Deise can be a match for anyone , insists former manager Michael Ryan
Michael Ryan was less surprised than most when Waterford conquered Cork last Sunday and claimed the league title.
Ryan's stint as Deise manager ended in controversy after the players voted for a change in management at the end of the 2013 campaign when it was expected he would be retained.
But having been involved with many of the current side during his period in charge, he believes there is more to come from the Deise.
"I saw some of it (the league final) yeah," Ryan said. "I wasn't hugely surprised by it. Waterford have a lot of very good young players. I think they'll be a match for anyone."
The current Westmeath boss went on to liken Derek McGrath's young tyros to the Clare side that won the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 2013.
He also insisted that the championship is wide open this year with Kilkenny down a host of experienced players and believes a handful of teams are in contention to take ultimate glory in September.
However, he also sounded a note of caution that stiffer tests lie ahead as sides begin to reveal their full hand as the championship gets underway.
"You look at Clare two years ago, Waterford I think are in the same position, they play the same type of good game," he said.
"I don't think there's any really outstanding team out there at the moment, though that may change.
"I think the championship is wide open. You could well see Waterford and Clare in a Munster final. That wouldn't surprise me.
"I think there's tremendous potential in that team. When the Titanic left Belfast, it was in a good place and when I left Waterford hurling, it was in a good place as well.
"I'm not surprised. I love their enthusiasm, their zest for the game. I think they'll beat a lot of teams."
Ryan defended Waterford's style -which has drawn some to label them 'the Donegal of hurling' - that sees several players withdrawn into defensive positions.
Instead, he insisted it was the talent of the Waterford players that was doing more to win games than any style that they might adopt.
"I don't think Waterford have 13 men in their own half," he said. "You do what you have to do to win. Clare did the same thing a couple of years ago.
"The problem with the system is, the more teams play against a system, the more likely they are to find a solution.
"I think it's too simple to say the system is winning the game - the players are winning the games."
Ryan is in charge of the Lake men this term and they got their championship off to a winning start with a two-point win over Carlow in the round-robin series of the Leinster championship over the weekend.
They face a resurgent Antrim team on Sunday in a game that could have a big influence on who advances to the provincial quarter-finals.
Ryan's appointment was something of a coup for the midlanders and he explained that he was persuaded to take the job after meeting with people from the county.
"I tell you I had no notion of taking the Westmeath job but I met the chairman and the secretary, and their enthusiasm (was great)," he said.
"Then I went up and saw a few club games - people in Westmeath are very serious about their hurling, like they are in lots of other counties.
"And I've been managing teams all my life, it's a kind of a drug I have. I always look for people who are interested and Westmeath people are interested and the players are interested, so here I am.
"It was a crucial win (on Sunday). First of all I'm a big fan of the round-robin system. I think it gives counties like Westmeath and all four counties a chance to get championship games under their belt. That's hugely important.
"Having said that, Antrim had a fantastic win. Not many people would have given them a chance up there.
"It's a really important game and whoever wins that will be in a really strong position - not quite qualified because three teams could end up on four points but it's a huge test for both teams.
"I'm sure people will look forward to it."