LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN

Waterford hungry to land back to back NHL titles

Dermot Keyes reports

Kevin Moran hold aloft the National Hurling League trophy following Waterford's win over Cork last May. See inside for exclusive interviews with Derek McGrath, Kevin Moran, Shane Fives, Patrick Curran and Fintan O’Connor ahead of Sunday's Final clash with Clare. 								| Photo: Noel Browne

Kevin Moran hold aloft the National Hurling League trophy following Waterford's win over Cork last May. See inside for exclusive interviews with Derek McGrath, Kevin Moran, Shane Fives, Patrick Curran and Fintan O’Connor ahead of Sunday's Final clash with Clare. | Photo: Noel Browne

Sunday. Semple Stadium. Round one of two (at the very least) with the Banner. This National Hurling League Final between Waterford and Clare in the game’s spiritual home looks set to deliver an appetising starter ahead of the main course the Championship will soon dish up.
But make no mistake, Waterford’s hunger pang, right now, extends no further than Sunday, and their ambition to retain the Dr Croke Cup, something no Deise side has ever done before.
“Davy has said that Waterford are the best team in the country,” said Waterford manager Derek McGrath during a comprehensive interview with The Munster Express (see Sport 2-4) “and then Dan came out the next day and said Clare were streets ahead of us.”
McGrath added: “I don’t even think it’s been a case of us engaging in psychological warfare or anything, but we’re concentrating on ourselves and what we can do.”
But when drawn on the issue, the Deise boss recalled how he was “hammered” by the national press, in his view, for suggesting that Tipperary, for example, were “a couple of years ahead of us”.
He continued: “But my reasoning behind that, ahead of our match against Tipp, was that nine of the Tipperary side had played in two All-Ireland Finals, nine of the Tipp team had Munster medals, nine of the Tipperary team had been seasoned campaigners used to the big occasion.
“And my argument for Clare being ahead of us was based on Tony Kelly, Conor McGrath, Shane O’Donnell, David McInerney and Colm Galvin, a core group of Clare players who have won three All-Ireland Under-21 titles and a senior All-Ireland, something our core group of new lads don’t have right now, and have suffered at the hands of many of these Clare players at a couple of grades in recent years. Clare seem to be at a different level, and that goes all the way back to the 2011 Munster Minor Final when Tony Kelly featured, and all of that formed part of my argument that they are ahead of us given that so many of their core players have picked up four All-Irelands.
“But that’s not to say that our team isn’t capable of coming somewhat unexpectedly at the same age and doing what Clare have done: there’s balance to be made in both Davy’s arguments and mine about where both teams are at the moment…but my honest opinion is that come next weekend, 85 per cent of those making predictions in the media will tip Clare.”
But surely that’s both a benefit and a motivation? “Oh it is, it’s a great place to be. You have the whole tradition of Waterford being where they’re traditionally more comfortable – as the underdog – and our own camp has its own ambitions, and we’ll be going for it next Sunday. We’ll be holding nothing back and if anyone is suggesting we’re eyeing the Championship up now and nothing else, well then anyone saying that is just wrong. After all, we’ve only three League titles in Waterford, but it does make for a fun five or six weeks alright.”
Let’s hope the fun will have a white and blue tinge to matters, starting in the ‘Field of Legends’ this Sunday (throw-in: 3.30pm).

For full story see The Munster Express newspaper or
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