Déise mettle looks set to topple Treaty
CONSIDER this quote from Davy Fitzgerald, issued on April 17 in Walsh Park after his Waterford team had book-ended their Allianz Division 1 campaign with victory over Galway.
"I'm fierce worried about the Limerick lads," said the former Clare custodian. "Donal O'Grady has them in serious shape and people will be saying 'sure Waterford should take them'. But I'm worried about them now."
Whether Fitzy's (pictured) proclamations were intended to quell expectations in the Déise or out of genuine trepidation for tomorrow's fixture, we'll never know. Either way, it shows how he has been thinking since before the spring festivities concluded and in all likelihood, that message has by now been well and truly hammered home to his players.
Nevertheless, Waterford have taken on so many dark horse tags that their cover has been totally blown.
They were competitive with everyone in the league and had a different set of results transpired on the final day, it would have been Fitzgerald rather than his former Clare captain, Anthony Daly, who walked the line in Croke Park for the competition's final.
Fitzgerald's concerted attempts to introduce youth into this Waterford team has paid dividends and Darragh Fives and Wayne Hutchinson will both make their championship bows in a fresh-looking full-back line, while Padraig O'Mahony and Brian O'Sullivan are the new faces in attack.
The decision to leave Eoin Kelly out of the team has been telegraphed from some way back but for a set of supporters who, for the first time in over a decade and a half, won't see either Dan Shanahan or Ken McGrath in their colours this summer, it still comes as something of a shock.
His fall from grace has been alarming but he can be a stellar option off the bench.
Needless to say, Limerick's selection bares little resemblance to the 15 that were beaten by Cork in last year's Munster semi-final. Graham Mulcahy and Paul Browne are the only players retained from that day while Richie McCarthy, Sean Tobin and Kevin Downes make their championship debuts.
Perhaps more importantly for Limerick is that six of the team that played in the All-Ireland semi-final of 2009 are included.
If the adage is true and success breeds success and, vitally, confidence, then Limerick should be sky-high at the moment after winning all of their matches during O'Grady's tenure. Waterford, though, have the steel and unlike Limerick, their progress hasn't been interrupted.
ODDS: Waterford 4/9, Draw 10/1, Limerick 9/4
WATERFORD: C Hennessy; D Fives, W Hutchinson, N Connors; T Browne, M Walsh, K Moran; S O'Sullivan, R Foley; M Shanahan, S Molumphy, P O'Mahony; J Mullane, S Walsh, B O'Sullivan.
LIMERICK: N Quaid; D Reale, S Hickey, T Condon; W McNamara, B Geary, G O'Mahony; D O'Grady, P Browne; J Ryan, R McCarthy, N Moran; S Tobin, K Downes, G Mulcahy.