Underdog tag suits The Nire, warns dual star Barron
Published 24/11/2016 | 02:30
Ever since the county's U-21 hurlers collected their All-Ireland title and the way was cleared for the clubs to play, there's been a rush to fulfil fixtures in Waterford.
And down in Ballymacarbry, the parish that powers both the Fourmilewater hurlers and The Nire footballers, they've been busier than most.
Despite the schedule that Déise hurler Jamie Barron reckons had them out up to 12 weekends in a row, the parish's footballers are still standing in December ahead of Sunday's Munster club SFC final clash with Dr Crokes of Kerry.
And as if to underline how much he has squeezed into the year, Barron went for a kicking session on the morning of last month's All-Star ceremony where he picked up an award at midfield. There is no time to waste.
"We're a dual club, playing senior in both," Barron explained. "The (county) hurlers got to the middle of August and the U-21s won the All-Ireland so that's after pushing the fixtures back totally. (There were) games and rounds called off. We'd been out maybe ten, 11 or 12 weeks in a row there at one stage. It's all about recovery."
A few years ago, The Nire took the step of appointing the same manager of both the hurlers and footballers to help keep the parish fighting on two fronts.
"We do 50-50 in the club," explains Barron. "Benji Whelan is the manager of the hurling and the football. If we have hurling in two weeks' time we'll hurl for the two weeks coming into that, if we've football we'll stick with football. So it keeps alternating.
"Before, we were always having problems. One manager over the football would want training on a Wednesday and the hurling manager would be the same. It didn't work, so that's why we got Benji in and it's working for us."
The Nire are big outsiders for Sunday's game in Mallow. But then they weren't given much of a chance when they travelled to Cork to face Carbery Rangers.
"I think we were 9/2 and they were 1/6 or whatever. Anyone you'd talk to would be saying they have that very wrong. That's good for us, people probably are underestimating us a bit, but it makes it easier to play when you're the underdog. You have nothing to lose when you're not expected to win."
The Nire have previous with Kerry champions in Munster finals. Back in 2006 they went down to Crokes by just a goal.
And in 2014 they blew a huge chance to become the first side from Waterford to emerge from the province when they raced into a six-point lead against Austin Stacks, who were reduced to 14 men early in the game.
"The way that the game panned out, we were very disappointed," says Barron. "We felt we probably should've won the game seeing as they had a man sent off early."
With those near-misses in mind, Barron insists his side won't be intimidated by facing the Kerry champions.
"You'd be quietly confident. You wouldn't be going around saying 'we'll beat Dr Crokes' but you have to think they can be beaten," he says. "If you perform to your best and work to your strengths and exploit any weaknesses, you'll be there or thereabouts."
Whenever The Nire's campaign comes to an end, Barron will be back focusing on the Déise's quest for an All-Ireland. And he believes they are not too far away after taking Kilkenny to a replay last August.
"That day, it was workrate mainly," he says. "That's what we base ourselves on and, if you can outwork a team, you can out-hurl them.
"In the days and weeks leading up to that, we were focusing on matching their workrate because that's their benchmark. We did and we didn't match it but at the end of the day, we lost the game.
"Hopefully next year things can change for us."