Tag Archives: Fraher Field

Sleeping with the enemy

The radioactive cloud from the explosion generated by the Waterford County Board’s abortive attempt to engineer a home-and-away arrangement with Cork for this year’s Munster final succeeded in concealing the reason for that initial attempt – the parlous state of the county’s finances. So it was inevitable once the story had passed through its half-life a few million times – the rate of decay for a story like this being about seven minutes – that the County Board would return to it. Thus we have the proposal for Waterford to play any ‘home’ games that might arise in the Munster championship in the bastion of Munsterness that is Nowlan Park.

Before looking at the substance of the idea, it would be appropriate to address why it is necessary to consider such an arrangement, i.e. the inadequacy of our own county venues at Walsh Park and Fraher Field. The state of these grounds is something on which I’m willing to give the County Board a pass. As with the senior hurling team, they are routinely ridiculed for not being the best-of-the-best, behaviour that can only be performed with a straight face if you forget just how gobsmackingly awful things were back in the 1980’s. Walsh Park consisted of three-and-three-quarter grass banks, none of which had crush barriers, and a sub-Subbuteo stand that was quite literally a cow shed, Graves of Waterford balefully emblazoned upon its side. As for the toilets, let’s just say that I’m glad I’m not a woman. The money that was invested in the 1990’s in the two venues didn’t produce stunning results, but once the easily-justified decision was made, in terms of club use, to maintain both grounds rather than put it all into one, the butter was always going to be spread a little thin. But the toast that was produced was far superior to the burnt offerings of yore. And it goes without saying that we should be grateful that such indecision regarding the prime location for the county spared us the grotesque white elephants that hang around the necks of those counties not fortunate enough to have a JP McManus ready to pay for someone to continuously dispose of its dung. Procrastination may be a vice to some, but (spoiler alert) Claudius still ended up dead with Hamlet, didn’t he?

Still, the lack of a revenue stream from the occasional five-figure attendance is clearly a problem, so how does the notion of making Kilkenny a home-away-from-home go down? People in the west of the county will doubtless bristle at the *checks Google Maps* 80.5km journey from Dungarvan to Kilkenny compared to the 49.8km one from the city, swanky new toll-free (thank you, Martin Cullen) motorway to boot. But in what way are they more inconvenienced than, say, travelling to Thurles (83.7km)? And they’ve never expressed any sympathy for those of us in the east of the county who have to travel an additional 46km to get to Cork whenever games are staged there. Travelling is a feature of championship matches for everyone outside of Dublin, and you wouldn’t want to be accused of whinging like lowdown Jackeens, would you?

Of more concern would be the reaction of the Munster Council. Much like their counterparts in rugby Munster consider themselves of being made of the right stuff in comparison to the other provinces, to the extent that they have limited all senior hurling matches to the super venues in Thurles, Cork, Limerick and Killarney, although Fitzgerald Stadium has fallen off the radar in recent years. I’m pretty sure this is official, but in the absence of being able to locate anything to that effect on the internet, consider this: Cusack Park in Ennis is a tidy enough ground which, while lacking much in the way of seating, has proper terraces all the way around. Yet despite this and its respectable capacity of 28,000, similar to that of Nowlan Park, it is never used for Munster championship matches. In addition, the Munster Council are happy to go out of their way to accommodate the big grounds as evidenced by the fiasco in 2008 when Waterford were obliged to play Clare in the Gaelic Grounds, a place where you wouldn’t need Google Maps to know its proximity to the respective counties. It would offend the dignity of the Munster Championship for the matches to be played  anywhere other than a 45,000 capacity ground, even if Waterford’s three matches last year would collectively have just about filled Semple Stadium. And as for staging a match outside the province, that might be good enough for those savages in Ulster, but in Munster . . . someone pass the smelling salts.

There are lots of good reasons to stage Waterford’s ‘home’ games in Kilkenny, and the reasons against are mostly trivial, parochial and small-minded. It hasn’t a hope of happening.

