It’s A Suir Thing

Captain Kevin Moran is seeking to lead Waterford into a National Hurling League Final this Sunday. See Sport 2 & 3 for more.				| Photo: Noel Browne

Captain Kevin Moran is seeking to lead Waterford into a National Hurling League Final this Sunday. See Sport 2 & 3 for more. | Photo: Noel Browne

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The chat’s been lively on either side of the River Suir in recent weeks, and it’s no surprise that the hurling chat has proven so plentiful along the most tribal stretch of our famed river valley.

In Carrick-on-Suir, the denizens of Carrick Mór believe they’re within striking distance of finally knocking their other neighbours in Kilkenny off their imperious perch. The Premier expects.

In Carrick Beg, where the men of the Mollerans roam, the belief in a rejuvenated Waterford side extends beyond what next Sunday in Nowlan Park may hold in store: but the bragging rights for work on Monday morning next would prove priceless. The Deise believes.

Beyond this National Hurling League semi-final, the next time these old rivals could next meet would be in that most wondrous of spectacles: a Munster Final.

It’s eight years since the Deisemen reached their zenith under Justin McCarthy, playing with the sort of free expression that made them the neutrals’ favourite inter-county side.

Kilkenny were defeated in a League Final, Limerick were dismissed in the Munster decider and Cork were seen off in epic circumstances come the All-Ireland quarter-final.

But then back came Limerick, and Donie Ryan hurling at a level he never equalled prior or subsequent to that heartbreaking semi-final defeat. Five goals shelled. A hundred thousand hearts broken.

Eight years later, and while this may not be a Waterford side exhibiting the same sense of reckless abandon in their hurling, there’s a toughness, a resolve and a spirit which makes this current vintage a side to be reckoned with. A coming force. “The new team on the block,” as Cyril Farrell described them.

Derek McGrath made some massive calls when finalising his 2015 panel. He placed his faith in the next wave of talent while retaining some steely warriors: Moran, Brick, Iggy and O’Sullivan to name but four.

He’s given Barry Coughlan an opportunity to bed in at full-back. Either side of him, Daragh Fives and Noel Connors have been exemplars of consistency.

Ahead of them, Philip Mahony, Austin Gleeson and Tadhg De Búrca have been magnificent, and should fitness hold up, this trio has the mark of greatness about them.

Alongside captain Kevin Moran (at his absolute best against Galway), Jamie Barron has been a revelation, up for the fight against all comers; and how good has Tom Devine been in his cameos thus far?

In attack, Philip Mahony is striking the ball better than ever, and has emerged as a true leader in this side. Jake Dillon, his eye peeled for that diagonal ball, has been absolutely terrific, while the return to full fitness of Brian O’Halloran is a joyous relief. The ‘Brick’ is enjoying his redeployment, Colin Dunford’s pace has caught the eye, while Stephen Bennett has been carefully blooded into the top level of the game.

And with Maurice Shanahan demonstrating a nuisance value to rival that of the retired Seamus Prendergast, Derek McGrath and his selectors have the most pleasant of headaches to ‘endure’.

Defeating Tipperary on Sunday would leave us Deisefolk a little giddy. Let’s hope we’re grinning on the spin down the M9.

Dermot Keyes

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