The Waterford GAA Board quite rightly received criticism from many quarters for not having last year’s County Senior Football Final played in time to allow the champions compete in the Munster championship.
The number of “dual clubs” taking part in both the hurling and football senior championships was cited as a factor and that the Board officers had to take a decision as to which competition was finished first.
Yes, there are a number of dual clubs taking part in both competitions – namely, Nire/Fourmilewater, Ardmore, Abbeyside/Ballinacourty, Stradbally and Ballygunner/Passage/Gaultier – but that isn’t a proper excuse for not having the championships completed within a reasonable timeframe.
GAA director-general Páraic Duffy, said last year that clubs have to be put first. While we all know high-profile inter-county games generate huge income for the GAA, it’s the clubs that are the lifeblood of the Association, and this is something that must never be forgotten as inter-county teams are given ever-greater priority.
Twice since 2003 Waterford has not been represented in the Munster Senior Club Football Championship. In recent years, Stradbally, Nire and Ballinacourty have gone close to winning the provincial title, and in 2008, with Cork and Kerry on the same side of the draw, as they are this year, it was a great opportunity for our champions to win a Munster title.
Every effort must be made to ensure this doesn’t happen again. After all, Kilkenny regularly reach the All-Ireland Hurling final and they can field a team in the Leinster Club Championship every year without fail.
Some weeks back the draws for this year’s county senior football championship were made in three groups. The opening round of games takes place over the last weekend in May.
In group one reigning champions Nire will play Ring, and Ardmore will play Kilrossanty. In group two Ballinacourty, who won the title in 2007 and were beaten in the ’08 final, will play St Saviours and Brickeys will play Rathgormack. In group three Stradbally will play Clashmore and neighbours Tramore and Gaultier lock horns.
Further rounds of matches have been fixed for late June.
Since they won their first senior title in 1993, the Nire have been considered serious contenders each year and 2009 is going to be no different. They proved last December that they are able to play an attractive blend of football, as well as being resolute defensively.
Ring had a very good year in 2008, winning the junior section of the Comórtus Peil Competition and reaching the quarter-final stages of the county senior championship.
With three teams to come out of their group to contest the quarter-finals they should be one of them and they certainly have the footballers to go further. Waterford star and Munster Interprovincial winner Liam Ó Lionáin is a fantastic player, and will cause any defence trouble with the speed and skill. Mike Tobin, Shane Kelly and current young footballer of the year Tadhg Ó hUallacháin are also all very good footballers and have played for the county.
What might be their downfall is the fact they are also playing senior hurling this year, and the question has to be asked can they cope with both – though they did so successfully at intermediate level.
Ardmore contested the county final in 2007 but last year suffered a number of setbacks and went out to Nire at the quarter-finals stages. If they manage to field their strongest sides they will be there or thereabouts again. However, having been relegated from senior in hurling, they will want to get back up at the first time of asking, which could affect their football fortunes.
Kilrossanty had a very disappointing 2008 and had to beat close neighbours John Mitchells to avoid relegation. It is not all that long ago that they were winning county titles. Since then Mitchells have reformed and this has altered certain allegiances in the clubs’ catchment area.
Kilrossanty won a minor county final a few years back but the ancticipated impact at adult level has yet to materialise. In a group of five they’ll need to finish in the top three to advance to the quarters.
Group side St Brendans is made up of players from Bunmahon, Newtown and Kill, including Waterford regulars Tom Wall in goal and Mick Ahearne in the middle of the field. They are competing in group one where, because they are a group outfit, fixtures will have to be worked around their Intermediate Football Championship.
Ballinacourty, having contested the last two county finals, winning the ’07 edition, will be hoping to reach a third in a row. Last year Shane Briggs was a huge loss to them as was John Kindergan. Both will be back from injury and the likes of the Hurney brothers, the Fives, the Gormans and Mark Ferncombe make them a formidable outfit.
Over the past number of years, Brickeys have been seen as a coming club. In 2008, after a series of play-off games, they reached the quarter-finals where they came up against a good Clashmore team.
Over the years they have lost a number of key players stymieing their progress. Maybe 2009 will be the year when they move onto the next rung. In Shane and Conor McGrath, Carthach and Mark Shalloe, Christopher Power and William Queally amongst others, they have fine footballers who on their day are capable of beating anyone.
The St Saviours club in Waterford City are keeping football alive in the urban area. Over the past number of years they have suffered some significant losses with some of their best talent moving to bigger clubs.
Hopefully new by-laws within the county regarding the transfer of underage players will help the Ballybeg club build on the great work being done at underage level in recent year by the likes of Noel Reidy and the Corcorans. It would be nice to see their efforts come to fruition on the adult scene.
Still, St Saviours have found it hard to field at minor level of late despite the fact that they have won in the younger age groups – though last year the seniors still managed to reach the quarter-finals where they came up against Stradbally and were beaten by double scores. They may not qualify directly for the quarters but could do so if they finish third in their group and go on to beat the third-placed team in group three.
Rathgormack have played in five county senior football finals in the last 20 years. Since their last appearance in a decider, when they were beaten by Stradbally in 2001. they have slipped back a little at adult level. Last year they finished bottom of their group, with just one point which they got after drawing with Ring.
Having avoided possible relegation by beating Kilrossanty in a play-off, the Comeragh men will not want to be in the same position. At underage level they are going in the right direction and in 2007 contested an under 16 Division 2 county final against Ballinacourty and are in Divison One of the new all-county minor championship.
Stradbally over the past decade have been the most successful senior club in Waterford, winning five senior county finals and contesting another four over a 20-year period.
They may not be setting the world alight in recent years at underage level, but having last year’s semi-finals, where they suffered a seven-point defeat to Ballinacourty, many of the players that won five county finals in a row between 2001 and ’05, and reached a Munster Club Football Final as well, still have the hunger to add to that haul, and should be one of the two clubs from their group assured of semi-final spots
Clashmore reached last year’s county semi-finals, and are capable of doing so again this term. The club’s work at juvenile level is paying off and in Brian O’Halloran they have an exceptional talent who produced superb displays last year against Rathgormack and Ardmore.
But they are by no means a one-man team. Sean Fleming has broken into the County senior side this year, but Karl and Killian O’Keeffe have been part of John Kiely’s panel with a few years, while Stephen Barron, Michael Fenton and Paudie O’Rourke are also around a while. They also have a terrific young talent in John Prendergast who is likely to feature in the senior team soon.
Gaultier in 2008 reached the play-offs before exiting the championship following a heavy defeat to Ring. The ‘Barony boys’ have some very good footballers. Paul and Anthony Fitzgerald will need no introduction, while Paul Maher, Gearoid O’Connor and JJ Hutchinson all showed well last season; in former juvenile star Ian Power they also have a promising player to look out for in the years ahead.
Tramore won the County intermediate title last year beating Geraldines in the decider at Walsh Park to regain their senior status after a single season in tier two. There is a good tradition of football in the Tramore area, and they could surprise a few people in this year’s championship.
The Seasiders are unlikely to win the championship, but if they were to reach the quarter-finals they will count 2009 as a good year for the club.