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Nothing was going to give or everything was going to give

The meeja loves looking at things past for titbits about current events, and there was plenty to chew over about last night’s Under-21 final between Waterford and Clare in Dungarvan. Clare’s appalling 0 for 12 record in Munster finals stood in curious contrast to Waterford’s, whose three wins in the competition came at the expense of the Banner. Normally lazy hacks bang on about how “something has to give”, but last night it was all or nothing.

And in the end, it was all. I’m not saying for one second that the Waterford team didn’t care, but there was no denying that once Clare got in sight of the finishing line there was only going to be one winner. We would have been able to observe the phenomenon of a team feeling liberated by the prospect of ending the pain that had afflicted previous generations of their county men when we won the 2002 Munster championship. I wrote then how “the Waterford team must have been a terrifying sight. Nostrils flared, eyes bulging, sweating adrenalin, they steamed after every ball as if their lives depended upon it”, and you could see echoes of that in Clare last night. Ger Loughnane lost to Waterford in 1974 as a player and 1992 as a manager at this stage of the competition, so it must have been inspirational to the Clare team to have succeeded where so many of their illustrious predecessors had come up short.

Hard to know what to make of it for Waterford i.e. I don ‘t know enough about the team to make in informed judgement. Obviously it’s disappointing they couldn’t close out the deal after that thumping win over Tipperary, but there’s no shame in losing a tight game against an inspired team. There’s not much point in waiting to see how Clare do to gauge how good we were – they could be a brilliant team yet still lose to Galway. Whatever happens now, it’s been a great year at underage level.

Two last observations, or one with a sting in the tail. It was good to be able to feel no animosity towards Clare on the basis that they were Clare. The wounds of 1998 have well and truly healed. So it has nothing to do with being a bitch when I note that despite the momentous nature of their victory, nobody in Clare seemed bothered updating the Wikipedia page, that task falling to Pmunited, a contributer “living in the US, but born in Ireland”. And there was me thinking Ennis was Ireland’s information town . . . okay, that was rather bitchy. Well done to the Banner.

Warp 30

skygalway091

Say what you will about the Dirty Digger (and you will), Sky+ is a work of genius. Caught between the contradictory impulses to maintain this blog as some kind of semi-serious record of Waterford’s progress and the desire to forget about a sorry result yesterday in sodden Dungarvan, Rupert’s little box of tricks offered a get-out-of-jail-free card – simply rattle through the match at 30x speed. Isn’t everything brilliant?

Actually, it’s surprising what you can glean from such an exercise, especially set against the regular match reports that  consist of umming and aahing between the goals because it’s impossible to create a coherent narrative when you’re wrapped up in the excitement. For a start, the quality was surprisingly good given the monsoon-like conditions. Watching it in fast-forward, there was little enough pulling-and-dragging and the game see-sawed with admirable regularity – perhaps a sign that it was a bit bloodless?

The game was also an advert for those who say that goals decide games. Galway’s goal, coming as it was when the sides were evenly matched, would prove significant. Point-for-point up until then, Waterford began to panic a wee bit when points couldn’t get them any closer to their opponents meaning each subsequent Galway score serving to tighten that logical noose. It was like a basketball match where the losers start going for three pointers allowing the winners to nonchalantly take two-points scores with their precious possession.

That was the impression anyway. Another one though was that Galway would have run away with it but for two very jammy goals. Has a player ever looked more sheepish than Eoin Kelly when the first one went in. Had that been the Championship, or even a League game with much at stake, he probably would have chopped down the posts in an effort to stay psyched up.

So once again we see the League’s capacity to be all things to all men. Win, great. Lose, meh. With relegation only marginally more likely than qualifying for the final, the last two games are going to be even more bloodless. Good luck to Davy Fitz trying to read anything into them. He might be better off watching them on Sky.

Breheny’s Beat(down)

(For a more wide-ranging viewpoint on the governance of the Association, check out realGAA.)

Every blogger is a frustrated journalist and journalist watching is a never-ending source of frustration, none more so than Martin Breheny of the Indo. This is not to say the bould Martin is a bad hack. He never damns you with faint praise, which was important when Waterford were being patronised at various points over the years; you could rely on Breheny to give us a cold dose of reality. He also has no favourites. Think he’s anti-Waterford because of the aforementioned damnation? His joy at Waterford’s Under-21 success in 1992 was enough to make a growing boy weep with delight, going so far (if memory serves me correct) to select it as his most memorable moment of the year – a year when Donegal won their first ever All-Ireland.

