Semi final 1…Take 2

Richard Holden

So, have we all got our breaths back by now?! Last Sunday’s semi final well and truly lit up the Championship and the replay tomorrow evening is eagerly awaited by all hurling fans . The question as to who has the advantage heading into Saturday still remains– will Waterford carry their form and belief into the replay or can Kilkenny reach the necessary improvement all round to reach another Final.

Kilkenny are unchanged while the Deise have not yet named their team – perhaps they will retain the same fifteen though Colin Dunford might be a better option off the bench this time with Patrick Curran starting. Stephen Bennett could also be a wildcard judging by his displays at Under-21 level.

From a Noreside perspective, I would have some concerns that the tank is running low, with a lot of miles built up and that our strength in depth would not be as good as Waterford’s. Eoin Larkin made a big impact when introduced last Sunday but I’d like to see a chance taken on Kevin Kelly who would be someone different for Waterford to think about. John Power might also have a greater impact coming on as a sub. His pace and strength is the last thing a tired defender might want to see in the second-half.

While the Deise midfield did well last week, they missed the scoring threat which Daragh Fives provides – if he is fit it would be a major plus for them. I expect another fiercely-contested encounter and have a hunch that both teams will get goals. Don’t rule out extra-time, as it happened when the sides met in an All-Ireland qualifier in Thurles in 2013, but I give Kilkenny a hesitant vote to prevail, by three points.

In the second semi-final on Sunday,I believe Tipp can gain revenge on Galway for their semi-final defeat last year but it will be tight. The Premier’s greater degree of scoring options, with the return of Bubbles Dwyer now too, might prove the decisive factor.

Enjoy the games!

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Semi Final.

Hey everyone,

I cannot believe it is August already, while I dread the thought of summer almost finishing, It is now time for the hurling championship to enter its most important time The first port of call being the All Ireland semi final between Kilkenny and Waterford. Kilkenny are overwhelming favourites, and this isn’t always a tag worn well by champions. They will have get out of the blocks quickly on Sunday to avoid getting sucked into any stalemate with Waterford. I predict a Kilkenny victory, but not by much, maybe a point or two. I am not the only one who has views, on how the game will go, See below to view Richard’s verdict.

until next time,



This Sunday, Kilkenny and Waterford meet in the All-Ireland semifinal, their fifth meeting at this stage in the Cody era. The Cats have won the five previous semi-finals between the pair and also beat the Deise in the 2008 All-Ireland Final. They are strong favourites to emerge victorious again but Waterford will be fully determined to create their own bit of history and claim a first championship win over their neighbours since the 1959 All-Ireland Final.

So, what can we expect in this latest instalment? Both sides have been consistent all season bar two surprising heavy defeats – a League semi final reverse for the Cats when shorn of a number of regulars while the Deise endured a Munster Final thrashingat the hands of Tipperary. Since then, however, Waterford beat Wexford by ten points while the Under-21’s, featuring a trio of senior starters, claimed the Munster title, defeating Tipp in the Final.

Their confidence will have risen considerably from a month ago and Derek McGrath’s troops will relish a crack at the Cats. There is little expectation of them winning, from the outside, and that has to be a further help to them – in contrast, they were widely tipped to win the Munster Final. The experience gained from playing Kilkenny at the same stage last year should also stand to this relatively young team.

The return of Pauric Mahoney and the emergence of Conor Gleeson has strengthened their hand and there is a greater depth now to their panel than last season. The former is slowly regaining his best form, understandable after such a long absence from injury, while the latter is certainly a viable option for the backs. Daragh Fives knee injury is a blow and it will be interesting to see what change is made now at midfield.

The main issue for the Deise concerns their style of play, and the associated lack of goalscoring opportunities. In the likes of Patrick Curran, Maurice Shanahan and the Bennetts, they certainly have forwards who can rattle the net if given enough ball. The Deise hit 3-22 and 2-19 in the League play-offs against Limerick and Clare (Final replay) but in their three Championship games to date, they have hit totals of 1-21, 0-13 and 0-21 with a high wide count also a major concern.

Their best tactic might be to direct quick low ball into the forwards, and test the Kilkenny full-back line. It would be unusual if points alone were good enough on Sunday. In the aftermath of their quarter-final win, John Mullane raised doubts about the team’s energy reserves running out due to their prolonged League campaign. I think this won’t be an issue though, as they will enjoy the challenge of playing the Cats in Croke Park and they have age on their side.
The Suirsiders will also take some comfort from their League win over the Cats last February while some of the panel have sampled victory over a Kilkenny team at headquarters – the 2013 All-Ireland minor semi-final. This might not seem that relevant now but it may empower them with the feeling that Kilkenny are not an unattainable target.

