Waterford’s Kevin Moran on the ball against Cork’s Mark Ellis during the 2018 Munster Senior Hurling Championship in Thurles. Photo Sean Byrne//Deise Sport.
Saturday Next, June 8 – Pairc Ui Chaoimh at 7p.m. Munster S.H.C. – Round 4 – Cork V Waterford
We are in the second year of the new look Munster Hurling Championship and Waterford are back to where they were last year, going into the final game against Cork on the back of a heavy defeat by Limerick with nothing to play for but pride.
Last year Waterford suffered a 13 point defeat to Limerick in The Gaelic Grounds that ended a championship journey one year on from appearing in the All-Ireland Final before going out a week later in Thurles against a Cork side with everything to play for and produced a gutsy display that almost derailed Cork’s Munster title ambitions, going down to a narrow three point defeat.
On Saturday next Waterford supporters will be looking for a repeat of that performance and for players to show just how much the county jersey means to them. Last Sunday’s performances against Limerick was a low point for many of the players who have competed at the highest level, winning All-Stars and recognition for being the players that they are.
The defeat by Tipperary was decisive and comprehensive and so too was Limerick’s defeat by a Cork side that just a week earlier had been similarly dealt with by Tipperary in Pairc Ui Chaoimh. For every action there is a reaction and Cork’s was to go to the home of the All Ireland champions and beat them decisively. Then it was Limerick’s turn and, like Cork, they stuck together, regrouped and produced a performance in Walsh Park to get the defence of their All-Ireland title back on track.
PROUD OF THE JERSEY
Waterford’s response to the disappointments of the defeats by Clare and Tipperary was in sharp contrast to that of the Cork and Limerick players. Here, it appeared as though something of a blame game was being played out if the social media activity and rumour machines of the past week were to be believed. Wherever the truth lies there is the opportunity for Waterford to go out of the championship on their shield on Saturday and that can only be done by players who want to play for the jersey and are proud to wear it.
The selectors have always had hard choices to make in their team selections throughout the year with so many players genuinely competing for places. With this one championship game left twenty players have secured starting places over the three game while four have seen action at some stage as substitutes. There are players on the extended panel who have seen time in the league but not made it on to the bench for championship games. Perhaps it now becomes a question of looking forward and not back and Saturday could be an opportunity to see just what the future holds.
LOOK TO THE FUTURE
Players like Billy Nolan, Darragh Lyons, Kieran Bennett and D. J. Foran have warmed the bench while others such as Billy Power, Mark O’Brien and Jordan Henley have not made the 26 six on match day. There may be an opportunity to give some of those players a championship baptism on Saturday in a game that is being televised live on Sky Sports. Then again it would be important that those players who are surely hurting following last Sunday’s performance be given their shot at setting the record straight.
It will all come down to the attitude when the players return to training this week and there are some very difficult decisions to be taken. Going on the disappointing turn out of Waterford supporters in the 10,000 plus attendance in Walsh Park on Sunday last there won’t be too many tickets sought in the county this week but those who will go deserve to at least get a performance to be proud of.