It’s do or die time for Waterford’s senior hurlers in the All-Ireland Hurling Championship.

The Deise face Galway in Semple Stadium on Sunday next (RTE Two, 4pm), knowing that a win will send them through to an All-Ireland semi-final meeting with Kilkenny. Some prize, the pessimist might suggest.

The Dublin/Limerick quarter-final (with the winners to meet Tipperary) provides the curtain raiser for Sunday’s fixture, which will see thousands of loyal Waterford fans making another trip to Thurles.

And while management will be hoping that nothing but the match will be in players’ minds in the days before the game, the build-up has not exactly provided smooth sailing.

Ballyduff Lower’s Jack Kennedy, substituted in the first half of the Munster final, stepped down from the panel last week, clearly unhappy with his early replacement against Tipperary.

“We are all disappointed at that decision but we must also accept it,” said County PRO Joe Cleary following Kennedy’s withdrawal from Waterford ranks.

“Jack has been a very fine ambassador for the county since he came onto the senior panel, and he has given the county sterling service over many years. We wish him well for the future.”

And while Kennedy’s decision is the only public demonstration of player disaffection since Davy Fitzgerald took over last summer, rumbles of player discontent have been oscillating throughout the county.

Much has been made of the “public bickering” (to quote The Sunday Times) involving Waterford players and selectors during the Munster final, adding further fuel to the fires of speculation.

In keeping things low-key, at least with the Waterford press, Fitzgerald has aimed to fix players’ minds on the task at hand, meaning that official noises from the camp have, to put it mildly, been fleeting.

And in that vacuum, speculation tends to run rampant, which it has done far more in canteens and kitchens across Waterford that it has in newsprint.

Noel Connors, one of the heroes of the Under-21 team’s stunning victory over Tipperary in Fraher Field last week, is believed to be doubtful for Sunday’s quarter-final, having picked up a knee injury at training.

Additional knocks in the wake of Ken McGrath and Gary Hurney’s continued absences are all that Messrs Fitzgerald, Queally and Geary need to contend with.

But Galway are not without their own injury worries. Full-back Shane Kavanagh broke a bone in his hand during his team’s win over Cork and has been decommissioned for six weeks. This comes just days after manager John McIntyre lost defender Adrian Cullinane for the rest of the summer.

“It’s another very difficult match,” said McIntyre, who is interviewed in this week’s Sports section.

“Waterford are one of those teams capable of beating any team in the country on any given day, and it could also be the last stand for some of their greatest servants.”

A last stand for Waterford? In the wake of last week’s Under 21 victory and with the Munster minor title already in the bag, talk of the Deise’s long-term demise has been greatly exaggerated.

But there’ll be no talk of the long term between now and Sunday. All that matters now is beating Galway, something Waterford has achieved in every previous Championship head-to-head with the Tribesmen. Here’s to that record remaining firmly intact.