Browne keen for Deise to set tone with Tribes scalp
DAVY Fitzgerald is back on the sideline after his ban and ready to guide Waterford as they bid to claw their way into the Allianz Hurling League final against all the odds.
That sets the scene nicely for what should be a thrilling encounter at Walsh Park tomorrow as Galway visit the Deise for a must-win clash for both teams.
Victory for Galway puts them into the final with no arguments; a Waterford win gives Fitzgerald's team a chance of reaching the decider depending on results in other matches. But the bookies have Waterford at 55/1 to win the league title and Galway at 3/1.
The hosts at least go into the match with the normal state of affairs restored regarding their team manager.
Fitzgerald and Waterford officials made a strong case for the defence against his 12-week touchline ban for remarks allegedly made to referee James Owens in the game against Tipperary last month.
Fitzgerald has not commented on the matter and was believed to be unhappy that he had to serve any suspension, but he will put that episode behind him as he resumes normal service for this crucial match.
It was not a great night all round against Tipp, as Waterford had two men sent off -- goalkeeper Clinton Hennessy and midfielder Shane O'Sullivan -- on straight red cards and lost the match.
Since then they have beaten Cork, lost to Kilkenny and won against Offaly. Progress has been mixed throughout the campaign, with three wins, two defeats and a draw. Added to that have been a couple of suspensions, the abrupt retirement of Ken McGrath, and skipper Stephen Molumphy heading off to Poland on a tour of duty with the army.
In addition, 20-year-old Maurice Shanahan broke a finger in training and has missed the last two matches, while Richie Foley suffered a hamstring injury against Offaly.
John Mullane, recently married, had booked his honeymoon in Mauritius, but he will be back in time should his county reach the league final, which is scheduled for May 1.
On a happier note for Waterford, Fitzgerald and Co made the most of their bonding and training trip at Reading FC in England last week.
All of this is part of the rollercoaster experience that is top-level hurling, but tomorrow it boils down to passion, fire and controlled fury as Waterford seek to undermine Galway's hopes of qualifying for the final.
More important, according to that great servant of Waterford hurling, Tony Browne, is to set the tone for the championship with a display that does justice to the team's ambitions.
"The main thing is Galway have been going very, very well and if you look at the top couple of teams -- Tipperary, Kilkenny, Galway -- they are the type of teams you want to test yourself against," Browne said.
"Whether we're in a league final or not, it's one game where we'll be looking to test where we are going into the championship."
Galway, seeking back-to-back league titles, are in an interesting situation after the blitzkrieg inflicted on them by Tipperary at Pearse Stadium last Sunday week.
The team left the ground with the words of manager John McIntyre ringing in their ears: "It's a sobering day for Galway hurling but there is no blame game -- there is collective responsibility. We have been handed a hurling lesson."