Sunday 18 March 2018

Cork-Waterford duel stirs fond memories for legend Browne

Waterford legend Tony Browne. Photo: Sportsfile
Waterford legend Tony Browne. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Waterford legend Tony Browne is a reluctant visitor to memory lane, but after a bit of coaxing he opens the files.

After a career that spanned 23 years, he has plenty of stories to tell. There are lots of unforgettable highs and crushing lows but he agrees that Waterford's rivalry with Cork helped define his career.

There were some epic games in the middle of the last decade as they vowed for supremacy down south. The 2004 Munster final is generally recognised as the high water mark for but it's a different win over the Rebels that sticks out for Browne.

The Munster title of 2010 holds a special place. He was 37 then and it felt like the last big day in the sun but it's significance stems more from the fact that it gave him peace. After the hammering at the hands of Kilkenny in the 2008 All-Ireland final, Browne felt that win meant he could walk away knowing Waterford hurling was in a decent shape.

Browne was central to the 2010 win at both ends of the field. They secured a replay that year thanks to his late goal after he reacted first to a rebound from an Eoin Kelly free.

The drawn game, in Thurles, went to extra-time. They were three points to the good when he blocked Cathal Naughton's goal-bound shot with his head to repel Cork's late surge. "For me personally it would have been (the highlight) because I was probably pushing on at around 37, maybe 38 at the time," the Mount Sion stalwart recalls.

"Obviously we had taken a seriously bad day up here (in Croke Park) in the 2008 All-Ireland final and to come back to years later to win a Munster final at that age.

"It wasn't a brilliant game and it was under lights... but just to know that at that age, and particularly after a tough day psychologically in 2008, to bounce back two years later and win a Munster title and put Waterford some way back on the map."

Browne accepts that Sunday's showdown between the neighbouring rivals is unlikely to be another entry on the list of recent classics. Waterford's much-debated sweeper system should see to that. But Browne dismisses the notion that Derek McGrath might move on if they fall at the All-Ireland semi-final stage for the consecutive third year.

"Do I think it's do or die for him? Not really, no. No, I don't think so. I think if you look at what he's done in the last four years, as I said, this is their third year getting to an All-Ireland semi-final, I do think that he has to push on though and get this team to an All-Ireland final and whatever happens in that, we'll see.

"But I think he's four years there, if we don't get there, maybe Derek will decide to stay on for another year or two and decide to change tactics and decide maybe to push on and throw off the shackles and leave the guys at it and see where it takes them.

"As I said, Waterford historically leaked a lot of goals that maybe they could have won big games in, particularly semi-finals. He's cagey about that and I think he still has a big future in the game whether he stays with Waterford or not. He's a very good manager."

Irish Independent

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