Jack Neville: Styles clash as Waterford look to take on Limerick at their own game

An old saying goes, “everyone wants to be diamonds, but few are willing to get cut,” and this sentiment will apply to Liam Cahill’s Waterford attempt to stop the Limerick juggernaut in the All-Ireland semi-final this Saturday.

Up against the Deise will be John Kiely’s collection of prized rocks who are aiming to become the first ever Limerick side to retain their title

With two wins from two, the Shannonsiders are half way towards that aim.

Limerick have been pretty much the standard bearers in hurling since their ascension to a first All-Ireland title in 45 years in 2018.

Since then it has been a case of other trying to copy the style perfected by John Kiely and Paul Kinnerk.

Huge workrate has become the norm with the full forward line now the undisputed first form of defence and defenders expected to make their mark on the scoreboard.

18 July 2021; Kyle Hayes of Limerick races past Dan McCormack and Brendan Maher, right, of Tipperary on his way to score his side’s second goal , in the 54th minute, during the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Final match between Limerick and Tipperary at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Possession is king and Limerick are rarely willing to part with it.

This Saturday, the Deise will present their case as the team most capable of upsetting Limerick and will come to Croke Park as arguably the best team suited to taking down the Treaty.

In his maiden year in charge, Waterford picked up a first championship victory in three years before eventually reaching Munster and All-Ireland finals.

And while they failed to reach the provincial decider this term, the Deise are a more rounded team in 2021.

After successive wins over Laois, Galway and Tipperary, Cahill’s men have a clear formula to their gameplan, one that mirrors that of Limerick.

Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Cork 9/5/2021 Cork vs Waterford Cork’s Patrick Horgan and Conor Prunty of Waterford Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

Shaun O’Brien’s save on John McGrath in the dying moments of the Tipperary clash is one that Nickie Quaid has become renowned for in recent years.

In front of him is a teak tough trio with Conor Prunty the form full back in the country.

At the other end of the field, Austin Gleeson is capable of winning it any way as is Aaron Gillane while Dessie Hutchinson’s movement is arguably unrivalled, his Limerick counterparts included.

However, it is in the middle third where the teams are most similar, with a huge emphasis on winning the breakdown battle.

Cahill’s half-back line is much changed with Calum Lyons the only consistent. The Ballyduff Lower flyer is now partnered by Bennett brothers Kieran and Shane with both retreating into defence after successful spells in the forwards.

Lyons’ is the closest thing to Kyle Hayes you could get with the duo revolutionising how wing backs are judged.

13 December 2020; Kyle Hayes of Limerick in action against Calum Lyons of Waterford during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Limerick and Waterford at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Kieran Bennett is more akin to Diarmuid Byrnes with both capable of long range scores, as is Shane who has taking with ease to centre-back.

In midfield, Jamie Barron is the heartbeat of the Waterford side and his battle with Will O’Donoghhue will be crucial. The Fourmilewater man may have grabbed his third All-Star in 2020 but against O’Donoghue he was rarely seen with the Na Piarsaigh native dominating both contests.

Similarly to Barron, Cian Lynch is the man to make it tick for Limerick, with the 2018 Hurler of the Year poised for another individual accolade if he continues his current form. At 11, Lynch is almost unmarkable with his opposite man on Saturday, Jack  Prendergast afforded equal freedom for Cahill.

And in Tom Morrissey, Gearoid Hegarty, Stephen Bennett and Jack Fagan, you have four prototype wing forwards, as capable of winning primary possession as they are finding the target.

Limerick are the team to beat but if anyone is to stand toe to toe with Kiely’s side, it is the men from Waterford.

No pressure, no diamonds.

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