Nicky English: Waterford need to iron out their problems – and fast

Defeat to Cork at Walsh Park leaves Déise with some hard questions to ask themselves

At the start of the Championship, I thought Waterford had a real chance, but almost immediately it became clear there were problems. The opening-day defeat of Tipperary was not a good start and even on the bigger stage in Limerick, there were still issues.

When I say that Walsh Park doesn't suit their style of play, I mean that it's not big enough to cater for their strengths, which include athleticism and forwards who like space. It almost handicaps corner forward Dessie Hutchinson from the start.

He scored well against Tipperary but any kind of a tight match in the ground makes it difficult for him, whereas in the Gaelic Grounds he took 0-5 off Seán Finn. The team’s problems are, however, more fundamental.

Tadhg de Búrca had his best game of the championship, but too many others were well off the pace and the team didn’t show anything of the desire and energy that, at best, typifies their play. Stephen Bennett’s free-taking was questionable at key moments.

Cork always held that the big defeat by Waterford in the league final was an aberration. They conceded two goals in quick succession and hit a load of wides. Sunday was a great turnaround by Kieran Kingston and his team, who backed up that theory.

In the best traditions of the underdog, they arose after being buried beneath merciless criticism and responded really well. They took off Patrick Horgan as soon as he had shot a wide. Alan Connolly turned up with two goals. They also demonstrated some unbelievable catching.

Darragh Fitzgibbon, for example, took one and scored a point. Ciarán Joyce had another in the half-backs. Séamus Harnedy was another who really rediscovered form.

Fall from grace

Austin Gleeson took the fight to them and looked the only Waterford player capable of turning the tide, but he fell on his sword with another sending-off. It’s a major fall from grace, and now their future in the championship is no longer in their hands.

The atmosphere at the match in Ennis with the crowd – it looked absolutely packed – was extraordinary, and you could sense the presence of that local voodoo between these neighbouring counties. I didn’t expect a full showdown and Limerick did leave out some of their players, but the intensity was about 40 decibels louder than Waterford-Cork.

Clare were up for it in a big way. Rory Hayes and Paul Flanagan were hungry and John Conlon and Diarmuid Ryan's physicality in the middle third matches up with Limerick perfectly.

Tony Kelly was unmarkable – reviving maybe suggestions of over-reliance on him, in the first half particularly. Diarmaid Byrnes matches him in the free-taking and the Limerick full-backs were good, so we had a very competitive, intense game.

Clare are real challengers and the longer they keep going the better the chance they have of getting David Reidy and Mark Rogers back, so it's not just Limerick who can improve even if they remain the frontrunners.

I felt sorry for Gearóid Hegarty, who essentially got sent off for taking a lineball too quickly. I always encourage players to get on with it and move the ball as speedily as possible and I thought it was a very debatable decision.

I thought the standard of refereeing and officiating was poor in Cusack Park. Colm Lyons also in my view played too little injury time. Three minutes to me was well short given the time it took to sort out the red card incident and the substitutions.

Hegarty can be loose with the hurley and that should be addressed, but I’d question the sending-off.

Collapsed

Kilkenny's status rose at the weekend. Dublin started well enough on Saturday and were still in it at half-time, but 11 points in a half won't win you many matches and they collapsed afterwards. They needed a goal but were so short of inspiration that it looked like they wouldn't have scored one if they were still at it.

What Kilkenny did was hardly surprising. They were ultra-competitive and hunted in packs. The players brought in, Cian Kenny and Richie Reid, were excellent in the roles they were assigned and Alan Murphy added to the performance around the middle.

Eoin Cody was well restrained but Adrian Mullen was excellent. Dublin's defence is as good as any but at the other end they have serious problems. James Madden played well and Chris Crummey had a good first half, but the overall impact was poor.

I really think Dublin should reconsider playing matches in Parnell Park. Taking on Kilkenny in those tighter confines allows their ability to hook and block to be particularly effective.

Their supporters will be very pleased with the team’s attitude and I wouldn’t dismiss their overall chances. They’re likely to be in an All-Ireland semi-final, which holds their ranking, and I think they’re improved on last year.

Westmeath had a great result on Saturday. They have had a good campaign to date and put it up to Kilkenny for a long time, ran Dublin close and now have drawn with Wexford. They still have one big match to go, against Laois, and you'd have to say that the form favours them, particularly with Laois's injury list.

Finally, the vagaries of the round-robin championship mean that next weekend’s Tipp-Cork game in Thurles has gone from being a dead rubber on Sunday morning to a match with the fate of three counties hanging on it.