Waterford manager Tom McGlinchey claimed that no county side would be able to cope with the number of departures his team have endured throughout the season after Saturday’s mauling by Offaly.
He entered this home tie with a threadbare squad of 22 to choose from due to players travelling to America, injury, withdrawal and family commitments.
“We had the bare numbers togging out. We were missing a lot of players for one reason or the other,” said McGlinchey. “It isn’t an excuse but I hope the Waterford public won’t be too hard on the players that played today.
“We used 29 players in the National League and 14 of those 29 are not available. I don’t think that there’s a county in Ireland that could cope with that loss.”
And the situation only got worse for the Déise after the game as stalwart defender Shane Briggs brought down the curtain on his 14-year inter-county career. “Huge thanks to the players and management over the years,” tweeted Briggs.
The Abbeyside man only played on the hallowed turf of Croke Park once but he left with a man of the match award as Waterford lost the 2010 Division 4 final to Limerick.
The Déise lifted the McGrath Cup for the first time since 1981 at the start of this season but haven’t registered a competitive win since January 31.
McGlinchey admitted that it has been a difficult task to keep spirits high in the camp over the summer.
“You would nearly be dreading getting the phone calls and saying ‘who’s going where now?’,” he said.
“As a manager, you have to take these things on board. If you let it get to you, you become very disheartened, especially for the players that do stick around and put in the effort.”
McGlinchey hopes that the top players in the county will be able to make the sacrifices required next season.
“The players that are there know there is a huge effort required. For some other players, I don’t know are they willing to put in that effort. If you do put in the effort, you do get the rewards.
“I’m just hopeful, because there are so many good players in Waterford, that they do give it a go for a couple of years.”
The 5/1 underdogs were only a point down at half-time (0-9 to 1-5) at Fraher Field after Joey Veale finished off a slick counter-attack on 32 minutes.
The hosts couldn’t sustain that effort, however, on a boiling hot afternoon, and Offaly outgunned them by 1-11 to 0-2 in a lop-sided second period.
Full-forward Nigel Dunne led the Faithful to their first Championship win in four years as he kicked eight points.
Manager Pat Flanagan feels that this result will restore confidence following their Leinster Championship loss to Longford.
“When you win by 13 points, it’s good for morale,” he said. “It’s all about rebuilding this team, confidence-wise. Their strength, physicality and morale all has to be rebuilt. We are getting there slowly. We are going to be a better team in future years.”
Flanagan expects Niall McNamee to return for their second round qualifier next month, saying: “He broke a bone in his hand so hopefully he will be back within a fortnight.”
Scorers – Offaly: N Dunne 0-8 (4fs), A Sullivan 1-1, G Guilfoyle 0-3, B Allen 0-2, E Carroll, W Mulhall, J Moloney, J O’Connor, C McNamee, P Cunningham 0-1 each. Waterford: J Veale 1-1, M Ferncombe 0-2, P Hurney, JJ Hutchinson, L Lawlor, T Prendergast 0-1 each.
Offaly – A Mulhall 7; B Darby 7, P McConway 6, C Donohue 6; N Darby 6, J Moloney 7, J O’Connor 7; C McNamee 6, N Smith 6; P Cunningham 7, G Guilfoyle 8, A Sullivan 7; B Allen 7, N Dunne 9, W Mulhall 6. Subs: N Bracken 6 for Mulhall (H-T, B-C), E Carroll 7 for Allen (H-T), J Evans for Guilfoyle (62), N Geraghty for Smith (66), D Brady for B Darby (66), P McPadden for Moloney (71).
Waterford – S Barron 6; D Crowley 7, P Crowley 6, T Ó hUallacháin 6; S Briggs 7, P Whyte 6, S Prendergast 6; T Prendergast 6, C Guiry 6; JJ Hutchinson 6, M Ferncombe 6, M O’Halloran 6; L Lawlor 7, J Veale 7, P Hurney 6. Subs: D Guiry 6 for Hutchinson (24), L Ó Lonáin 6 for O’Halloran (47), C O’Keeffe 6 for Hurney (51), M Curry 6 for C Guiry (59), K Murphy for T Prendergast (66), J Curry for Veale (66).
Ref – F Kelly (Longford)
Man of the Match: Nigel Dunne (Offaly)
With Niall McNamee ruled out through injury, the Faithful relied on Dunne to lead the line, and the full-forward was the star man in Offaly's second-half scoring spree, nailing three points after the restart. The Shamrocks man finished with a handsome total of eight, including four from play.
Waterford's long list of absentees was a crippling blow to their chances. Tom McGlinchey had to plan without 14 of the panel that won the McGrath Cup.
Joey Veale finished a superbly crafted Waterford move on 32 minutes. Goalkeeper Sean Barron gathered a loose shot at goal and the ball was worked up the field at pace. Dean Crowley and Darren Guiry ripped open the Offaly defence before Veale calmly stroked the ball past Alan Mulhall.
Fergal Kelly penalised the Waterford backs for persistent fouling at the start of the second half. The Longford official correctly showed a black card to Offaly's William Mulhall for a late tackle and also flashed three yellows.
A re-energised Offaly set their sights on the second round of the qualifiers next month. Waterford can only lick their wounds for the rest of the year.