Footballers aiming to lower the Banner

Here we go again. The senior GAA year kicks off in earnest this Sunday when the footballers of Waterford and Clare go toe-to-toe in their National Football League opener at Fraher Field. And one suspects there’ll be little to separate these two Munster rivals once again.

But it’s hard to tell how both sides are shaping up going into this game given that both sides along with Tipperary and Limerick didn’t take part in this year’s McGrath Cup.

While challenge games can help build up a team’s fitness level and can give an opportunity to put in place game plans which are hoped to be used during the year, at the end of the day nothing beats a competitive game, something that the McGrath Cup would have offered.

As in previous years, Clare will be looking to David Tubridy for the bulk of their scores.

The Doonbeg man is a very accomplished footballer who finds the target on a regular basis from play and placed balls.

Others that the Banner will be looking towards will include Shane McNeilis, Enda Coughlan, Gordon Kelly, Alan Clohessy, Shane McGrath, Joe Hayes and Martin McMahon.

This year, the Deise will be without the considerable talent and experience of Ballinacourty duo Gary Hurney and Stephen Enright.

However, Niall Carew will have plenty of talent available to him and his fellow selectors, who, one suspects, are operating with one of the smallest panels in this year’s League.

After impressing on the inter-county scene last year, especially in the All-Ireland Qualifier against Galway, Paul Whyte is a player that most will be trying to keep quite as much as possible in 2014.

Many will see him as the player best equipped to fill the considerable boots of Gary Hurney over the coming years, and he certainly possesses the talent and composure to do just that.

However, there’s a lot more to Waterford than Paul Whyte.

Shane Briggs, a rock of consistency at wing-back, has taken over the captaincy from Gary Hurney this year and he will be crucial to Waterford over the coming months.

John Hurney and younger brother Patrick could also prove crucial as could another pair of brothers, the Stradbally duo of Shane and Robert Aherne.

Others that could have big roles to play include Tommy Prendergast, the O’Gorman twins Maurice and Thomas and Tony Grey, another marauding wing-back who contributes so much to the team’s attacking dimension.

The return to the panel this year of Clashmore’s Kieran Connery and Sean is a huge plus, so too the news that former inter-county hurler Wayne Hutchinson will be involved with the footballers this year after a superb SFC campaign with Gaultier last year.

Oran Keevers of De La Salle and Dean Crowley are new to the panel year while John Hayden of Tramore is also among the new recruits.

Both sides will feel that if they were to open the campaign with a win that they could have a good league campaign.

Defeat is unthinkable, as a first round loss shall leave a team playing catch up, effectively from the NFL’s throw-in.

With neither side having any competitive games under their belt prior to this week’s game it’s hard to see where both teams are at, but  home advantage may just swing it for Waterford. Niall Carew and his charges will feel confident going into this game and they should win, but expect it to be a very tight affair. When these two sides meet, it’s rarely any other way.

Thomas KeaneSP5S1Pic

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