Everything seems to be sweetness and light on Leeside, on the field at least, for the time being, but you’d have to wonder what the Cork hurlers really think of Denis Walsh’s appointment.
Someone who cut his inter-county managerial teeth with the Waterford footballers for a couple of seasons in the early noughties, without much club coaching success to speak of, possibly wasn’t top of the players’ wish list. Indeed, his selection by the Croke Park-commissioned committee of Denis Coughlan, John Fenton and Jimmy Barry Murphy was about as anticipated as a Frank Murphy ‘mea culpa’.
Whatever their opinion, the players were in no position to argue. As a native of Ballynoe, just six miles from Tallow, Walsh is well-known in northwest Waterford, having played hurling for Imokilly as well as St Catherines, and football for Avodhu, both just over the border, and he also worked with the Ballyduff Upper seniors for a spell.
At the time of his installation in the Waterford job which few if anyone else wanted in October 2001, the same time his fellow Corkman Justin McCarthy was taking over the hurlers, Walsh reflected on modern GAA players’ changing priorities: “In my playing career with Cork pulling on the red shirt was, literally, the be-all and end-all. There was no more to it and although practices have changed in that the game has become more scientific or maybe more professional the basics have to remain.”
At least he comes into the job baggage-free and also in his favour is the fact that Cork are men on a mission, yet again. His first game in charge, away to Kilkenny next weekend, may tell whether the wins over Clare and Limerick were more down to the opposition than an accurate gauge of where the only-recently regrouped Rebels are really at.
It’s hard to know what’s what such have been the inconsistencies of this particular National Hurling League competition.
It would be worrying in the extreme if Waterford were as poor as they’ve appeared in their last two outings – particularly considering the head-start they’ve had on Cork.
The Dublin result could be dismissed as a write-off given the panel were basically on a bonding/boxing weekend in the capital.
But last Sunday’s showing against Galway was a far cry from the previous home performance against Kilkenny. On a pitch that simply doesn’t befriend hurling, and with the wintry weather making like difficult (for both teams) Waterford were hopefully just doing the opposite of flattering to deceive.
Personally I’m trusting that the team are simply exhibiting the effects of a gruelling training schedule and will be a different proposition when the ground firms up and the hard yards have been scaled back. Dan Shanahan suggested as much during the week, stressing everything is being geared towards the championship.
However, in saying that, a relegation dogfight, starting with a scrap against Justin McCarthy’s Limerick, is scarcely ideal looking ahead to the counties’ Munster Championship clash in June.
The Shannonsiders are very much in experimental mode too and neither manager – who wouldn’t be the best of friends – will want to show anything like their best hand on Sunday. Still, a make-or-break meeting with a resurgent Cork the weekend after would be a little too nerve-wracking for this time of year.
Too good to go down? Waterford should be, surely. Davy had better hope so or the patience he pleaded for could wear thin pretty quickly.