With recession panic measures rife, job-sharing is as good as it’ll get for many folks, but it’s fair to say that the shared captaincy of the county hurlers has divided opinion in Waterford, not that anyone outside of the management should have a say.
John Mullane wouldn’t be human without feeling massively disappointed not to get the armband after Michael Walsh was relieved of the responsibility. The old way of doing business by honouring the captain of the county champions seemed the way to go, with Munster hurler of the year Mullane having shown his mettle and maturity throughout 2008, and many times before.
He admitted at Friday’s WLRfm/Granville GAA awards, when he picked up the overall accolade, that he’d have loved to lead his county into battle this coming season, but is happy to back the two lads and Davy to the hilt. Wearing the Waterford jersey is privilege enough, he said. (Not so In Cork, where only winning in red, not simply wearing it, will suffice.)
Anyway, the new co-incumbents, Ken McGrath (skipper in ’01 and as Munster champions in ’04) and Ballyduff Upper’s county title-winning captain in ’07, Stephen Molumphy, both believe it’s worth trying.
Ken thinks it could work, with a representative of both the city and county hopefully pulling the squad closer together. Lieutenant Molumphy, whose army service in Germany greatly hampered his preparations last year, pointed to the successes of De La Salle College and Blackwater Community School, who both deployed joint-captains in winning a total of three All-Ireland titles in the past two years.
Some would argue that the captaincy is a tad overrated, that the primary motivational presence in any set-up is the person with ultimate power: the manager. Fitzgerald feels that by splitting the burden between back and front, old and new, Waterford will have most angles covered.
Having stretched himself pretty thin last summer – though in fairness he was fulfilling commitments already made – I have to say I was surprised to see Davy still involved with the Limerick IT hurlers in the Crystal Cup.
Looking after two teams in the same competition must surely be a first? However, with Fitzgibbon Cup and county training on alternate nights, he’s satisfied he can juggle both roles, while stressing that Waterford are his top priority.
Fitzgerald and his selectors (Peter Queally was keeping a watching brief at Blackwater Community School’s Harty Cup win over holders De La Salle in Ardmore last week) will no doubt be hoping one or two first-team contenders will come to the fore between now and the championship.
In Carrickbeg the previous Wednesday night, in conditions hardly conducive to hurling but possibly more informative for that, young Passage defender Noel Connors greatly impressed those who watched Waterford go down against Munster champions Tipperary. (The Premiermen appearing to have a lot of groundwork put in considering the closed season only ended on December 31, though the holders were surprisingly turned over by Clare in last Sunday’s decider.)
The aforementioned exploits of Waterford colleges teams, with De La Salle having won the Munster and All-Ireland ‘A’ titles the past two years (Connors, also a Park Hotel award nominee, being their ’08 co-captain with one of Ballygunner’s brightest hopes, Philip Mahony, who made the WLRfm/Granville XI), and the boys from the Blackwater adding the ‘B’ championship, had many expecting the rapid emergence of ready-made inter-county talent.
However, things are scarcely that simple, or swift. Last year’s Waterford minors were laden with double Croke Cup winners but badly came-a-cropper against Cork; ditto a class-looking Ballygunner side being beaten by Mount Sion in the county minor ‘A’ final.
Still, in saying that the best thing they can get is experience, and the sooner the better. Tony Browne, Paul Flynn, Ken McGrath and Eoin Kelly were all thrown into the senior fray as teenagers, and established themselves as Waterford’s best players. It might be a cliche, but if you’re good enough you’re old enough.
Blackwater CS players Paudie Prendergast and David Cahalane show their delight after beating Harty and Croke Cup holders De La Salle College in Ardmore last Wednesday.
| Photo: Michael Kiely