(originally posted on boards.ie)
While Waterford (especially the defence and midfield) put in a great effort, I thought that, apart from the first and last fifteen minutes of normal time, Kilkenny were the better team and could have won the game comfortably with better shooting. For me, there were three main problems with the Waterford performance – too many execution errors, inexperience (understandable in a team with a lot of young players) and poor attacking tactics. As regards the first of these, I counted 44 errors (excluding missed shots) by Waterford players up to half-time in extra time (this was when my recording of the game stopped – I had not allowed for extra time in both games and the full game is not available on the TV3 Player). These mainly involved attempted passes and puckouts going astray or being intercepted, but also included incidences of poor ball control and taking of bad options. This is far too high an error count against opposition of this quality.
I found it hard to fathom Waterford’s attacking tactics. They repeated the Tipperary error of playing too many high balls into the Kilkenny defence where the Waterford forwards were unable to compete. I think too much blame is being placed on the forwards when the real problem was the quality of incoming supply. Waterford did very well in working the ball out of defence to a free man in midfield, and then repeatedly spoiled it with poor deliveries into the forwards. I have said this before, but the emphasis should have been on low diagonal ball into space rather than high balls delivered to target recipients who invariably had at least one Kilkenny defender up their backsides. We needed to stretch the Kilkenny defenders, and especially the older players (who make up four of the six) with a view to tiring them out.
I also could not understand the ploy of leaving Seamus Prendergast on his own in the full forward line. One of the runners (Brian O’Sullivan or Jamie Barron) should have been assigned to stand with him at all times in order to move onto breaking balls or taking passes when Seamus got possession. Having Seamus chasing balls played into the corner was absolutely ridiculous. I am still trying to figure out what role Jamie Barron was expected to play, but whatever it was, it didn’t seem to be working out. We never exploited his pace and ability to run at defenders.
While Michael Ryan deserves great credit for the spirit he has infused into the team, I have great doubts about his team selections and placements and the tactics being employed, and would suggest that this is an aspect of his backup team that requires strengthening (assuming that he is reappointed as manager).