What makes Breheny frustrating is his belief that he, and he alone, can save the GAA from itself. Not a year passes without some list of What The GAA Must Do To Survive. Considering Congress rarely takes its cue from the media it’s unlikely any of his prescriptions have been administered, and yet the GAA still stands.

A recent article saw him produce another ten point plan to avert disaster. I won’t fisk his viewpoint and you can read the fleshing out of his arguments here. I’ll look at the bullet points and see how far my vision for the GAA is from that of Ireland’s most opinionated Gaelic games pundit.

1. Recognise the GPA as a formal wing of the GAA.

As the Sheriff of Nottingham in the Beeb’s version of Robin Hood might say, a clue: no. What form does Breheny think this ‘recognition’ should take? Would the GPA have a voting block in Congress? Directly negotiate with Central Council? With individual County Boards? Each member of the GPA already has a voice in the GAA – it’s called ‘membership of a club’. Inter county players carry great weight with their peers in clubs because, well, they play the game very well. Let them exercise that weight if they want to bring about change in the association and be done with these end runs around the existing structures.

 

2. Amateur status: time for realism [managers are being paid, why not players].

Breheny would be in the “why fight the inevitable” camp when it comes to pay-for-play and all the attendant guff you get with that stance, i.e. the assumption that it is inevitable based on little or no evidence other than shouting that it’s inevitable. In fairness to him on this occasion he asks for the GAA to “commission a study of the impact it would have on the Association”. The idea that nothing in the GAA would change but that the oul’ players would have a few more quid in their pocket is preposterous and any commission would inevitably demonstrate that. If people are happy with the changes that might have to be wrought to support pay-per-play, e.g. a rationalising of the number of competing teams to be able to sustain a professional setup much as has happened in Irish, Welsh and Scottish rugby, then fine. At least we could have an honest debate. Bring on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission!

 

 

3. Four green fields: why are they different sizes? [The provinces are lopsided and need to be redrawn or abolished.]

Redraw them? Forget about it, especially in football. Many counties have picked up long-awaited provincial titles in the last two decades, Waterford not least among them. Do you think they would have gotten the same kick out of winning the South East Championship, a tournament ripped from the moorings of a splendid history? There is a coherent argument to be made for abolishing the provincial titles altogether as part of a revamped championship. As with the amateur status argument though, be careful what you wish for . . .

4. Inter-county schedule: still flawed after all these years.

He has a point here. It’s one of his favourite hobby horses, and it makes a lot more sense the more the GAA uses increased number of big time matches as a means of promoting the game. The situation whereby two provincial championships traditionally stage their finals on the same day in the middle of July – Ulster and Connacht football – was dumb decades ago and is completely bonkers now. In addition, one drawn match always seems to cause panic as matches get squeezed into the same weekend. What the answer is I don’t know. But an acknowledgement from Headquarters that it’s no use having multiple golden egg laying geese if they are all wedged into a too-small coop would be a start.

5. Hurling: take it out from under football’s large shadow.

This is a popular viewpoint among many hurling afficiendos, the logic being that the parallel administration of the games is harmful to hurling as the sport is dominated by football types. Yet I can’t help but feel that hurling is totally dependent upon the link with the most popular sport in the country. The illusion of equality is crucial. Imagine, for exampl, if Croke Park were allocated according to competing demands from the two games. The only time hurling would get a look-in would be on All-Ireland final day. The rest of the time, the lure of clash between (say) any two teams from Ulster or Kerry v anyone else would swamp just about any clash in hurling. The harsh truth is that hurling’s profile is heavily dependent on proximity to the football behemoth. This is especially true in the case of Waterford. Would Dan Shanahan have been as much of a celeb had he been playing football in a county with an equivalent ranking in the football hierarchy? Hurling needs the link with football more than football needs hurling. It’s doubtful whether hurling would benefit from severing that link.