Meanwhile, Kilkenny powered to a third successive Leinster title with comprehensive victories over Dublin and Galway, though the latter put up stern resistance before fading in the second-half. The return to full fitness of both Shane Prendergast and Richie Hogan is an added bonus and I expect both to start on Sunday.

The champions will aim for a more settled and assured start than the Leinster Final when they looked out of sorts with misplaced passes and some sloppy clearances. Waterford will hope to try and get an early march on the Cats and defend any lead by maintaining a high intensity and workrate.

An area of concern for Kilkenny might lie in the overall depth to their panel as the subs bench lacks in championship experience, with the obvious exception of Jackie Tyrell. However, Kevin Kelly has had some good outings in the League when called upon and he should definitely be a live option off the bench on Sunday.

I think this could turn out to be the better of the two semi-finals – Waterford will be determined to prove the Munster Final defeat was just ‘one of those days’ and to go a step further than last year but I think Kilkenny have enough to withstand a fierce challenge and advance to their tenth Final in eleven seasons.

One final point, is there a case to be made to hold one of the hurling semi-finals in Semple Stadium. Last year, the Kilkenny v Waterford semi-final drew 41,000 to headquarters but Thurles is capable of holding up to 46,000. Families are not going to games in the same droves due to the ticket prices, travel costs etc. It is a pity to see one of the finest grounds for hurling closed on such a momentous day.

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All Ireland quarter final preview.

Hello All!

So it’s time for the last six to be whittled down to the last four, and this is when you can really feel the championship heat up. It is now when counties will try and get a bit momentum going that will hopefully carry them all the way to September. Kilkenny and Tipperary are patiently waiting in the wings for whoever comes out on top tommorrow so now would be a good time to give the big Two a reason to be concerned. Everyone is tipping a Kilkenny/Tipperary All Ireland final, but there is every chance that Galway, Clare, Wexford or Waterford can put a spanner in the works. The journey starts tommorrow. I’m not going to make any predictions, I’ll let Richard do that. However I am excited to see what will unfold. Scroll below to see what our guest pundit has to say and enjoy.

P.S Make sure to keep an eye on the blog later this week for new content from myself.

See you soon,



This Sunday in Thurles sees an intriguing quarter-final double-header with the quartet in action all on a mission. There are many questions to be answered – can Waterford bounce back from their Munster Final trimming, will Galway have answer to their latest setback at the hands of the Cats, have Clare the capacity to improve on their Limerick effort, will Wexford’s graph continue to rise?

Waterford are strong favourites to beat near-neighbours Wexford in the opener. The Deise were impressive in their Munster semi-final defeat of the Banner and were tipped by many pundits to beat Tipp last time out. However, they were easily swatted aside in the end by a rampant Premier County. Whether it was the pressure of the occasion, the weather, their lack of familiarity with the Gaelic Grounds compared to, Thurles, it is hard to pinpoint exactly the reason for such a defeat and it will be a strong test of their character to see if they can put that behind them and reach the last four semi-final for a second successive year.

There were encouraging signs, three days after the Munster Final, their Under-21’s – who fielded Austin Gleeson, Shane Bennett, Patrick Curran and Tom Devine from the seniors – and beat Clare by eighteen points.
Meanwhile, Liam Dunne’s crew have recovered strongly from their thirteen-point reverse to Dublin in May. The six week gap from their first qualifier and the fact that it was in Wexford Park definitely can be seen to have helped in the rehabilitation process. The return of the gifted Lee Chin from injury can also not be under-estimated.

A good win over Offaly restored some confidence ahead of their clash with a fragile Cork outfit two weeks ago. The Slaneysiders went seven points up during the first-half but when they went a point down with eight minutes left few would have fancied their chances. However, they showed impressive resolve to hit six of the next eight points and clinch a well-deserved three point win.

They will quietly fancy their chances of kicking on now again and can also point to a win over the Deise in the championship two years ago, albeit they have had a high turnover since then through injuries and retirements, while their most recent clash was a League quarter-final last April which went right to the wire with Waterford edging matters by a point.

