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Shane Stapleton: Previewing Waterford v Tipperary and Wexford v Galway

03 May | BY Shane Stapleton | MIN READ TIME |
Shane Stapleton: Previewing Waterford v Tipperary and Wexford v Galway

Shane Stapleton looks ahead to Saturday's Munster Senior Hurling Championship clash at Walsh Park, as well as Wexford's meeting with Galway.

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There was a time when Waterford were considered an irrelevance by Tipperary.

This was a symptom of the enduring confidence of the Blue and Gold, and much of that was backed up by the historical record between the counties.

Waltzing around Bordeaux in the lead-up to Ireland v Belgium at Euro 2016, your columnist got talking to a young Waterford man who felt his county had Tipperary’s number.

Perhaps with history on my side, I told him in no uncertain terms that there would be only one winner, and it irked the Deise supporter to a huge degree.

Tipp went on to meet Waterford three weeks later in the Munster final and won by 21 points, and often I’ve wondered how that gentleman might have felt as that horror show played out in front of his eyes. And if our conversation, buttressed by what he might have seen as indefensible arrogance, came to mind.

Five years before that, the Premier had smashed his county by the same margin, so it simply felt like a matter of course that the white jerseys would always genuflect in our presence. Yes, they had caught Tipp on occasion, but those were just exceptions to the rule.

These days, nothing could be further from the truth. Waterford are looking for a fourth consecutive championship win over Tipperary, with the visitors heading to Walsh Park at a low ebb.

To say that Limerick pulverised Liam Cahill’s men would be fair, but to also put the future of his tenure into question shows how far-reaching the consequences of that 70 minutes might yet be.

There was no sign of the old Tipp swagger, the Rolex wrists, those silken touches, or the net bulging. Just now, it feels as though the gold band has been scrubbed off the famous blue jersey.

One win could turn things around, though, and it’s a lesson we see in sport all the time. Just look at Waterford, who have gone from wooden-spoon certainties to now being in the hunt for Munster’s top three after a fine victory over Cork.

Deise boss Davy Fitzgerald is in his second year after taking over from Cahill. The latter’s tenure started so well but ultimately flamed out quickly during the 2022 Munster championship — with a heavy loss away to Clare proving to be Cahill’s last stand.

Fitzgerald took over and after losing his first three Munster games, they went to Thurles and beat Cahill’s Tipp by seven points,

“Those boys showed today what they are about and fair play to them,” said Fitzgerald afterwards.

“Maybe last year (2022) they went to Ennis and there was nothing to play for but every time we have put on that Waterford jersey, I want them to play with that pride and that passion that they did there.”

Though Fitzgerald might argue otherwise, that was one of the few strong performances displayed by Waterford since he came back for a second stint in charge.

Their league form across two seasons has been poor, and mounting injury concerns hinted at another tough championship to come.

Thanks in part to some key players returning from injury, and the return of a more orthodox style, Waterford hit form in their opening-day win against Cork — breeding fresh optimism for the season ahead.

Cahill, perhaps sore on the back of his side’s heavy defeat to Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds, was in no mood to credit Fitzgerald ahead of their clash this weekend.

“We’ll be going to Walsh Park next weekend against a Waterford team that have really found their mojo now.

“It looks like the players have really gone after a style of play that suited them really well in the past and they implemented that really well last weekend.

“They’re a team above all teams that really don’t fear Tipperary. Myself and (coach) Mikey Bevans are partly to blame for that, I suppose.”

With seasons and perhaps futures on the line, this Cold War between managers should add a couple of degrees to the temperature at Walsh Park on Saturday evening.

The negative undertones may be of interest to the outsiders watching in, and sparks could well fly on the sideline when so much is up for grabs. 

Given how inconsistent both teams have been over the past number of seasons, the thin line between defeat and victory could have a stark impact on moods. One win and Tipperary will feel they can salvage the season; defeat, and the detractors will gather in numbers and volume.

Davy Fitz knows that sensation only too well, and the win over Cork buys him just a little more wiggle room for now.

As the old saying goes, a pat on the back is only six inches away from a kick in the hole. With a draw at 8/1, the smart money might be on something in between those two outcomes.

Wexford are in the mire after defeat to Antrim last weekend, but they have been here before. Last season, they went from 17 points ahead of Westmeath to lose the game in sensational circumstances.

A week later, Darragh Egan’s side welcomed Kilkenny to Slaneyside and came out on top, precluding them from any relegation woes.

Local hero Keith Rossiter has taken over the mantle and, as a player, he knew the pain of coming up short on big days. Over many years of his career — with 2004 being the exception — it was nothing but misery for The Model County in the Leinster championship.

Galway joined the eastern province in 2009 and have amassed just three titles, but Henry Shefflin’s men can take one step towards a return to a final with victory here.

The Tribe, Kilkenny and Dublin are all on three points, Antrim sit on two, and defeat for Wexford would likely end their chances of progressing to the All-Ireland championship.

Given their response last year when under the gun,there will surely be a call to arms by Rossiter. With Lee Chin, Rory O’Connor and Conor McDonald all firing together, they can run the visitors close.

Wexford +4 at evens looks tasty.


Shane Stapleton

Multimedia journalist who produces content on Gaelic games, regularly features on Irish TV and radio, and who has won two All-Ireland club hurling titles as a player.

Shane Stapleton

Multimedia journalist who produces content on Gaelic games, regularly features on Irish TV and radio, and who has won two All-Ireland club hurling titles as a player.