Jimmy Meany

Jimmy Meany

An hour of hurling is all that separates the minor hurlers of Waterford from a place in the All-Ireland final for the first time since 1992.

Their sumptuous, slick Munster final performance represents a hard act for the Deisemen to repeat at Croke Park next Sunday.

But given the calibre of the opposition at this grade, coupled with the quality of last weekend’s first semi-final, manager Jimmy Meaney knows exactly what his team must do.

“It seems like a long time since the Munster final but the lads are very focused on the Galway game,” Meaney told WLRfm’s Kevin Casey last Saturday. “We understand that it’s a big task but we’re looking forward to it now.”

The Mount Sion mad added: “We’re hoping for somewhat of a repeat performance from the Munster final win over Tipperary next Sunday; perhaps even some improvement on that performance, which might seem harsh on some of the players.

“But we’re very cautious of getting that performance right and getting our attitudes right. As I said, that’s the relaxed attitude that we’re going to bring to it. These lads have worked together very co-operatively and the team ethos is there and that’s what we’re hoping for. It’s about what we can do and not what Galway can do. We’re looking forward to it and we’ll be ready.”

Now solely flying the flag for Waterford’s All-Ireland hopes this summer, Meaney and co-selectors Michael Walsh, Fintan Murray and Ray Sheridan have done their best to keep the panel’s feet on the ground.

But the fun of sport has not been forgotten amidst the talk of Croke Park and a potential All-Ireland final clash with champions Kilkenny.

“We’re in a good place this summer,” said Meaney. “We’re really enjoying ourselves and this is all part of enjoying the game and this is where we want to be so we’re happy to do whatever we have to do in preparation for the match itself.”

The past three weeks have been intensive from a preparatory point of view. Having re-assembled the panel after club and Under-21 inter-county duty, the players’ high fitness levels were never in any doubt.

In fact, the only problem Jimmy Meaney faces between now and Sunday is a pleasant one, the sort of problem managers love to mull over.

“We’re going to have a headache to pick the team, to be honest,” he conceded. “Training has gone really well over the last couple of weeks and there are players that really want to get their place on the first fifteen.

“Having looked at the Munster final performance, it’s going to be difficult to let somebody out from that but we’ve got a job to do and we’re going to have some headache when it comes to picking the side.

“Realistically, that’s a good way to be and that’s where you want to be ahead of All Ireland semi-finals so we’re delighted to have these headaches.”

Meaney says he’s got his homework done on a Galway side anxious to atone for last year’s final defeat to the ‘Kittens’, which, on the balance of play, the ‘Tribesboys’ ought to have won.

“We know what to expect and we’re not underestimating them…they also have to try and stop us and that’s the most important thing.”

Plans for next weekend are already well in place. The panel (along with their parents in an adjoining train carriage) will rail it to Dublin on Saturday evening ahead of Sunday’s big match.

An itinerary designed to relax and entertain the group has also been signed off, all of which aims to make next weekend “an enjoyable experience” for the players.

It’s every young hurler’s dream to line out in your county colours at Croker – unfortunately the panel hasn’t had a chance to train there due to the recent pitch re-laying. But again, indicative of the planning associated with the Deise management, warm-up games in Limerick, Clare, Tipperary and Kilkenny have been played on surfaces of equal dimensions to Croke Park.

All in all, one has to admire the foresight being applied by Meaney and co. Nothing is being left to chance in a bid to get Waterford in the best possible frame of mind ahead of Sunday.

“We’ve all been to Croke Park,” he said.

“We know what it’s like and some of the players have played there with De La Salle so certainly it’s nothing new to us. And when you cross the white line, the measurements are the same so it doesn’t really matter to us.”

Come 1.30 on Sunday, the talking will end, with an hour of hurling to determine who will face Kilkenny on September 6th.

Meaney’s faith in his panel is absolute. They’ll seek to justify that faith by recording another famous victory. And that, most certainly, can be achieved.

Waterford v Galway will be broadcast live on WLRfm this Sunday afternoon.