Patient Kilkenny take familiar road to final day

TJ Reid’s goal crucial in giving Cats the necessary platform for victory

A visiting German journalist got Brian Cody to pose for a selfie after his post-match press conference yesterday.

Watching on, the thought struck that it was a pity Waterford didn't have prior knowledge of the happy event, as a dash of belief in the impossible would have done them no harm at all here. As it was, they fell by 1-21 to 0-18 to a Kilkenny side so well-versed in these days that they can get through them on muscle memory when all else fails.

It means Cody has steered his men to 14 All-Ireland finals in 17 seasons. If this isn’t the sparkliest of the teams he’s ushered into September, there’s no quibbling with its character.

They came through without Jackie Tyrrell and Richie Power, with Michael Fennelly not having trained properly in nearly two months, with Richie Hogan recovering from a prolapsed disc in his back that had him unable to walk 10 days ago. They came through because it's what they do and who they are.

Serious stuff

“Every player stands up in their own way,” said Cody afterwards. “Different players bring different things to it. Everyone stood up and played their part. We were tested, I think, in a very serious way by a really, really good team.

“I think the game obviously was tight for a long time. The first half was always a period of the game where it’s serious, serious stuff. Kind of teasing each other out and all that kind of stuff. It was always going to be a huge battle and we went in at half-time two points up so, it wasn’t a bad situation for us to be in. The game probably opened more for us in the second half. And we probably created a bit more and the goal we got in the first half was crucial.”

In keeping with the summer in general, it was a game that made it to the launchpad without the countdown ever quite reaching lift-off.

Waterford were able opponents, ever-faithful to the work that has carried them along during a year to remember.

But after they went three behind to a careless goal on 17 minutes – TJ Reid gunning through after Barry Coughlan and Tadhg De Búrca collided going for the same ball – they were never able to draw level.

Arm’s length

Kilkenny kept them at arm’s length, answering just about every Waterford score with an immediate one of their own. On only four occasions across the 70 minutes were Derek McGrath’s side able to put up two scores in a row. That they were never able to put three together is a perfect summation of how ruthless Kilkenny were in keeping them in chains.

This wasn’t shock and awe, it wasn’t the smell of napalm in the morning.

Kilkenny took their time to measure Waterford up and gradually pulled away the further the game went on. They led by 1-9 to 0-10 at half-time without scoring from play from the 20th minute to the break. They kept Waterford where they could see them and capitalised on errors to break them.

A mistake

Jack Nicklaus

always said that if you hang around long enough in the back-nine of a Major, sooner or later someone will make a mistake and open the door for you. This was Golden Bear stuff from Kilkenny at times.

In the space of five minutes soon after half-time, they increased their lead from two to five on the back of three errant clearances by the Waterford defence. From that point on, McGrath’s young side never got closer than three points and never threatened a goal. They kept punching letters into the sat-nav but Kilkenny just know the road like the back of their hand.

Intensity

“Sustaining the overall intensity against them is just so difficult,” said McGrath. “You think you have them and there were sections of the game where we were doing a bit of fist-pumping ourselves on the sideline. We felt we had them. Well, not had them, but . . .

"It's almost about how they are able to sustain it. You're all the time feeling that if you're conventional in your approach – that is, 13, 14, 15 right inside your own 21 – invariably what will happen is when Walter Walsh wins a ball in the air he has a free run. There is no one to double up on him.

Whole art

“Tipperary’s movement over the last few years has given them a bit of trouble but there is a lot of belief there as well which comes from the whole art of winning. They have so much belief in their play, their system and their management, and they are just really, really good hurlers as well.”

Really good hurlers who will dispute September’s doings once again. Although you’d have to imagine that the selfie was a one-time deal.

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times

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