Thursday, 24th May 2018
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Up and Running

Depending on the elements, and we have had our share of bad days, the initial games in the Allianz National Hurling and Football Leagues will begin this coming weekend with games pencilled in for both Saturday and Sunday next. It is hoped that a full round will be completed however but, one never knows, what with the inclement weather last weekend putting a stop to most fixtures. Let's hope it will be a little kinder this coming Saturday and Sunday. For players involved in both the third level Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cup, it is likely that some of those players will not be on intercounty duty as they already have college games pencilled in for midweek 24th/25th and another full round the following week. However as it stands the Waterford footballers will still face Wicklow in Aughrim on Sunday next 28th while the hurlers will be in Walsh Park against Southeast neighbours Wexford both games in the opening round of their respective leagues.

Manager Tom McGlinchy and his football charges will be hoping that they can get the competition away to a winning start. The Deise overcame the Garden County in 2017 with a very impressive 1-17 to 1-9 scoreline played in Carriganore. Waterford were superb on that miserable wet and cold evening and the game saw the Deise put together a back to back winning sequence. However in 2016 in a close encounter it was Wicklow who came through on a 0-13 to 1-08 scoreline. There is little to seperate the sides and if the management team can get that little extra from the team there is no reason why they cannot come home with a brace of points. The team have had two outings already against counties from a higher division but while the scoreline favoured both Clare and Cork there was a determination in the team that could well be rewarded.

No doubt there will be a number of personnel changes and perhaps some positional switches but the majority of those that have seen recent action will surely be in the side. Gaultier's David Whitty having taken over from Stephen Enright, may well be the preferred number one with Thomas O'Gorman manning the edge of the square. That said the management have had the opportunities of looking over the squad with Dylan Looby, Aidan Trihy and Dylan Guiry all looking for a place. Likewise the half back line will be another huge call for McGlinchy with James McGrath, Shane Ryan, Caoimhin Maguire, Kieran Murphy, Stephen Prendergast and Gary Cullinan all seeking the "nod". In midfield Tommy Prendergast will hope to win the engine room battle and his partner could well be Michael

Curry from Rathgormack.

Up front the management will be keenly aware that much of the scoring is confined to a couple of player. However if a couple of players scoring can win a game then that's not a problem as others are creating the chances. That said Gavin Crotty, Joey veale, Michael O'Halloran, Conor Murray, Jason Curry, Mikey Kiely and Eoin O'Brien all have that ability to punish teams with the right supply. However Paul Whyte continues to be the "go to" player and his scoring returns are quite impressive. The Kilrossanty player has the ability to make and create scores from distance and the Wicklow defence will be only too aware of his potential.

All in all this may well be the ideal opportunity for the Deise lads to open their league account and a win would certainly be a huge boost to the confidence going to face  Antrim the following weekend.

HURLERS IMPRESSIVE RETURN

Since their return from holidays the Waterford Senior Hurlers have been showing some impressive form with comprehensive challenge match wins over both Dublin and Offaly. However all that form will be put to the test this weekend as the Deise welcomes Davy Fitzgerald and his Wexford charges to their opening game of the National League in Walsh Park. Waterford and Wexford can be "spicy" affairs with both counties having their fair share of success. Waterford held the edge in championship 2017 as they came through the All-Ireland quarter final against the Slaneysiders on the "opening weekend " of Pairc Ui Chaoimh last July.

For long periods of that tie the game was a very tight affair and only a goal from Waterford team captain Kevin Moran in the opening half gave the Derek McGrath side the momentum to lead by five points at the break. Wexford never gave up trying and at the end were just four points behind 1-23 to 1-19. I would expect another close encounter this weekend.

Davy Fitzgerald and his management team will more than likely keep pretty close to that fifteen which beat Kilkenny in the Walsh Cup final last weekend. Mark Fanning will start between the posts. The Glynn/Barntown keeper can be a tremendous shot stopper while outside him Simon Donohoe. Liam Ryan and Eoin Moore will surely be looking to start although Willie Devereux will be snapping at their heels.  Matthew O'Hanlon will probably return to centre back which could also see a switch in personnel with the afforementioned Donohoe reverting to the wing and Shaun Murphy, Aaron Maddock along with Eanna Martin all vying for a place. The return of the very influential Lee Chin will see him in midfield with Joe O'Connor or Kevin Foley and Conor McDonald, Aidan Nolan, Paul Morris, Jack Guiney, Harry Kehoe. Jack and Rory O'Connor and Podge Doran all ready for "the call".

All the above of course is based on the fact that Davy Fitzgerald will have a full compliment of players and like his counterpart Derek McGrath he will be closely watching the results and fixtures from the Fitzgibbon Cup games.

With neither manager making a team announcement I expect that they will both be looking at a serious start to the campaign. Winning can create a positive feeling anf in that respect it can also catapult a team forward to future challenges. I expect that Stephen O'Keeffe and Ian O'Regan will be vying for the goal with Barry Coughlan on the edge of the square. Shane Fives,  Noel Connors,  Tadhg de Burca, Austin Gleeson and Philip Mahony along with Shane McNulty, Conor Gleeson, Darragh Fives and Kieran Bennett will also be looking to come into the equation. Waterford player of the year  Jamie Barron and Kevin Moran can hold the engine room midfield with Pauric Mahony, Jake Dillon, Michael Walsh, Stephen Bennett, Patrick Curran, Tommy Ryan and Maurice Shanahan along with Mikey Kearney and Colin Dunford all in the mix.

No doubt this is a stepping stone for the Summer but it is also vitally important that we get the momentum behind us. A win would set the team up nicely for a visit to Semple Stadium against Tipperary the following Saturday.

Incidentally Portlaw retained their Senior Football status in the relegation playoff replay against Ballinameela. The final score 3-9 to 0-8.

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