6. Chain of command: as strong as its weakest link [a more integrated hierarchy within the association, with the buck stopping somewhere].

Hard to argue with this. The people at the top of the GAA are incredibly weak. When it comes to affecting change in the association the President, armed as they are with a popular mandate, should be in a strong position. Instead they seem to be hamstrung by the need to be all things to all men (and women). While I didn’t like the tenor of Seán Kelly’s behaviour during the debate on opening up Croke Park to soccer and rugby – all that ‘hand of history’ guff would make you sick – he was surely entitled to take a lead on the matter. The idea that he should be all things to all members of the association is ludicrous. The British Labour Party couldn’t be taken seriously while every decision needed to be rubberstamped by its Party Conference. People in the GAA need to elect officials to actually take decisions and live with those decisions (see point 10).

7. Croke Park: don’t lock the gates when Lansdowne Road is completed.

I’d be mostly in agreement with Breheny here, although I’d question whether the IRFU and the FAI would want Croke Park once Lansdowne Road is built. It’s correct to say that the GAA should not be leaving themselves open to the accusation of being backwoodsmen or whatever nonsense the ill-informed conjure up regarding Croke Park. But he underestimates the IRFU’s attachment to D4. At no point in the whole Bertie Bowl saga did the IRFU waver in their desire to have their own venue. It would never do to be routinely facing the RFU President’s XV in a rented premises. As for the FAI, the likeliehood of them needing more than a 50,000 capacity on a regular basis seems fanciful in the medium term. So keep Croke Park open, but don’t anticipate any big ticket gigs.

8. Stadium Development: stop the waste.

This is one of my great bugbears in the GAA, and one in which Breheny has my complete agreement. People in Waterford can occasionally be heard whining about the poor facilities we have in the county. Now, Walsh Park and Fraher Field need to be better. Better terraces, better toilets, better roofs. But they don’t need to be bigger. Develop a few super grounds like Thurles or Clones, but county grounds should be modelled on the likes of Parnell Park or Nowlan Park – big enough for a county final crowd. If Waterford GAA starts building a 40,000 stadium, even Brendan McCann will have to take his place behind me in lying down before the bulldozers.

9. Population imbalances: can the county system continue?

In a word, yes. Would he advocate the abolition of international soccer because the Republic of Ireland can’t hope to compete with Brazil? Yes, it’s unequal that a player from Dublin will have to wade through perhaps thousands of players to get to his county team while one from Leitrim only has to beat off tens of his peers. But since when was playing inter county sport an end in itself? You play the game – any game – because you enjoy it. Has anyone ever felt slighted because he never got to play for his high population county while some lesser light got to play for a smaller county? The GAA would not want to be incorporating the needs of such a chimera when considering its structures.

10. Discipline: it’s for others, not me.

Well, yes. The GAA seems to be making progress on making punishments stick earlier on in 2008, such as when they faced down efforts to have the culprits in the latest Dublin – Meath brawl let off because they’re really a good bunch of lads and they’d never harm a fly (etc). It’s a case of three steps forward two steps back as the Paul Galvin affair demonstrated when a set of straw men were erected (we were told that it was outrageous that his work was brought into it when no one other than a few web trolls did that) so as to be knocked down when the time came. But it is a net gain of one step and when even the Kerry County Board are berating loud mouths from their own camp for their lack of respect for due process, you can hope that the tide is turning. I wouldn’t bet on Martin Breheny admitting as much when the time comes though.

Fire AN RTÉ-Hack

One of the most amusing places on the web is Fire Joe Morgan, a site dedicated to skewering lazy hackery in the world of sports journalism. The site is motivated by the tiresome windbag-ery of retired baseball legend Joe Morgan, a pundit who thinks that ‘heart’ and ‘guts’ are more important attributes than, I don’t know, hitting a baseball really well or regularly striking hitters out. The site generally sticks to baseball but occasionally casts its net wider, and it came to mind when reading RTÉ’s potted match report on Waterford’s heartbreaking loss to Tipperary in the National Football League today:

TIPPERARY 2-08 WATERFORD 1-10, Dungarvan

Barry Grogan saved Tipperary’s blushes as the Premier county stole a late victory at Dungarvan.

