Major media focus on Waterford will suit Dunne's underdogs
Published 23/07/2016 | 00:00
It will suit Liam Dunne that media focus will almost certainly centre on how Waterford will react to their heavy Munster final defeat to Tipperary in the build-up to next weekend's quarter-final clash.
Offence could easily be taken by Slaneyside given that our stunning victory over Cork was as much attributed to the malaise and state of Leeside hurling as to the outstanding performance of our young team, but I feel that this lack of attention will serve to relieve pressure going into the game and keep expectation at manageable levels.
What can't be denied is that very few expected Wexford to be still standing as one of the last six teams in the country, and huge credit must go to Matthew O'Hanlon and his men for surviving and thriving in the last few weeks despite the almost weekly onslaught of injuries.
The problems continue with Podge Doran's unavailability for Sunday and a doubt now surrounding the fitness of James Breen, but despite this it will be hard to convince the dedicated followers of purple and gold that there isn't a tiny chance of an upset given our history against the Deise.
So how will Derek McGrath's men fare after the Tipperary mauling? Firstly I have seen this team perform live four or five times this year and am not foolish enough to think that they have become a poor team overnight.
I still very much rate them as a top four outfit with one of the brightest young managers in the country at the helm. They erred in bringing the Munster final to Limerick as Thurles has been a second home for them over the last 18 months.
It was interesting, however, that when things were going badly wrong against Tipp. he called his most trusted leaders ashore, Shanahan, 'Brick', Gleeson, Mahony and Connors.
I feel the Waterford boss was very much thinking on his feet, signalling to his troops that although this game was lost he was already preparing for the next battle and exercising damage limitation on the confidence of some of his top men.
I also feel that he will very much stick to the sweeper system (as much as I dislike this style) that has served to make this team possibly the most consistent behind Kilkenny over the past two seasons.
They have had little time to recover and that can be good or bad (I will tell you which on Sunday evening), but they have serious talent all over the field in the sweeping De Burca, Moran, Barron etc., and I have seen enough of these players to be confident one set back won't destroy them as a collective.
Their confidence has been seriously dented but we will need to perform at a seriously high level to turn them over.
It is vital to nullify the extra defender's role and get good ball to Conor Mac, and if Lee Chin can continue to excel in his deep centre role and we use direct ball to bypass the sweeper, it could have a huge impact on the game.
We will also need to defend in numbers as Waterford (when in the zone) move forward very quickly. The approach used in the league quarter-final was effective and the first 20 minutes will be vital to sow a few more seeds of doubt in the opposition mind.
Gleeson will need to be monitored wherever he is playing, and the free count kept to a minimum.
So, going back to my original question I feel we need to reinforce any doubts early but my gut feeling is that the Waterford reaction will be positive and they may have a little too much in the tank when Sunday comes.
But by God we have learned about the honesty and passion of these Wexford men over the past few weeks and the ability is there to make it an uncomfortable afternoon for the men in blue and white.
The Minors have the ability to get the day off to a positive start even without captain Rory O'Connor, and good luck to every Wexford man who hits the hallowed Thurles sod.
We will strike every ball with you. Up Wexford.