By Thomas Keane

Waterford's Michael Curry in action with Cork's James Loughrey during the Deise's close-run thing with the Rebels in the Munster Championship at Fraher Field.		| Photos: Sean Byrne

Waterford's Michael Curry in action with Cork's James Loughrey during the Deise's close-run thing with the Rebels in the Munster Championship at Fraher Field. | Photos: Sean Byrne

Three weeks on from an excellent performance against Cork, Tom McGlinchey’s Waterford Senior footballers are back in action in Fraher Field on Saturday afternoon when they take on Derry in the first round of the All-Ireland Qualifiers.
“Yeah, it was great to get the home draw, and it would have been a lot worse if we’d have had to face into a six-hour journey up to Derry, that wouldn’t have been great for the players or the County Board either, so there’s a sense of reward in coming out the hat with a home draw,” said Tom McGlinchey.
“Fair enough, Derry were the team every other county were trying to avoid, and unfortunately we got them, but it’s a challenge no more than Cork was a challenge and we’re really looking forward to next Saturday.”
The qualifiers have not been kind to Waterford down the years, with the white and blue recording just a handful of victories in both the qualifiers and in the now disbanded Tommy Murphy Cup.
Since the inception of the qualifiers, if results have not been kind to Waterford, the same could be said of the draws, as the Déise County have more often than not found themselves having to make long journeys all around the country to fulfil fixtures.
While Waterford could have received a kinder draw for this weekend’s fixture, all involved will be very happy that they did not have to make the long journey to Celtic Park in Derry to fulfil the fixture.
The Oak Leaf County side will travel to Dungarvan as favourites, but they will not be underestimating this Waterford side.
The Ulstermen will have seen that Waterford pushed Cork all the way just over two weeks ago and will know that the home side had chances to win. They will also know that at Fraher Field Waterford are a very difficult side to beat.
Derry are not having the best of years and could well arrive in Dungarvan lacking somewhat in self belief.
They were relegated from the second Division of the National football league their best result coming when they beat Kildare in Celtic Park on a 1-18 to 1-17 scoreline.
In the Ulster Championship they recently played Mickey Harte’s Tyrone, who recorded a double score 0-22 to 0-11 victory in Celtic Park.
Derry trailed 0-10 to 0-5 at the break and at one stage early in the second half of that game only trailed by three points but the winners turned on the style after that and coasted to victory.
When they arrive in Dungarvan they will be looking to the likes of Niall McLoughlin, Niall Keenan, Enda Lynn and Benny Herron for big performances.
“Look, they’re going to be favourites,” said McGlinchey of Derry, “but favourites are there to be taken down. Obviously they have the pedigree of playing at the higher level, albeit that they were relegated this season. But three years ago, they were playing in a Division One Final and they’ve played in Croke Park numerous times and come into this match having had the experience of playing Tyrone…and that will stand to them and I’ve no doubt they’ll be using this game as one that can get them back into the Championship. But for our lads, this is a huge challenge, but it’s something that they’re relishing. They want to be testing themselves against the best teams. We showed against Cork potentially what we can do but we need to take it to the next level now with a victory and that’s what we’re aiming to do against Derry.”
However while many will make Derry favourites, they could well have another afternoon to forget as Waterford will be looking to the likes of Stephen Enright, Brian Looby, Thomas O’Gorman, Tadhg Ó hUallacháin, Stephen and Tommy Prendergast, Paul Whyte, Donie Breathnach, Gavin Crotty, and Michael O’Halloran for big games.
The question on the lips of most will be can Waterford serve up another good performance and advance to Round Two of the qualifiers. The answer is, most definitely, yes.
“The belief is in the players that they can compete at this level,” said the Deise manager, “but competing isn’t enough now and words can be cheap: we need to go out and do it on the field.”
Let’s hope Waterford can keep themselves in the headlines this Saturday, and who knows, they might even warrant a name check on The Sunday Game this time around!

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