THE manner in which Waterford hurlers hit the championship ground running in Thurles was a victory for youth and a defiant riposte to the bookies who had totally written them off beforehand ... but it also poses a major challenge for June 8.
Why? Because they didn’t finish off the job against a Cork team that were nine points adrift and on the ropes.
His options denuded by injuries and suspension, Derek McGrath had included four SHC debutants (Barry Coughlan, Tadhg Burke, Austin Gleeson and Colin Dunford) for last Sunday’s Munster SHC opener along with a rookie midfielder (Eddie Barrett) making his first championship start.
“We had the advantage of being under the radar in terms of outside perception,” McGrath pointed out.
“They’re good young lads, have great pedigree in terms of college and everything. It was a difficult one for them and the next day will be even more difficult,” he warned.
“There’ll be a bit more attention given to those young lads; the element of surprise is gone, the unknown quantity.”
Defender Noel Connors also believes there was an element of proving the critics wrong, given Cork’s 1/3 odds ahead of Sunday’s stalemate.
“Waterford in general is a very proud county,” he explained. “We get a lot of criticism at times in terms of being under-rated and so forth. It really showed the hunger and desire that we wanted to play with freedom and abandon, particularly with the younger fellas going out.
“I suppose I’m alluding to what Derek said - everyone was not really giving us too much of a chance.
“And we went out and kind of proved the critics wrong, to be perfectly honest.”
Barrett is the latest addition to Waterford’s overcrowded casualty department, having suffered a dislocated knee liable to end his season.
However, McGrath can expect a few more selection headaches for the replay, with Shane O’Sullivan back from suspension and some other recent casualties on the verge of fitness.
“Darragh Fives and Stephen Molumphy aren’t too far away, they trained on Friday night,” he reported. “We’re just delighted to get a kick out of the guys who were considered in the run-up to the game as second-fielders.
“But I don’t think Cork were naive enough to think we couldn’t produce what we did.”