Grogan’s injury-time goal ensured the visitors finished as one-point winners.

A wind assisted Waterford made the best use of possession in the early stages and led by 0-06 to 0-03 at the interval.

A goal from Eddie Rockett on the restart ensured a home win looked likely but Tipp responded well to this pressure in defence and attack.

Now, I admit I’m no expert on the machinations of Division 4 of the NFL. But did Tipperary really go into this match thinking that they’d easily roll over a home team coming off the back of a great win over Carlow last week? I doubt it, which means this lazy report based on a clear pre-conception that Waterford are the division’s bunnies is exactly the kind of thing that FJM loves to dissect. No promotion for Waterford this year, but the answer to the question posed last week is a definite ‘yes’.

Dialogue of the deaf

One of the biggest problems facing any sports organisation in the future, whether they be amateur or professional (all sports are amateur at the grassroots), is the need for volunteers to staff committees. Dealing with arcane principles, fuzzy precedents and appellants who are convinced of their righteousness to the point of completely abandoning reason, it’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it, and people are going to get increasingly unwilling to do it out as our time becomes increasingly commoditised. Faceless bureaucrats, I salute you.

With that feint offered, now for the thrust. The decision of the GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) to arrange a playoff between Waterford and Cork to decide who finishes second and who finishes third in Division 1A of the National Hurling League is unsatisfactory on every level bar one. There will be little desire among the populace to see such a match, the prize on offer of who gets to play Limerick being worth far less than, say, two league points. Staging it in Limerick must count as the wackiest use of the Ennis Road white elephant yet – JP McManus can keep his money, this will surely pay off the debt! When it was decided initially to give Waterford and Kilkenny a walkover in their respective league matches, the Cats pulled the stunt of offering to play the game anyway, an offer they knew would be rebuffed by the authorities but which made them look magnanimous and forcing Waterford to say that yes, we’d love to play the match but where would we fit it in in the club schedule? Now Waterford are going to have to play the match anyway when they’d have happily flipped a coin or even played it in someplace like Fermoy – did I mention the folly of playing it in Limerick?

In fact the only winners are Cork, who get to play a souped up challenge match against one of their main rivals despite their collective selfishness dragging the entire association to the brink of anarchy. Dostoevsky could have written a decent novel about it.

Update: some degree of sanity has been restored as the respective teams agreed to toss a coin over the venue thus sparing everyone the trip to Limerick. Karma dictated that Waterford would win the toss, and we did, so the match will be played in Walsh Park. Surely Fraher would have been a fairer venue, but sod fairness at this stage.

Nineteen point-less?

Gaelic games lacks the constant churning of professional sports to allow hacks to file fresh copy every (Sun)day, so certain questions get asked and answered – not that anyone who actually has to decide on these things is interested in what said hack thinks – again and again. We can look forward to another handwringing article in the next few weeks from Martin Breheny, citing Waterford drubbing of Antrim in Dungarvan today as evidence that These Games Do Weaker Counties No Good Whatsover.

A few weeks after that, we’ll have an article deriding the GAA for not giving the weaker counties the opportunity to play the bigger counties. How, Breheny (or whoever) will posit, are the weaker counties ever meant to improve if they don’t get games againt the big boys?

Personally I think that Antrim have got to play these kind of games if they are ever to prosper, although they will only ever be a necessary condition for improvement, never a sufficient one. The real problem is for Waterford. Having not seen the game, being reluctant to drag Mrs deiseach out to Dungarvan having just returned from seeing Fernando Torres FC wallop Newcastle a mere 20 hours earlier, I can’t tell how good or bad Waterford and Antrim were. But it’s fair to say that three games (walkovers included) into the National League, Waterford are no closer to discovering the two or three finds that any team needs to keep the squad fresh for the Championship. It’s Kilkenny in Nowlan Park next Sunday, it can’t come soon enough.

Footballers in win again shock!

