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Waterford ready to clear Cats out of the All-Ireland jungle

Kilkenny poor value for victory

Jamie Barron is a key player for Waterford
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Waterford v Kilkenny: All-Ireland SHC qualifier
Sky Sports 3, 7pm Saturday

It is only the second Saturday in July but either Kilkenny or Waterford will be bowing out of the All-Ireland race on Saturday and, whisper it softly, we might be hearing the last purr from the Cats at Semple Stadium. 

Kilkenny are favourites but that price seems based on tradition rather than form and backing Waterford at 11-8 looks a much safer option. This is the perfect stage for Derek McGrath's charges to come of age and there is enough evidence to suggest they can upset the odds. 

Waterford were lethargic against Cork. They lacked fluency and struggled to find a rhythm, even when netting in the second half which brought them back on level terms. But, there is a long time between April 2 and June 18 and that lengthy layoff was surely to blame for such an off-colour performance. 

That Cork display contained everything we never expect from Waterford. They tackled without intensity, they were shooting from impossible positions and they looked as though they were a team full of individuals. 

Those issues were ironed out in the first round of the qualifiers as they went back to basics in their 1-35 to 0-14 victory over Offaly. That was more like the Waterford we know. 

The most important thing in that win was the performance of Austin Gleeson. He was poor in the loss to Cork and was substituted but he bounced back to his best and scored six points from play. Last year's top hurler has his confidence back. 

Kilkenny deserved everything they got against Wexford and they didn't look good against Limerick either. They came out on top on a scoreline of 0-20 to 0-17 but Limerick's waywardness in front of goal made them look more impressive than they were. 

The Cats continue to rely on the injury-prone Michael Fennelly to win vital possession around midfield and that is the area of the pitch where Waterford usually dominate. There will be bodies everywhere and Fennelly's fitness will come under the spotlight more than it did against Limerick. 

Kilkenny have too many underperforming players and now is the time to cash in on Waterford. Have full faith in the brilliant Derek McGrath getting a top-drawer display out of his troops. 

Waterford conceded only four goals in five group encounters in Division 1A of the league and Cork failed to find the net against them as well. They don't concede many goals so it is worth backing Kilkenny to score 23 or fewer points. This could be cagey with so much at stake. 

All-Ireland champions Tipperary put their title on the line against Dublin in the other qualifier clash at Semple Stadium but Michael Ryan's men look to be in second gear and it would be foolish to read too much into their workmanlike win over Westmeath. They simply did what they had to do. 

Dublin do not create enough goal chances and 13-5 about them failing to find the net against Tipperary looks generous. 

Tipperary are still the most likely All-Ireland winners and an improved defensive display could be one of the catalysts for a successful defence of their title. Expect them to keep it tight at the back.

Recommendations
Waterford
2pts 11-8 general
Kilkenny under 23.5 points
2pts 8-11 BoyleSports
No Dublin goal
1pt 13-5 BoyleSports

Kilkenny are favourites but that price seems based on tradition rather than recent form and backing Waterford at 11-8 looks a much safer option
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