(originally posted by Giveitfong on boards.ie)
There was very little to be learned from the game against Westmeath on Saturday night, such was the gulf in standards between the teams. Waterford were at half-cock in the first half while Westmeath put in a big effort and were winning the 50/50s all over the place. They also got some good long-distance scores playing with the strong wind. It should also be noted that Liam Lawlor repeated his error against Offaly, attempting a pass in front of goal which was intercepted and sent over the bar.
Nevertheless, despite Westmeath dominating possession and having the wind behind them, the fact is that the sides were level at half-time, and Waterford did have seven wides in the first half. Pauric Mahony hit three of these, all of them to the left of the goal, which wasn’t very smart.
After half time Waterford just blew Westmeath away, although the midlanders continued to win a lot of clean ball in the air all over the field. This is an area which other top counties (especially Kilkenny) have focused on and in which Waterford are quite weak. In fact, we only have three decent fielders of the ball in our team – Brick, Shane O’Sullivan and Seamus Prendergast. Pauric Mahony was a good ball winner as a minor, but he doesn’t (yet, hopefully) have the physicality for this at senior level. The same could probably be said about Maurice Shanahan, although he can be a good ball winner at club level.
I thought Shane Fives had a very good game here, and we were really blessed to have such a capable replacement available when Stephen Daniels got injured. Davy Fitz obviously had no time for him, but that tells us more about Davy than Shane Fives. I thought Richie Foley was trying too hard to impress, but his key weakness as an intercounty hurler – his inability to challenge for ball in the air – was exposed here a few times.
I have always been a fan of Brian O’Sullivan because of his ability to score goals, and this was evident here again (while acknowledging the quality of the opposition). Apart from his 2-2 from play, Maurice’s goal came from another O’Sullivan shot which the Westmeath goalie blocked out to him.
One thing that did impress was the added bulk Gavin O’Brien has put on since I last saw him in action. He clearly has spent a lot of time in the gym weights room working on his conditioning. He also played very well when he came on at right half forward in place of Jake Dillon. It was also good to see Jamie Barron setting up two scores and notching one himself during his brief period on the field.
I haven’t heard why Paudie Prendergast didn’t start this game. Does anyone have further information? Ray Barry didn’t seem to play the ball much as Paudie’s replacement, but it was a useful experience for him.
All in all, this was a useful enough exercise in keeping things ticking over and giving fringe players some game time. It will be interesting to see how Kilkenny react to their defeat to Dublin. I was at the first match between them. Dublin were terrible in the first half but once they got their act together they dominated the game and should have won it except for some bad defending late on and Walter Walsh doing a “Henry Shefflin”, notching 1-4 from play. I saw most of the replay on the Internet, and Dublin would have won comfortably were it not for some terrible misses from frees by Paul Ryan. Kilkenny looked really flat and there were no miracles from Walter Walsh this time.
All things considered, I think I would prefer to play Tipperary as they have a lot of suspect forwards and if we can get on top of them we would be in with a chance. Despite their loss of form, Kilkenny have more inherent quality in their forwards and, in a knockout situation, they could be really dangerous. However, if the Cats do get past Tipperary, their game against us would be their fourth in four weeks and their fifth in six weeks. That will surely take some toll.
Anyway, it will be another hectic weekend, with the senior game against Tipp or Kilkenny on the Saturday night and the minors out against Limerick in the Munster Final the following day.