Friday, April 03, 2020

See who has made our Waterford football dream team for the last 20 years, 200-2020. Photo: Inpho.

Tomás McCarthy selects his dream Déise football dream team of the last 20 years. This selection was based on performances for the Waterford senior team so underage stars Michael Walsh, Shane Walsh and Conor Gleeson didn’t make the cut.

1. Stephen Enright
A safe pair of hands. A big presence between the sticks and an excellent shot stopper to boot. Stenners was Waterford’s first choice number one from 2012 to 2018. The Courty keeper was part of the senior set-up from 2008 onwards under John Kiely. He started his championship journey with John Owens against Wicklow. He was on goal for the McGrath Cup success in 2015 after Tom McGlinchey took charge. His high fielding under the crossbar was a feature of the surprise 8-7 win against Cork in Clashmore. He kept five clean sheets in six starts during the Division 4 campaign before he travelled to Boston for the summer. On his return, he only conceded two goals in seven league starts during 2016. His last championship match was against Monaghan in 2018. Enright returned as emergency cover for last year’s league match against Antrim.

2. Maurice O’Gorman
A defender who could play ball. The Nire native was comfortable in any part of the field. He broke onto the senior team in 2007. He grabbed two golden goals for the Déise. In 2008, Antrim were chasing promotion in the final round of the NFL at Casement Park but O’Gorman’s solitary strike scuppered their chances (1-8 to 0-8). His second was a first half strike seven years later in the McGrath Cup final against UCC. He used his soccer skills to pass the ball under goalkeeper Padraig McCarthy at the country end. What’s seldom is wonderful. Maurice also won a Railway Cup medal with Munster in 2008.

3. Thomas O’Gorman
A no nonsense full back who would have made any team in the country. He enjoyed victory on his championship debut against Clare in 2007 and almost marked it with a goal. In the provincial semi final, he kept footballer of the year Kieran Donaghy scoreless. Fast forward to the 2017 Munster championship and he held Cork All Star Colm O’Neill in a textbook display of man marking. When Owen Mulligan made his comeback for London in Dungarvan, the Tyrone All Ireland winner was subbed after getting the O’Gorman treatment. In the 2018 All Ireland qualifiers, Monaghan All Star Conor McManus was withdrawn after 55 minutes without scoring from play off the tigerish number two. Like his twin brother, he wandered up the field and joined the attack. He goaled in the 2008 Railway Cup final after taking a pass from Maurice. He got two solo points against IT Tralee in the 2009 McGrath Cup. In the 2009 league, he converted a second half penalty in a home win against Leitrim. O’Gorman the great lifted the McGrath Cup as captain in 2015.

4. Shane Briggs
A warrior of Waterford football who battled against the odds both on and off the field. Briggs served the county cause for fifteen seasons and accumulated 27 championship appearances. The Ballinacourty clubman made his debut as a sub against Cork in May of 2001. He spent most of his early years as a man marking corner back. In the 2006 Munster quarter final away to Kerry, John Kiely matched him up with Colm Cooper. The Gooch was held scoreless from play and subsequently substituted. He marked more All Stars in Declan Browne and Mattie Forde during the NFL. He had to wait six years for championship success as Waterford grinded out a 1-6 to 0-7 win over Páidí Ó Sé’s Clare. Under John Owens, he matured into an attack minded centre back. On a one-off Croke Park appearance, Briggs was man of the match in the Division 4 decider versus Limerick. He relished the open spaces and was involved in the build-up to Liam Ó Lonáin’s goal. Briggs described his personal accolade as “bittersweet” on TG4 afterwards. He shadowed Sean Armstrong in the 2013 qualifier defeat to Galway. Niall Carew made him captain in 2014 and enjoyed the professional set-up the Kildare native created. Briggs demanded high standards of himself and those around him.

5. Tony Grey
A forward-thinking half back. Grey raised green and white flags in blue ribbon games. He drove forward from number five to notched two first half points in the 2010 Division 4 final against Limerick. He goaled twice against Kerry, in the 2010 McGrath Cup and the 2013 Munster championship. In twelve championship outings, he scored 1-8 for the white and blue. After John Kiely gave him his championship debut as a sub against Clare in 2008, Grey skippered the Déise in 2010 and 2011 under John Owens. In the 2013 league, he came up with 1-2 away to Leitrim and 0-3 at home to Offaly. Come the summer, he was on scoresheet in Killarney and Salthill. He fired four points in the 2014 league but missed the championship due to a cruciate knee ligament injury.

6. Eddie Rockett
The Waterford launch pad. Rockett man starred at centre back in the Munster under 21 wins over Cork and Kerry in 2003 and remained at the heart of the DéIse defence for the big senior wins of the noughties against Sligo, Cavan, Wexford, Clare and Antrim. The Conway Cup winner with Stradbally supplied goals against Tipperary and Carlow during the 2008 league campaign. He pocketed a Railway Cup medal with Munster later that year.

