Brian Cody's Kilkenny set for another All-Ireland SHC final

Waterford’s Austin Gleeson, under pressure from Kilkennys duo Kieran Joyce (right) and Colin Fennelly last year
Picture by Seamus Loughran
By Padraig Kelly

All-Ireland SHC semi-final: Kilkenny v Waterford (Croke Park, tomorrow, 3.30pm, live on RTE One & Sky Sports 3)

AT one stage during Waterford’s All-Ireland quarter-final win over Wexford at Thurles last month Decies manager Derek McGrath was on the sideline roaring at his players when Semple Stadium’s cut to an image of Brian Cody in the stand. Watching, waiting.

Waterford may have made incredible gains under McGrath, but any team aiming for the top knows that Cody’s Cats will be lurking somewhere.

What Cody witnessed in Thurles was Waterford recording one of their most important wins under McGrath.

Wexford may not be elite opposition but they were entering the match confident having out-hurled and out-fought Cork two weeks’ previously. Waterford, by contrast, had question marks hanging over them after their 5-19 to 0-13 hammering at the hands of Tipperary in the Munster final.

They experienced system failure and the reaction would be closely watched. As it was, McGrath refused to panic and avoided radical changes. Their familiar style saw them canter to a 10-point win.

A tally of 17 wides was concerning for management, but the fact that six players managed to score two points from play apiece was a timely reminder of the good spread of scorers in the side.

Shane Bennett was one of the sextet, but his participation is in doubt after hurting himself in the county’s U21 provincial final win over Tipperary while Darragh Fives may also miss out having come off early against Wexford.

The absence of those two would be massive because their margin for error against Kilkenny is almost non-existent. It’s not David versus Goliath, but they need the majority of things that could go right to go right.

Austin Gleeson hit seven wides against Wexford; that simply can’t be allowed tomorrow. The Model county were allowed to take control for a 15-minute spell in the second half. Give Kilkenny 15 minutes and it’s lights out. Waterford must be switched on from minute one to 70.

The build-up around Kilkenny has been rather quiet this year, but that’s more a result of the lowering standards of Leinster opposition as opposed to any reduction in the Cats’ threat.

They did look somewhat in difficulty against Galway in the Leinster final as they trailed by three points at half-time. Any thoughts of panic subsided when Cody saw Richie Hogan sitting on the bench and the 2014 Player of the Year struck over five points from play after his introduction as Kilkenny won by seven points.

It was another fine day in the development of Jonjo Farrell who has scored 2-10 in their wins over Dublin and Galway. At 27 he is a late bloomer when it comes to Championship hurling, but in Kilkenny very few slip through the net, it seems.

Hogan and Farrell are just a couple of reasons as to why Kilkenny remain the team to beat. Anyone of their 15 has the ability to step up and lead.

Waterford, Tipperary match aside, continue to move forward at a commendable pace, but Kilkenny look set to slow them down just like they did in last year’s semi-final.

Once more Cody should loom large over McGrath, and once more Cody should guide his side to an All-Ireland final – his 15th in all.

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