Focused Waterford can put the squeeze on buoyant Rebels
Cork fret over Lehane and will find scores harder to come by than against Tipperary
Austin Gleeson: will be expected to prove an influential figure for Waterfrod against Cork at Thurles. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Munster SHC semi-final
Waterford v Cork, Semple Stadium, Sunday, 4.0 [Live, RTÉ]
In what is shaping up as a very open championship, Waterford at last take the stage a full 12 weeks after beating Clare on the last occasion Derek McGrath fielded his best team in a competitive match.
They face one of the most worrying sights in the Munster championship, a rejuvenated Cork with their tails up. Adjustments can be made for the malaise afflicting Tipperary but when a team from Leeside with five full debutants beats the All-Ireland champions their next opponents had better be careful.
There are a couple of issues for Kieran Kingston’s team as well. The injury doubt concerning Conor Lehane jeopardises one of their top performers the last day and it appears unlikely that he will be at 100 per cent if selected.
Then there is Waterford’s greater defensive organisation. Whereas Tipp were happy to engage in a shoot-out, that won’t suit this weekend’s opponents who are likely to blockade approaches to goal and if they don’t, Cork demonstrated a scoring touch that will do damage.
Among the match-ups under consideration is placing Austin Gleeson on Mark Coleman to give another of the stars of the Tipperary match something to think about besides optimising his distribution.
They need to probe the Cork defence. Even an underperforming Tipperary managed 1-26 – more than Waterford have scored in any championship match under McGrath – and using lone wolf attackers isn’t the way to make the most of those opportunities.
Cork could easily have conceded three goals before half-time in the quarter-final and the outcome underlines how important it is to take the chances because they nearly left themselves with too much to do. Stephen Bennett is a proven goalscorer and with his injury problems behind him will carry expectation into Thurles.
Another worry for Waterford is the lackadaisical league campaign, which they have to put behind them with no significant practice under their belt – and which included a comprehensive defeat by Cork with two pretty much full-strength teams on show.
Cork’s forwards – Séamus Harnedy especially – are viewed as sufficiently menacing for Waterford to prioritise caution but they’ll need more than that. Assuming they match their opponents’ work rate and commitment – qualities you take for granted with McGrath’s team – they can find the rest.
Last meeting: 2015 Munster semi-final, Semple Stadium, Waterford 3-19, Cork 1-21.
Odds: Waterford 8/13, Cork 13/8, Draw 10/1.
Just the ticket: Covered stands €30, Uncovered stand €25, Terrace €20; Juveniles €5 [nb prices available until midnight Saturday with Sunday prices €5 extra]. Concessions available
Leinster SHC semi-final
Galway v Offaly, O’Moore Park, 2.0
This has an ominous feel to it. Galway have positioned themselves as leading All-Ireland contenders – a status that makes their long-suffering supporters anxious – and with fancied teams dropping like flies that assessment has only strengthened.
The defeat of Dublin didn’t make great demands on the team although the loss of Paul Killeen for the season was a rough break.
Offaly came through a diverting quarter-final with Laois showing resilience and nerve but operating at a level light years away from Sunday’s opponents. The evidence for what it’s worth of last week’s challenge match against Tipperary – a 0-12 to 8-22 defeat with Séamus Callanan removed from the sweetshop after five goals – isn’t encouraging.
Galway bring formidable physicality to the game as well and Offaly will need to improve their performance in the air but also they have been clever in the rotation of the forwards, a point remarked on by Dublin’s Liam Rushe.
This meeting is only going to end one way.
Last meeting: 2015 Munster semi-final, O’Moore Park, Galway 2-19, Offaly 2-9
Odds: Galway 1/100, Offaly 12/1, Draw 33/1.
Just the ticket: Stand €25, Terrace €15, Juveniles €5. Concessions available