7. Brian Wall
An intelligent footballer who could see a pass or a point. Started for Waterford as a half back in 2001 and finished as a half forward in 2014. A steady free taker and score getter out of the hands under John Kiely and John Owens. He made his championship debut against Cork in 2001. The number five got a late point in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. He joined Justin McCarthy’s hurling panel for 2004 and 2005. Wall returned to the big ball in 2006 with two goals against Kerry in the McGrath Cup. He added 1-1 against Tipperary in the league and three points in the qualifier loss to Longford including a sideline. In 2007, he skippered the team and scored 2-33 in twelve games. He found the net against Wexford in the league and Carlow in the Tommy Murphy Cup. He was on fire throughout the 2009 league, shooting 1-36 including eight points on the road to Clare. 28 points delivered Division 3 football for the Déise in 2010. The Nire front man fired five points in the draw against Longford and five more in the league final. Three points followed in the Munster conquest of Clare. He tapped over two frees in London when Waterford recorded their first qualifier win. He answered the county call again from Niall Carew and knocked over a point against Galway in the qualifiers. Wall won Waterford footballer of the year in 2014.

8. Mick Ahern
A towering figure at midfield or centre back for over a decade. A fine fielder, he went to war with Darragh Ó Sé, Kieran Donaghy and John Galvin on the battlefields of Munster. In a televised Munster semi final against Kerry in 2007 at Fraher Field, he posted two fine points. He also represented his province that year. In 2010, he was on target against Leitrim and Kilkenny as Waterford won promotion and assisted Liam Ó Lonáin’s stunning goal in the league final against Limerick. The Kill centre fielder savoured Waterford’s first qualifier success away to London in 2011. From centre back, he got two points against Carlow in the 2001 qualifiers and clashed with Meath marksman Graham Geraghty during the 2005 league.

9. Tommy Prendergast
A whole-hearted midfielder. A Tommy tour de force delivered Waterford’s first qualifier win in eight years at Wexford Park. The Kilrossanty colossus had the game of his life, ripping through the purple and gold defence. He was involved in two of the three goals, barged through for a first half point and won three frees for Jason Curry to convert. Only his second championship triumph on the field of play. He burst on the scene in 2010 when he teamed up with Mick Ahern at midfield on Waterford’s promotion charge. It got even better when a late Prendergast point sealed a Munster championship victory over Clare. His season was cut short when he was harshly sent off against Limerick. Tom McGlinchey gave him the captaincy in 2016. The 2015 McGrath Cup winner and 2018 county footballer of the year has got on the scoresheet against Clare, Cork, Carlow, Tipperary, Offaly, Derry, Wexford and Westmeath in championship football.

10. Patrick Hurney
Pudge always knew where the posts were. He was a prolific goal and point getter for the county from 2005 to 2017. 2-5 away to Carlow (2-3 from play) in the 2016 league was his personal best. After seven minutes, he already had 1-2 to his name. Pudge got his first shot at senior football under John Kiely against Tralee IT in the McGrath Cup. The teenager scored 1-2 against Derry at Walsh Park including a first half penalty. He lined out for the under 21s the day before. By 2008, he was a first team regular. He scored in seven of the eight Division 4 matches and added six points away to Wicklow in the Tommy Murphy Cup. Big brother Gary set him up for a second half point in the 2010 NFL final. In the Munster championship win over Clare that summer, he popped up with three first half points. When Waterford moved up to Division 3, he was among the goals against Wexford, Tipperary and Offaly. Four points on the final day against Louth couldn’t keep them in the third tier. He put over five from play in the 2012 qualifier loss to Wicklow. When Waterford won the McGrath Cup in 2015, he pitched in with 1-3 against UL, 0-1 against Cork and 0-2 in the final against UCC. He carried that form into the league, shooting 1-8 in a high scoring draw in London. He could step in as free taker when required. The 2015 Déise footballer of the year delivered 3-7 in the 2016 league and 0-18 the following year.

11. Shane Aherne
Niall Carew felt that he should have earned an International Rules call-up. The tall and talented Aherne can operate anywhere from eight to fifteen. The Stradbally man starred in the 2015 McGrath Cup success. He contributed five points against CIT (four from play), three frees against Cork and four points (three frees) in the final against UCC. A delightful dead ball striker. In the league campaign that followed, he struck four against Wicklow in victory and six against Carlow in defeat. In his first league campaign of 2012, Shane teamed up with Sean O’Hare at midfield and shared the free taking duties with Gary Hurney. He goaled against Wicklow and slotted three points against Fermanagh and Limerick. He gave Galway trouble at midfield in the 2013 qualifiers. 1-2 at home to Leitrim secured their first win of the 2014 league. He finished that season with 1-15. Benji Whelan brought him back in 2019 and he was an ever present, chipping home a late goal in the away win over Wexford.

