Having only returned from their team holiday at the weekend, Derek McGrath and his players are right back into action with up to three matches down for decision this week. Photo: Inpho.
From the relaxing sunshine of the luxurious Cancun Resort in Mexico it is back to the real world for the Waterford hurlers as they head for bitterly cold confines of the Mallow Sports complex this (Tuesday) evening to play Kerry as the countdown begins to the opening game of the Allianz League against Wexford in just under three weeks time.
In terms of preparation for the league Waterford would appear to have some ground to make up on the other Division 1A counties where game time is concerned. The last two weekends have seen most other counties involved in provincial cup games or challenge games with almost all playing two games each weekend, giving game time to all players on their respective extended panels.
While Clare appear to have taken the Munster League seriously, fielding strong teams in their big wins over Kerry and Cork, John Meyler has used the competition to assess the players on his extended panel such as U-21 stars David Griffin, Chris O’Leary and Declan Dalton, who figured strongly in the championship win over Waterford while also giving game time to the experienced Eoin Cadogan on his return following a few years with the county’s footballers. Only two of last year’s Munster championship winning side, Anthony Nash and Luke Meade, figured against Clare. In the previous two days Cork played challenge games against U.C.C. and Dublin, games that would have seen more players involved.
Tipperary fielded a strong side in their big win over Dublin in a challenge game last weekend but it must be noted that new Dublin manager Pat Gilroy, in addition to fielding against Cork also put out a side in the Walsh Cup win over Antrim in Parnell Park on Sunday. With the Fitzgibbon Cup starting on Wednesday of next week and continuing with the second round of fixtures the following week there will be considerable pressure on many county players in the run up to the start of the league with a full round of Fitzgibbon games just four days before.
BUSY TIMES AHEAD
While the full list of players currently in the Waterford panel has not been released it does appear that the panel is not as large as it has been at this time of year and so it will be easier to facilitate all of the players with sufficient game time in the coming two weeks.
In addition to the game with Kerry a challenge with Dublin has been pencilled in for Carraiganore on Friday night next though that has yet to be confirmed. It will be noted that Dublin will be at home to Wexford in Parnell Park on Sunday next in the Walsh Cup semi-final so it would have to be assumed that they will be fielding their strongest side in that game. It is also intended to play Munster Club champions Na Piarsaigh on Sunday next at a venue yet to be arranged though the Munster League final between Clare and Limerick is taking place in The Gaelic Grounds on the same afternoon.
With the panel having put in extensive gym work and fitness training in the months before the holiday fitness will not be a problem going forward to the Wexford game but the management and players will be anxious to get in as much hurling as possible so we can expect that there will be at least two further games between next week and the following weekend to bring the team up to speed for the clash with Wexford.
While last year it was made clear before the start of the league that the focus would not be as great on the competition as in previous years it will be interesting to see if that approach has changed this year. It will be noted that Waterford fielded experimental sides throughout the Munster League and only brought all of the first team players on board for the final game against Kerry. By all accounts there are no reports of injuries and while it is likely that there will be a fair mix of experienced and fringe players in the early challenge games we may be given some indication of the side to face Wexford with the fielding of a strong side in the last of those upcoming games.