It’s never going to be dull when Davy Fitzgerald is involved in inter-county management but the Waterford boss has drawn some criticism for his style of play with the Déise in recent weeks.
Waterford head off to Portugal tomorrow for a warm-weather training after their League campaign came to a close following their two-point defeat to Kilkenny in Nowlan Park yesterday in a forgettable game.
Déise legend John Mullane is “baffled with where they are right now” but he expects them to be hard to beat come the Munster SHC round-robin with provincial qualification the only thing that matters to Fitzgerald and Co this year.
“One thing I would say from the outside looking in, I think Waterford are going to be extremely difficult to play against and I think they’re going to be extremely difficult to break down,” Mullane told The Throw-In podcast.
“The way they are setting up, are they going to deviate away from that? I don’t think they will, I think what you see is what you get where they are going to play one or two inside, sometimes no one inside, and they’re going to flood that middle third.
“Tadhg (de Búrca) is going to sit in the pocket and you saw it for large parts last Sunday, Kilkenny struggled. You go back to the Tipperary game where Tadhg went back as sweeper for the first 15 minutes of the second half, Tipperary struggled as well.
“So I think what you see is what you get. It mightn’t be to the liking of Waterford supporters but if it gets results, if it gets Waterford out of the top three, then happy days!”
Kilkenny legend Eddie Brennan countered Mullane’s point when questioning where being difficult to beat “gets you in the broader scheme of winning a Munster and All-Ireland title?” and he insisted that they should “use what they have”.
The use of Dessie Hutchinson in the middle third was a sore point with both while Brennan, an eight-time All-Ireland SHC winner, also cited Wexford’s 2019 All-Ireland semi-final collapse against Tipperary as an example of the shortcomings which he feels that Fitzgerald’s style can have.
“Your hurling brain and your hurling instincts have to kick into gear when a match is there to be won and I just think that’s possibly where a Davy Fitz team falls down,” Brennan said.
“There has to be times where you go after teams and try and bury them with their artillery, there are certainly guys there on that Waterford squad at the moment that can hurt the opposition and I would feel that the handbrake is not being taken off.”
Mullane acknowledged that “it’s very hard to implement Plan C when you’re so programmed to doing Plan A and Plan B” while he also reckoned that their current style of play will not hurt the best teams.
“Given what it’s going to take to beat a Limerick or any of the top sides, you’re going to need 2-22 or 2-23, in or around that 28 or 29-point mark,” Mullane added.
“Do I see Waterford registering that mark based on what my eyes are seeing now? No, I don’t.”