Next Saturday Waterpark play their most important game in the club’s long and glorious history. A defeat at the hands of City of Derry will mean that the famous Black and Reds will no longer be a member of the All Ireland League and they will become nothing more than a junior club.
The thought of Waterford City not having a National League team does not bear thinking about. At a time when of an exciting era for the club, with the development of facilities and coaching staff over the past number of years providing evidence of both its desire and intention to play its part as a powerful rugby force in the region, it is sad, very sad to see them in their current situation.
Their underage players are doing superbly well and their Academy is producing some wonderful players but alas their first team is on the verge of being relegated and that is dreadful, it really is. The league table shows that they have a total of 15 points from 14 games and that tells its own story. On St. Patrick’s Day they came from 20-3 down to lead 21-20 into injury time but a dramatic late try gave Queens’s University a 27-21 victory. On Saturday last another struggling club, Old Wesley, were the visitors to Ballinakill and they displayed more hunger and as a result duly recorded a 13-3 victory to secure their league status for next season.
Out half Gary Jones gave Waterpark the lead after only 2 minutes with a well struck dropped goal but that was to be the home side’s only score of the entire game. The Old Wesley out half, Alan Large, equalised with a penalty after 27 minutes. Waterpark did apply a lot of pressure during the dying minutes of the first half but they just could not get over the Dubliners’ line.
Old Wesley had the advantage of the strong wind in the second half and 8 minutes in Simon Goldsmith got over for a try and Alan Large tagged on the two extra points. Gary Jones did try and get some more points on the board for Waterpark with three long range penalties but the ball simply blew away in the wind. Alan Large then rubbed salt into very sore wounds with another penalty deep into injury time. Following that kick the news came through that City of Derry had defeated Ards 25-15 up north to make matters even worse.
City of Derry and Waterpark are now both locked together at the bottom of the league table. The bottom club gets relegated to the junior ranks while the second from bottom will face a play-off game against the top junior club, so nothing short of a win against Derry in Ballinakill this Saturday will do for Waterpark. Victory will see them play a one-off play-off game against the leading junior club in Ballinakill. The time has now come for this current crop of first team players to stand tall and proud not only for their coach Gerry Walsh, who stepped in late in the season to try and stem the losing tide, but also for the very fabric of the famous club.
Already questions are being asked. Could the club take being relegated to junior status? That question will not have to be answered if the players can win their next two games. The following will be the guys who will carry that massive burden this Saturday, and hopefully for one further game: Pat Murphy, Rory Kavanagh, Mark Southern, Mark Murphy, Brendan Kelly, Dermot Kiely, Declan Brady, John Phelan, Richard Jones, Gary Jones, Michael O’Grady, Craig Doyle, Gerry Miller, Colm Phelan, Kieran Howlin, Brendan O’Meara, Mark Daly, Philip Cronin and Conor Phelan.
Kick off in Ballinakill is at 2.30pm and if ever a Waterford based team required support then this is it. The very existence of a club is at stake.