Waterford defender Noel Connors and Tipperary’s John Devane in action during last month’s Crystal Cup quarter-final at St Mollerans GAA grounds.

New boy: Waterford defender Noel Connors and Tipperary’s John Devane in action during last month’s Crystal Cup quarter-final at St Mollerans GAA grounds.

A necessarily-experimental Waterford XV will commence their National Hurling League campaign against holders Tipperary at Walsh Park on Sunday (2.30).

Liam Sheedy got one over on Davy Fitzgerald in the Crystal Cup at Carrickbeg a few weeks ago, though in the last big meeting between the teams – who’ve shared the last two League titles – August’s All-Ireland semi-final, Waterford edged out the Munster champions.

Fitzgerald is without several big names, including the De La Salle trio of John Mullane, Kevin Moran and Bryan Phelan, as well as Mount Sion’s Eoin McGrath, who could well miss the entire League campaign through injury. According to the manager, he “will be out for two to three months. He’s had a second operation on a groin problem but the injury is complicated and has turned into the hip.”

Both McGrath’s brother Ken, and his co-captain Stephen Molumphy, aren’t available yet either, while veteran Mount Sion skipper Tony Browne – who was “very hesitant” about giving it another go this year – won’t return to training for a fortnight. The fourth-round away tie against Dublin on March 22 is his tentative comeback target. Passage All Star Eoin Kelly is also in abeyance for the time being.

Therefore a number of the Decies’ fringe players will get a taste of competitive hurling in the hope that a couple of first-team contenders will emerge by the time the championship comes around.

Sheedy has plenty of headaches of his own. Eoin Kelly, as well as Lar Corbett, Hugh Maloney {both nursing hamstrings), Michael Webster, Darragh Egan and Seamus Callinan will all miss Sunday’s clash through injury.




Meanwhile, John Kiely’s threadbare county footballers will get their NFL Division 4 campaign underway with a trip to Wicklow on Saturday afternoon (again at 2.30). Mick O’Dwyer’s men scored three second-half goals to rescue a point against Antrim in Belfast last weekend.

Kiely has picked county championship-winning Nire twins Tomas and Maurice O’Gorman at full-back and full-forward respectively for the Aughrim assignment, with two debutants selected, namely, Ballinacourty’s Sean O’Hehir at midfield and the Brickeys’ Conor McGrath at right half-forward.

Incidentally there will be two Westmeath referees taking charge of Waterford’s matches – Barry Kelly in the hurling and Pat Fox, football.

Also on Saturday, Blackwater Community School, Lismore, conquerors of All-Ireland champions De La Salle last month, will play favourites Thurles CBS in the Dr Harty Cup semi-finals at Ardfinnan (2.30). 

Waterford SF team v Wicklow: T Wall; S Prendergast, T O’Gorman, M Prendergast; W Hennessy, E Rockett, P Ogle; S O’Hehir, M Ahern; C McGrath, B Walsh, D Casey; L Lawlor, M O’Gorman, L Ó Lionáin.