Molumphy plans to play captain's role
Waterford's leader insists 'united' front can help his troops pass Premier test
Published 10/08/2010 | 05:00
AS Stephen Molumphy drove his team relentlessly forward through the wind and rain, Peter Queally knew that he was watching a Waterford captain in waiting.
On a rainy, windswept Sunday afternoon in October 2008, interested onlooker Queally watched Ballyduff Upper and Lismore scrap it out for a place in the Waterford SHC semi-finals.
Midway through the second half, Ballyduff Upper's goose looked cooked as they trailed by six points, but Molumphy refused to take no for an answer.
And soon, something very special began to unfold in front of Queally's eyes.
Playing into the teeth of a gale-force wind blowing towards the traditional scoring end of Fraher Field, Ballyduff Upper came back and won by a point -- 0-13 to 0-12.
Molumphy was the catalyst and his courage in the face of adversity left a lasting impression on Queally -- who is fondly remembered for giving over a decade of service to Waterford until his retirement from inter-county hurling in 2003.
When Davy Fitzgerald took over in mid-season during the 2008 campaign, Queally joined the former Clare goalkeeper's back-room team.
The All-Ireland final of that year was a most humbling experience at the hands of Kilkenny (3-30 to 1-13) and as the rebuilding process began in earnest, Waterford required human touchstones, men to spark a revival.
When Fitzgerald announced the captaincy of the Waterford team for the 2009 campaign, there was a twist: Molumphy was confirmed in a joint role alongside Ken McGrath.
It was no surprise to anybody within the camp that Molumphy, now 26, had come so far, so quickly. Certainly not to Queally, who never forgot the herculean efforts on behalf of his club just a few weeks after Kilkenny snapped his heart in half at Croke Park.
Queally recalls: "It was an incredible win, everything was against them. It was a really wet, windy day and Lismore were leading by 0-12 to 0-6.
"The game was more or less gone, but Stevie grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and took them on himself. He won a couple of frees, ran at the Lismore defence and showed great leadership that day. Ballyduff came back and won by a point -- it was all instigated by Stevie."
There's another story that sums up Molumphy to a tee.
He failed to reappear for the second half of the 2009 Munster semi-final against Limerick after shipping a crunching tackle from Limerick's Brian Geary. The post-match diagnosis was bleak.
"Right now, I would say that Stephen has virtually no chance of being passed fit," said clubmate Maurice Geary, a Waterford selector at the time.
"Stevie did a very bad job on his ankle. He was on crutches with a Munster final to come two weeks later," remembers Queally.
"He was written off for six weeks, but, through sheer determination and bloody-mindedness, he got himself back.
"We were working with him coming up to the game, himself and Kevin Moran were injured. Stevie was really hobbling around the field, but he showed such determination to come back. It was mind over matter."
It's little wonder that Fitzgerald handed Molumphy the captaincy outright for the 2010 campaign. Off the field, the two men communicate regularly. On it, Molumphy delivers Fitzgerald's message and sets the tone for how the manager wants the team to play.
When in possession of the ball, Molumphy drives forward impressively, winning frees and picking off the odd score.
When he doesn't have it, you'll see him tracking back to find it, like a dog on the scent of a rabbit, often dropping deep behind the half-back line to provide extra cover.
It's classic, modern-day play and Fitzgerald is a keen admirer of Molumphy's discipline and leadership skills -- which the player admits go hand-in-hand with his army life.
Even when Molumphy was on peacekeeping duty in Chad for five months before returning home early in the year, he was in regular contact with Fitzgerald.
"I didn't get much time for hurling, but there was plenty of time for gym work. Davy gave me a programme for out there and he was checking up to make sure it was done -- he kept me in line anyway," Molumphy smiles.
The night after he returned home from Chad, Molumphy was back training with the club, trading 45C for the chill of the coldest Irish winter in living memory.
"I never felt the cold as much. I couldn't get over it," he says.
But a trait of an army man is the innate ability to adapt, and Molumphy quickly settled back into hurling mode.
In his first outing of the year with Waterford, Molumphy scooped 1-1 in February's league victory over Dublin.
Queally adds: "Stevie's unbelievably positive and I don't think I ever heard him say a bad word about anybody. He makes you feel good about yourself, he has a great knack that way."
This year, Molumphy believes that Waterford are "more united" than in previous seasons.
And bookmakers quoting Waterford at 5/2 to beat Tipperary should take stock and realise that when Stephen Molumphy is involved, anything is possible.
"Teamwork and work rate are two of the biggest things we have now," he adds. "We went back to those two things. This year, you could see in the Cork games that it was more about teamwork than any individuals."
That's the Molumphy mantra. Watch it manifest itself in a collective sense next Sunday.