All-Ireland Football Qualifiers – Round 1
Waterford have not had the best of luck when it comes to the draws since the introduction of the qualifiers into the All-Ireland Football Championship. Waterford have had a number of home games, most notably in the last two years, but they have been on the road far more often than they’ve played in Walsh Park or Fraher Field.Waterford would have been hoping for a home tie when they draw was made recently but alas it was not to be and they face a trip to the midlands on Sunday next to take on Westmeath in Mullingar.
Westmeath might not be one of the traditional stronger teams in the bowl for the draw but the game none the less will prove to be a difficult one for the Déise County to advance from.
Getting out of the fourth division was Waterford’s main aim this year but a poor start to the league, losing at home to Wicklow and following up with losses against Limerick and Derry, meant that Waterford’s hopes were over before the league had reached the half way stage.
While Waterford did better in the second half of the competition, winning three games in a row against Wexford, Antrim and London before losing out to a promoted Leitrim side in the last round of games, it all meant that Waterford would be competing in the bottom tier of the National League again in 2020.
In the Munster Championship quarter final last month at Ennis many expected Clare to be too strong for Waterford and early on it looked as if this was going to happen as they opened up an 0-8 to 0-2 advantage at the break. But the home side were put to the pin of their collar in the second half as they hit just one point in 35 minutes of football while Waterford, after 70 minutes, were just one behind and that second half performance will give the side confidence going to Mullingar on Saturday. Westmeath had a very productive league campaign in Division three, beating Laois in the final at Croke Park in what was to be a dress rehearsal for their Leinster Championship game a few weeks back where the result of the league final result was reversed.
Ger Egan was the star of the League Final win hitting 1-7 for his side, 1-3 of which came from placed balls. The Tyrellspass club man is someone that Waterford will have to keep a close eye on as he followed up that performance by hitting seven points in the 0-12 to 0-10 loss to Laois.Others that Waterford will have to keep an eye on are defenders Ronan Wallace and Boidu Sayeh as well as the likes of David Lynch, John Heslin, Ronan O’Toole and Kieran Martin. Reports that Aaron Beresford, who kept goal during the league and who dislocated his knee in the run up to the first round of the club championship, might have made it back for the Clare game were premature as it has since transpired that the Ballinacourty club mans injury might keep him out of the game for some time, meaning that 46 year old Darren Mulhearne who made his debut against Clare could well be set to continue between the posts.
In attack Waterford will be looking to get big performances from the likes of Conor Murray, Dessie and JJ Hutchinson, Sean Whelan Barrett and Feargal Ó Cuirrín if they are to get a result here while big performances will also be required from the likes of Shane Ahearne and Tommy Prendergast in the middle of the field, while in defence Sean O’Donovan, Ray Ó Ceallaigh, James McGrath, Brian Looby, Shane Ryan and Tadhg Ó hUallachain will be vital.
Few outside of Waterford will be giving Benji Whelan’s side a chance in this game, but that is when Waterford can prove to be at the most dangerous.Will Waterford advance to the second round of the competition? One thing is for sure, Waterford won’t be going to Mullingar to make up the numbers.