Jamesie O’Connor is firmly backing the Deise, going so far as to say he would bet his house on them winning! I think the match will be a lot closer than the bookies’ odds suggest but in the heel of the hunt, Waterford’s form over the season has been more consistent and they can get home by four points.

The second game between Clare and Galway is seen as the more evenly balanced. The Banner have only lost one match to date this season but their form seems to have regressed since their League Final success. Add in the loss of Conor McGrath and Clare’s lack of a sustained goal threat, with the exception of their win over Laois, and there are grounds for concern. However, they have been boosted by the return of David McInerney who has added a meaner look to their defence.

The Tribesmen, on the other hand, have had a disappointing season so far with relegation and a seven point defeat to their old foes from the Nore in the Leinster Final. That last statistic however does not tell the whole story, far from it, as Galway led by five points at one stage in the first-half and had Kilkenny looking shaky at the back and making unforced errors. This writer thinks they need to start Jason Flynn on Sunday as he has pace and an eye for goal which the Westerners lacked three weeks ago with only one real goal chance created. There is also surely more to come from Joe Canning who, while solid from frees the last day, did not really impose himself on the game in the way that he can.

This is another close call but I just feel Clare are in a slightly better place at the moment and probably feel under less pressure than the Galway players given all the negative press they have received for ousting Anthony Cunningham. In their last championship meeting, at this same stage three years ago, the Banner won by six points. This time around, I give a hesitant vote to Davy Fitz’s crew to emerge as victors again (and hopefully Davy will make a full recovery and be able to take his place on the line Sunday).

Enjoy the games, and let’s hope we have two games to saviour, the hurling championship is in need of a lift-off!

Richard Holden

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Munster final Postmortem.

Hey folks,

It is now mid July and we now know the six teams remaining in the All Ireland series.  Reigning champions Kilkenny, Tipperary, Galway, Waterford, Wexford and Clare. While some questions still remain unanswered, one big one was answered last Sunday, when Tipperary easily overwhelmed Waterford to retain the Munster title. While Tipperary showed why they are still the other half of hurling’s Big Two, Waterford were given a harsh lesson. Not only did their confidence take a beating, but the concept of sweeper systems in hurling was quickly thrown into disrepute. It appears if Waterford are to go far this year and beyond, they may have to throw off the shackles and go toe to toe with the big boys. I could go on and on, but instead I’m going to hand you over to last week’s featured writer, Richard Holden who has his own reflections on the state of Waterford hurling. Enjoy!



Last Sunday was a most disappointing day for Waterford but most teams have had those type of days where nothing goes right. Tipperary experienced it against Kilkenny in the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final when they suffered an eighteen point reverse. The following year, they ran the Cats to three points in an All-Ireland qualifier.

The Suirsiders had plenty of possession during the first-half but missed a lot of chances which had to sap into their confidence. They also conceded an untypical sloppy goal, which would have further eroded their belief. Tipp went in at half-time, with their tails up, two points ahead with the elements in their favour for the second-half and kicked on from there.

It should be kept in mind that most of this Tipp team have considerably more experience under their belt than their Suirside counterparts, with a sizeable quota part of the All-Ireland winning team six years ago. They would feel a sense of underachievement having not added another All-Ireland since 2010 so their hunger should not be underestimated.

The Premier County were very impressive in the second-half and arguably possess the greatest goal threat of all the counties still in the hunt for McCarthy, including my own county, Kilkenny who tend to burn off teams with strong point-scoring bursts now. For instance, Michael Breen scored three goals from midfield in the Munster campaign and he is a huge ace to have up their sleeve.

Waterford have taken a lot of flak over the last few days and I even read about the pressure Derek McGrath will now come under. This seems absurd given how much progress he has made with this team and a more sensible and balanced analysis is called for. Their ‘system’ has evoked a lot of negative comments but it has made them much harder to beat, similar to the approach Jim McGuinness took with Donegal and which received similar negative appraisal.

So, where do Waterford go from here? Well, they have a quarter- final against Liam Dunne’s rejuvenated Wexford and they must swiftly turn all their attention to that and not dwell too long on last Sunday. Perhaps, giving Colin Dunford a chance to start would give them an attacking threat. Dunford, after all gave an impressive display against Kilkenny last August. Also, Shane Sullivan could be worth another chance at midfield releasing Jamie Barron to go further forward.

