that’s the way it is, the majority of the team doing the business but a minority hardly figuring at all.

Now the big poser is, can Cork produce the type of team performance as a unit as they did against Tipp.

If they do you could be looking forward to a day out on July 9.

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