12. Wayne Hennessy
The Ardmore all-rounder was comfortable in both defence and attack. He could kick frees as well. Hennessy made his championship debut away to Cork in 2001 and represented the county at senior level until 2012. He pulled on the Munster jersey in 2006. In Gary Hurney’s absence, he was the star of the show with five points when Waterford beat Wexford in 2007. He suffered a serious leg injury in spring 2008. Hennessy came back and contributed 23 points when Waterford won promotion to Division 3. He was the matchwinner in the first meeting with Limerick. His sixth point ensured a 1-12 to 1-11 win at the Gaelic Grounds. He added two more in Croke Park. Three points helped them to a first qualifier victory in London a year later.

13 Liam Ó Lonáin
Waterford’s goal machine. His lightning speed tore Division 4 defences to shreds. The An Rinn man rattled the cobwebs 21 times in league and championship for the Déise. He walloped a wonder strike into the bottom corner at the Canal End in the 2010 Division 4 final. 5-14 from play, including 2-2 versus Wicklow, propelled Waterford to Division 3. A leg break in the 2010 club championship interrupted that rich vein of form. He netted six times in the 2009 NFL including braces against Wicklow and Leitrim and the match winner against Carlow. The Railway Cup winner also kicked 1-3 against Carlow in the Tommy Murphy Cup and 1-5 against UL in the McGrath Cup. Under Niall Carew, he found the net three times in 2014 (twice against Carlow and once against Clare). Ó Lonáin laced his boots in championship football from 2004 to 2015.

14. Gary Hurney
A giant of Waterford football. At an imposing six foot four, he boasted size and strength as well as a lethal left boot. Hurney excelled at both midfield and full forward. He scored 6-37 in championship football between 1999 and 2013 and represented Munster in six Railway Cups. Aged 18 and still in St Augustine’s, he started against Cork in the summer of 1999. The hosts were humbled by 28 points (3-23 to 0-4), with the newcomer managing Waterford’s solitary second half score from a free two minutes from time. Tank only tasted three championship victories from 24 appearances. He faced Cork four times and Kerry on three occasions. He got four points (three in the first half) against reigning All Ireland champions Armagh at Walsh Park in 2003. Hurney saw some dark days, including a 7-15 to 0-8 loss to Cavan, but he carried Waterford into the light. 2007 marked his first championship win against Clare. He fired four goals past Carlow in the Tommy Murphy Cup as Waterford ran out 8-10 to 0-7 winners. When they finally escaped Division 4 in 2010, it was fitting that Hurney shot seven points in the 0-20 to 2-5 win over Clare that sealed promotion. He buried a goal against the Banner in the Munster championship to secure his second summer win. 1-3 in London led them to a first qualifier victory in 2011. In the league, he was man of the match when John Kiely’s side shocked 1/50 favourites Cavan at Breffini Park in 2006. He fisted a first half goal and kicked a last-minute winner at home to Sligo earlier in the campaign. In his last game, he scored two points in Salthill as they nearly scalped Galway in the 2013 qualifiers. A player that belonged on a bigger stage.

15. Paul Whyte
Waterford’s great Whyte hope. A score taker, a play maker, a place kicker, a sweeper, a leader. Whyte was a green horn in 2011 when he stepped out against London in Ruislip. Seven points from the new hot shot gave Waterford their first ever qualifier victory. Two years later, he produced a career high at Pearse Stadium, shooting eight points (four from play, three frees and a 45). At half time, the Galway journalists compared him to Mattie Forde. He compiled 2-47 in fourteen championship appearances, an average of almost four points per game. In the 2014 league, he got off to a flyer with 1-5 against both Clare and Tipperary. 1-2 in the draw with Clare at Cusack Park, including an injury time equaliser, was another standout championship performance. He was Waterford’s main marksman that year on 3-38. He was out front again in 2016 with 0-24 in the NFL and 1-5 out of 1-7 in Munster against Tipperary. McGlinchey made him captain in 2017 and he totalled 2-18 in the league including 1-11 in the home wins over London and Wicklow. The skipper relocated to a deeper role that summer. They designed a defensive masterplan for Cork with Whyte as the anchor man. The man of the match broke up Rebel attacks, got on the ball an incredible 37 times and kicked two second half points as they so nearly sent shockwaves through the championship. Chronic hip issues forced him to retire in 2018 at the age of 26. The captain played four NFL matches, and fisted a goal against Carlow, before the problem flared up during the Beast from the East. He stayed around the camp as a water carrier for the summer. When David Whitty was unavailable against Monaghan, he deputised as sub keeper. A class act.

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By Tomás McCarthy
Contact Newsdesk: 051 874951

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