The Deise have more strength in depth than last year, and should draw on the positives from their impressive win against Clare in the Munster semi-final when a seven point margin in no way flattered them. They missed a couple of goal chances that day, too. In the League semi-final, Waterford also racked up 3-23 against Limerick and 2-19 against Clare in the League Final replay so there is a lot of scoring potential in this team, if they can perform to near their peak.

The McCarthy Cup may not visit Suirside this year but reaching a League Final and, should they beat Wexford Sunday week, a second consecutive All-Ireland semi-final appearance would be nothing to be sniffed at and shows Derek McGrath’s troops were able to deal with the added expectation levels this year – a Munster Final defeat should not be the benchmark upon which their season, and the overall development of this team, is assessed.

Should Waterford overcome Wexford, they would go into a semi-final with Kilkenny with less expectation than against Tipperary and this should also assist them. The future is still bright for this team, and it would be a surprise if they can not regroup and make all the ‘experts’ think again. Most, if not all, of the team will still be around next season and they can only learn from an experience like last Sunday.

They should also draw on the experience of Clare, under Ger Loughnane, who suffered two dispiriting Munster Final defeats in ’93 and ’94 and a League Final defeat prior to winning Munster and All-Ireland titles in ’95 and ’97.

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Preview for the weekend.

Hello All!

Gosh it’s been a while eh? Apologies for being absent the past few months, College unfortunately has been quite hectic and I’ve been busy with other ventures too. I am going to try to contribute to this website as much as I can over the next while. After all. We’re in the GAA busy season.

The first post is a little bit different from previous ones…because it wasn’t written by me. A very talented GAA writer asked me could he contribute a piece to the site so you will be getting an opinion which is not my own for a change. His predictions are bold and surprising so grab yourself a cup of tea and enjoy!



This weekend promises to build on last week’s exciting fare with an enticing double-header in Thurles and a fascinating Munster Hurling Final in store.

A brief note on last weekend first. Cork and Dublin served up a high-scoring treat on Saturday night, with the home side winning by 1-26 to 1-23. Had Dublin not been hampered by both injuries before the match – Dotsy a big loss in particular –
and then even more calamitous for them, a first-half sending-off in Chris Crummey, they could have taken the spoils. Cork did look sharp enough in attack, particularly Alan Cadogan and also Pat Horgan, but their concession rate is still too high – 1-45 in their two games now to date – if they are to make a really serious imprint on this championship.

The Leinster Final was nearly an exact replica of last year’s All-Ireland Final with Galway hurling up a storm in the first-half and leading by three at the break though Kilkenny did miss a couple of goal chances while also scoring three of the last four points to
finish the half strongly. Kilkenny’s changes at half-time proved hugely significant with John Power and particularly Richie Hogan playing a major part, contributing six points between them. The goal was also an important turning point, a psychological blow to Galway, who may feel they should have defended it better.

Cork and Wexford do battle in Thurles in the first of the qualifiers, and both
are in a better place following last weekend’s victories. Cork have more scoring power up front though Wexford will feel that the likes of Conor McDonald and Paul Morris can provide a stiff test of the Cork inside line. In what should be a high-scoring affair, the Rebels can prevail by four or five points.

Clare and Limerick lock horns in the second qualifier, a local derby which promises to be a tense and spicy affair. The Banner beat their neighbours in Ennis in the last round of the League to clinch promotion to the top tier though were benefitted by a controversial early John Conlon goal and the sending off of Barry Nash. Still, their form has been more even and consistent than Limerick with only one defeat overall this season. Limerick were comfortably beaten by Tipperary in the Munster semi, despite the official margin been only two points, while they eventually overcame a stubborn Westmeath challenge last weekend, coming from a point down at half-time to win by nine points. I tip Clare to make amends for last year’s Munster quarter-final defeat to their neighbours and edge home by four points.

Tipp and Waterford meet for the second consecutive test in the premier showpiece down South and the two teams are closely marched based on their meetings over the last two seasons with two League wins for the Deise, last year’s semi-final and a one-point win in Thurles last March while Tipp won a scrappy tactical Munster Final last year by five points.
This year, the teams meet on neutral ground which should further aid Waterford’s cause.
The loss of Bubbles Dwyer could be pivotal for Tipp as he was man of the match in last year’s decider though Daragh Fives will also be a loss for the challengers. This really is a toss of a coin job, and a first draw in this year’s championship could be very much in the cards.
However, I think Waterford’s belief and confidence has risen again this season and added to an increased depth to their panel now they are taken to shade matters by two points and win their first Munster title in six years.

Richard Holden. (@kirstyboy)

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