As a Division Two side, the Rebels would be expected to get the better of any Division Four opponent, but they didn’t exactly set the world on fire in this year’s League, winning three matches, losing two outings and drawing two.
At present, they are firmly in Kerry’s shadow at present and are not considered to be in the Sam Maguire shake-up, but as their hurlers illustrated in Thurles last Sunday, the men in red will only stay down and out of serious contention for so long.
When the largely similar scoring averages were put to Waterford and Cork during the League were put to Deise boss, Tom McGlinchey, the straight talking bainisteoir spoke frankly.
“Well, to be honest, it’s not completely comparing like with like,” he said. “There is a difference in the competitive levels throughout each division of the League, and that tends to be reflected in the matches between higher and lower division teams come the Championship.”
Tom stressed: “But that’s not me trying to sound defeatist. The record in the Championship,. be it in the provincial series or through the qualifiers, makes things pretty plain, and it doesn’t make for great reading for the so-called ‘lesser’ counties.
“But all we can do, and this is what we’ve been striving to do since the start of the year, through the League and in the build-up to the Cork match this Saturday, is to prepare as well as we can, to make sure we’re as organised and physically ready as we can be, and I feel we’ve managed to do that in the last few weeks, particularly since we got the players back after the first round of the Senior Championship.”
McGlinchey praised the efforts of a group who, let’s face it, rarely generate headlines outside of their own county. “As management, we know how committed the lads are to the Waterford cause, and, to be fair, the group of supporters who have stuck with this team over the years know that too.
“These lads bleed for their county, they’re every bit as dedicated to improving themselves and succeeding as the hurlers are every time they’ll pull on that county jersey. When we have bad days, it hurts a lot. These lads are hungry to play at a higher standard of football, and of course, taking that into account, we were all disappointed with how the League went for us, especially in those matches where we didn’t make our good spells count the way we ought to have – away to Wexford springs to mind.
“And these lads love lining out at Fraher Field. They’ve a great pride in playing there and this Saturday night is, in all likelihood, going to be our biggest night of the year on home soil. Cork may not be quite the force they were, but they’re still a huge county in football terms and it’s great to have them coming to Fraher Field. But our focus in on us, our team, on doing what we do as well as we can do it, and making the most of those opportunities that come our way in Cork’s offensive third. We’ll have to fight hard to find space, we expect the match to be played at a few notches above what we’d be more accustomed to in Division Four, so it’s up to us to raise our game, bring it to Cork and make life uncomfortable for them. We know we’re going to have to dig deep, and work hard, but we’ve got to have some faith in what we can do, and the lads will be determined to honour the jersey on Saturday night.”
Key to Waterford doing well will be the form of captain Paul Whyte, club mate Joey Veale and Gaultier’s JJ Hutchinson. They will need to be supplied with quality ball inside the Cork ‘red zone’ and it’s critical that they make the most of the scoring chances that come they way. For their part, Cork struggled for goals during the League campaign, registering only four in seven outings, so the temptation to drop a deep-lying midfielder in front of the Deise’s half-back line and keep things congested may prove a logical step.
It could well keep Waterford in the contest for a greater period of time than going man for man and letting the ball long, for example.
As for the amended Senior Football Championship, Tom McGlinchey gave the revised format a firm thumbs up.
“I think there was a bit of apprehension going into the games about the new structure, but it was evident in the games I was at that the games were nip and tuck, and that teams were fighting to the end, whereas in previous years, with 15 minutes to go in a first round match, with four more to be played, some teams might have been taking the foot off the gas but all the games were enjoyable and the good weather and good pitches were a big help. But, definitely the competitive nature of the games were there for all to see, and the buzz after the second round draw was made, both in the winners’ section and losers’ section, we’ve never really had that at this time of the year in Waterford, so that augurs well for the Championship when it resumes later in the summer…
“Favourites are there to be taken down and we know we’ll go into Saturday night’s match as huge underdogs, and we’ll be going in to do the best we can.”
Sure, it’s a tall order on home soil, but there’s no harm in dreaming. Best of luck to Tom’s men.