I wouldn’t use the ‘tender shoots’ analogy to describe Waterford football, it’s more a stubborn old spud that has suddenly put out roots when the gardener had given it up for dead. But the signs of life are there with another win over Clare. By itself it isn’t much, and the win over Kilkenny is worth about as much as a dollar. But they look like they have the measure of Clare – wish we could say the same about the hurlers – which means we have risen to the dizzy heights of being the 30th best football county in the country.

I bet you I’ve jinxed them for the London game now, just you watch . . .

Waterford 3-15 (24) Laois 1-6 (9)

Today’s match was a pretty convincing in favour of one of my favourite projects – a Champions League style All-Ireland hurling championship. It was a pretty meaningless fixture – for ‘pretty’, read ‘totally’ – and the match was incredibly lopsided. But it was still reasonably entertaining fare played in good conditions in front of a healthy crowd. It was also a darn sight more interesting that much of what passed for entertainment in the real Champions League. But I digress . . .

Peter Queally, Laois, 2001

With no pressure on either team, the early exchanges were of a decent quality. Laois got the first score but were then completely undone by Dan Shanahan, his strong run ended in a shot which was saved by the Laois goalie but the ever-industrious John Mullane pounced on the rebound and slotted the ball into the gaping net. You could almost see the Laois heads dropping already.

Up close, Laois, 2001

I remember the last time Laois came down to Waterford. They had had a few good results under Padraig Horan and David Cuddy postponed his honeymoon so he could play in Walsh Park. We trashed them, Kilkenny murdered them in the Leinster championship and I don’t think they’ve won a game since. Laois have the same problem as Waterford, only more so: they don’t have enough really outstanding players. Every Laois attack broke foundered on the rock of the Waterford defence. This led them to try shooting from hopeless positions leading to hopeless results. Waterford, meanwhile, were having it easy. John Mullane had the measure of his marker and was dancing around him at will. Dan Shanahan was being, well, Dan Shanahan, while Paul Flynn was even knocking over a few frees.

By half time the game was over. Last year in O’Moore Park Laois had destroyed Waterford with the advantage of the wind, but here they had the wind in the first half and couldn’t do anything with it. Despite this, they started the half brightly with a great goal, a long range effort was deftly flicked to the net by full forward James Young. The Waterford full-back line and goalie looked at each other as if to say “he was yours!”

Tony Browne, Laois, 2001

It didn’t take Waterford long to cancel out that effort though. Dan went on one of those rampaging runs, and the ball found its way to Seamus Prendergast who turned and thumped the ball past the Laois goalie.

This was almost like a cue for the match to descend into farce. Errors crept into everyone’s game, and the amount of annoying gaffs beggared belief. Waterford knocked over a few points, Laois didn’t. Míceal White came on which was a bit of a surprise – I didn’t think we’d see him again in a hurry. Still, he injected a bit of life into the preceedings and combined neatly with Anthony Kirwan to allow the latter to slam home Waterford’s third goal from a narrow angle.

Seamus Prendergast, Laois, 2001

In terms of performances, Waterford can take heart from the performance of John Mullane up front and James Murray has carried his good form from the end of last season into 2001. Alan Kirwan had a good game at corner back although not having seen him play before, you have to wonder how much of his excellence was down to his marker. Dave Bennett must also be wondering what he has to do to nail down a regular place. Three points from play as a sub will surely help his cause.

John Mullane & Tony Browne, Laois, 2001

So the curtain comes down on another National League campaign. It was very much a mixed bag. Wins over Derry and Laois were necessary and they were achieved. Good performances against Tipperary and Cork yielded nothing, you can’t read anything into the win over Wexford and the defeat to Kilkenny was an embarrassment on a par with hidings in the past. Surely our best hope in this years Championship is that Limerick nobble Cork. If that happens, all hell could break lose in the Gentle County. But it’s hard to see us beating Cork. As always, we’ll see what happens.

