WATERFORD HURLERS. THE FUTURE IS NOW.
I would like to say congratulations to the Waterford Senior hurlers and management team on their splendid League campaign. They dispatched Galway yesterday with a very professional display and are now in the semi final where we will play Tipperary, who are current favourites for the league title and indeed the All Ireland Championship. That game will be the highlight of the two semi’s and is timed for 4 00 on Sunday April 19th at Nolan Park. New hardworking chairman ,Paddy Joe Ryan ,will be delighted with progress and he will make sure it will be steady as she goes for the big days ahead.
This is a very exciting time for supporters of the Waterford set up and I hope we will travel in our thousands for the match. I think it could be a cracking game and the result can go either way but I think we will shade it. I haven’t seen a squad as exciting as this one in my time and with Darragh Fives ,Eddie Barrett and Stephen Daniels ready to come back it only further whets the appetite for the challenges ahead.
Much has been made of the tactical approach by the management which many describe as being a little on the negative side but nobody can complain about the hitherto unbeaten run and in fairness to the mentors their style has been vindicated and the tactics are much more sophisticated than just pulling players back and using the swarm and tackle regime with runners overlapping and supporting. Galway and Wexford were not able to impose their particular gameplan on us and indeed seemed to lose their way rather early in both fixtures. I am sure that Derek, Fintan and Dan have plan B, C, and D at the ready when and if the need arises. it will most probably happen at some stage that we will come up against an opponent that will have us worked out. We are not under the radar anymore but that is a good thing and Tipperary and their ever confident band of supporters won’t change their particular gameplan for the upcoming semi final.
The rotation of Stephen O’Keefe and Iggy O’Regan is working out just fine and their ability to conduct the orchestra is a vital component for the success of the team. It is great to see Barry Coughlan doing so well at full back and that is no surprise to me at all. He has speed ,agility, brains and quick hurling and isn’t afraid to ‘back’ himself and plays on the forward foot. Sure, he will concede at some stage as all full backs do but he looks to have made that position his own. He can be plenty ‘saucy’ too when he has to and that is a trait one always looks for in your full back. Noel Connors and Shane Fives have been rock solid in the corner back positions and I am sure they will relish the upcoming challenge from the soon to be fit again Stephen Daniels. Noel is playing out of his skin at the moment and has a real edge to his game. Great to see Shane Fives getting the run he so richly deserves and has been ultra consistent. Darragh Fives is well on the way to a complete recovery from dogged hamstring problems and what a talent he is to have to come in to the team. One wonders where he will play with that outstanding half backline of Austin Gleeson ,Tadhg De Burcha and Philip Mahoney there at present. My own preference would be a half backline of Tadhg on the right, Darragh in the centre back position and Philip on the left. Tadhg has impressed everybody ,he seems to have it all, quick thinking ,great catcher of a high ball, very quick hands and feet and a real battler. Philip is surely one of the best defenders in the game at present. He is a rock and nobody would fancy having to go head to head with him for a full 70 minutes. I believe Austin will create havoc against any opposition in a wing forward position and with Pauiric and Brick alongside that is a formidable line. That is just an opinion..Kevin Moran and Jamie Barron look a potent midfield combination and the latter who was man of the match yesterday has been brilliant all season thus far. I always felt midfield would bring the best out of Jamie. Kevin was back to top form also yesterday and it should be noted that while some people thought he was a bit quiet against Wexford the previous week I didn’t hear too many talking about his marker ,Lee Chin, very much after that game and he is supposed to be one of the top prospects in the country at the moment. Kevin is a big game player and always delivers. Pauric Mahoney is racking up a huge overall score in this campaign, I believe it is 1-66 and counting at the moment. Pauric knows how to play the centre forward roll as good as anyone and his brain is always engaged. I always felt the Brick should be playing in the forwards and his outstanding form is no surprise to me at all and come championship time I certainly wouldn’t fancy marking him from a Cork point of view. Colin Dunford has made rapid strides and it is all the more praiseworthy considering he is only back from a bad injury. He will be a handful for any opponents with his speed and direct style . Brian O’ Halloran ditto. Brian has had a super League and is a very good free getter and very brave ,I liked the way he got stuck in yesterday and took no prisoners in that mini brawl towards the end of the game. It is great to see him injury free and fair play to him for sticking with it throughout all the disappointments of having to deal with the setbacks. That is the type of spirit which embodies this squad. There is no bullshit or whining going on, they are a very united bunch. Jake Dillon is back to his very best and his confidence is sky high, he is a lovely wristy hurler with the hunger to go with it . Stephen Bennett is a mighty talent and has been asked to do a very difficult job for one so young and inexperienced. The full forward role in this system is probably the most difficult of them all to adapt to and I have no doubt whatsoever that he has a huge part to play for us in the year’s ahead and I feel he will play a pivotal role before this campaign ends. Maurice Shanahan has been brilliant also since returning after injury and the crowd just love him. He has that swagger and swashbuckling style of hurling back and again what a bonus for the management. Shane O’Sullivan has been a regular for Waterford over the years and is still only 29. He has been a great servant with the best of attitudes and his positive influence is a great help to the many young players coming through. The tougher the battle the more he likes it and Shane has plenty more to offer. Tom Devine is some prospect. A powerhouse of a player and as honest as they come, he is versatile and has some engine and skill to go with it, will cause huge problems for any opposition. Gavin O’Brien is only 21 this year and is another one of the many young brigade bursting through, very hard working and honest with a great strike ,he has loads to look forward to and is very versatile as regards position. Martin O’Neill suffered a bad cruciate injury in 2013 and typical of so many in this squad has battled his way back showing great resolve. Martin is a superb free taker and striker from long distance. It was great to see Paidi Prendergast score the late equaliser against Limerick in our opening match and he is a player that can play in almost any position, a very genuine, honest and dedicated team player. Shane Bennett, Donie Breathnach and Michael Kearney are yet another bunch of seriously talented youngsters who have seen League action and will be around for many years to come while the very tough Shane McNulty has also made the breakthrough and will be challenging for a defensive position. He is another with a great attitude and outlook. There are many more not mentioned here that are also coming through and I will get round to all those on a later blog.
Derek and Dan made a great decision to bring in Fintan O’ Connor. Fintan,born in Kildare but has been teaching in Blackwater for many years, he simply craves hurling. I have had the pleasure of working with him in the past and he leaves no stone unturned in the pursuit of achieving his or his teams goals. He has had loads of success with his college, WIT, Fourmilewater and laterly Cappoquin. He would have worked with several of these younger players before this appointment and it is obvious that Derek and Dan and himself have gelled as a management team already. I wish them and the squad and everyone involved the very best for the rest of the season.