Waterford: Stephen Brenner, Tom Feeney, Sean Cullinane, Alan Kirwan, Stephen Frampton (Declan Prendergast), Peter Queally, James Murray, Tony Browne (0-1), Eoin Murphy (Dave Bennett, 0-3), Dan Shanahan, Fergal Hartley (0-2), Ken McGrath (capt., Paul Prendergast, 0-1), John Mullane (1-3), Seamus Prendergast (1-1; Anthony Kirwan, 1-0), Paul Flynn (0-4, all frees; Míceal White)

Laois: J Lyons, N Lacey, S Dooley (J O’Sullivan), D Killeen, Niall Rigney, Paul Cuddy (0-1), Cyril Cuddy (P Mahon), David Cuddy (0-3, all frees), Declan Conroy (J O’Shea), J Phelan, O Dowling, Canice Coonan (0-2; Des Conroy), C Cleer (E Maher), James Young (1-0), Fionan O’Sullivan

HT: Waterford 1-10 Laois 0-5

Referee: D Kirwan (Cork)

Waterford 3-17 (26) Derry 0-8 (8)

Fógra: as with the Cork game last year, following Liverpool meant I missed this game. Getting from Dublin to Dungarvan using public transport was sadly beyond me. This report is cobbled together from press reports and discussions with people who were at the game.

It wasn’t exactly a flying start – the less-than-Californian conditions didn’t help – but after the stress filled outing in Ballinascreen last year there were no complaints in the Waterford camp. Well, except from Gerald McCarthy about starting the League in February, but that’s another story.

The Waterford back line had a look to it that was both reassuring and disturbing. It’s great to see The Rock squeeze another year out of that wonderful hurling frame of his, but the lack of turnover shows how little there is in the pipeline. Still, it was a little more encouraging up front with three players starting a league game for the first time.

You can be sure that the old sporting truism of “don’t let them have a good start” was ringing in Derry ears as they took to the Dungarvan pitch. No doubt full back Conor Murray saw it flash across his eyes as, under pressure from Pat Walsh he bundled the ball into his own net after only thirty seconds.

Waterford failed to make much use of this early gift though. The over-elaboration that characterised their performance against Derry last year was much in evidence, and Oliver Collins lethal free taking meant that Derry kept well in touch for most of the half. Thankfully Seamus Prendergast pounced for a goal seven minutes before half time, or else Waterford’s position would have looked extremely precarious at the break.

As it turned out, Waterford revived memories of thrilling third quarter performances with some excellent points in the first fifteen minutes pushing Waterford ten points clear. It was clear that Derry’s confidence was beginning to wither. They may have had ambitions of taking Waterford, justifiable given the game in 2000 and the hope of catching Waterford cold. But their frustration was evident when Emmett McKeever clobbered Paul Prendergast and got sent off for his troubles.

The last quarter was shooting practice for the Déise and while they raced away to an eighteen point victory, they also missed quite a few too. It was a good days work for Waterford, with some typically solid defensive, new boy Victor O’Shea being a standout. Tom Feeney was just-about-everyone’s top performer. I’m still convinced that when Sean Cullianane hangs up his boots, Tom will make an adequate replacement. At the other end of the field, the points were evenly shared among all the forwards. There will be harder challenges ahead, but every journey must begin with one step.

Waterford: Brendan Landers, Tom Feeney, Sean Cullinane, Brian Flannery (James Murray), Victor O’Shea, Stephen Frampton, James O’Connor, Peter Queally, Tony Browne (Johnny Brenner), Ken McGrath (capt., 1-6, 1-2 frees, 0-1 65), Seamus Prendergast (1-1; Tom Reade), Eoin Kelly (0-1; Paul Prendergast, 0-1), John Mullane (0-2), Pat Walsh (0-2), Paul Flynn (0-2, 0-1 free; Dave Bennett, 0-2).

Derry: Kieran Stevenson, Emmett McKeever, Conor Murray (1-0 o.g.), Martin Quinn, B Lynch, Michael Conway (0-1), B Ward, Colin McEldowney (D Doherty), Sean Martin Lockart, Gregory Biggs, D McGreelis (R Kennedy), Ronan McCloskey (F McEldowney), P Kelly, Oliver Collins (0-5, 0-4 frees), John O’Dwyer (0-2).

HT: Waterford 2-5 Derry 0-6

Referee: Pat Dunphy (Kilkenny)