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Waterford woes shine spotlight on frantic format

Injury list leaves Déise's Championship in peril

Referee Paud O’Dwyer issues a red card to Kevin Moran who’ll sit out Sunday’s clash against Tipperary due to the resulting suspension. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Referee Paud O’Dwyer issues a red card to Kevin Moran who’ll sit out Sunday’s clash against Tipperary due to the resulting suspension. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Whatever winds are out there in hurling, they are all blowing hard against Waterford.

Yesterday, acknowledging the precarious nature of their predicament with potential absentees, they took to issuing an injury/unavailability statement, that was virtually unprecedented in scale.

Only Kilkenny in 2013 have faced anything like it in recent memory.

A broken collarbone for Tadhg De Burca has effectively ended his season unless Waterford, miraculously given the situation they now find themselves in, make an All-Ireland final. Then he may have a chance. But Waterford's statement yesterday ruled him out for " a number of months."

A similar timeline has been set for Barry Coughlan, who sustained three broken bones in his hand during Sunday's attritional visit to Clare.

Darragh Fives has a chance of making it after picking up a calf injury on Sunday, Noel Connors will be given every chance after his back went into spasm, forcing him off while the decision has been made that Kevin Moran will accept his one-match ban after his sending off. There's also a concern over Maurice Shanahan.

Waterford's Darragh Fives. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Waterford's Darragh Fives. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

That's all on top of the injuries that kept Austin Gleeson and Pauric Mahony out of Ennis last Sunday. Gleeson may play but it would still be a risk after the damage he did to ankle ligaments. A broken bone in the hand will not have repaired in time for Mahony, it seems.

With Shane and Kieran Bennett gone Waterford could, potentially, be without nine frontline players although, at a push, that figure is likely to rest at seven.

Venue and opposition hardly favour them either. While Waterford have that 2008 All-Ireland semi-final success over Tipperary, they've lost their last five Munster final meetings with the Premier County.

Decider

Limerick's Gaelic Grounds is where they were hit for five goals in the 2016 provincial decider. With the distance and network of roads to it from parts of Waterford, it's not a venue that appeals to Déise supporters either.

The potential list of absentees has left Derek McGrath in a defensive dilemma, especially if Connors, Gleeson and Fives don't come through.

Ironically, for a team that has been flagged for its defensive parsimony, their reserves go deeper in attack where Tomas Ryan and Stephen Bennett made impacts off the bench and where Patrick Curran and DJ Foran have more to offer.

Conor Gleeson offers an option in the full-back line, where Ian Kenny, Shane Fives and Shane McNulty finished up together after the departure of all four defenders last Sunday.

Injuries happen, but the plight of Waterford, with their season finely balanced, will put the spotlight on the demands being asked of squads.

If there is a small glimmer of hope for Waterford it is that this is Tipperary's third successive weekend of competitive action and for the two counties, Offaly and Kilkenny, who experienced that last weekend, that wasn't pleasant.

Maybe Pearse Stadium for a first ever Leinster Championship match, against a home side that had just taken too many bad beatings from them in the six years since the All-Ireland final replay win, would have been a bridge too far for a re-emerging Kilkenny anyway. But after having to dig deep on successive Sundays, especially against Dublin the first day, the toll was exacting against a team with its collective feet up the previous weekend.

Wexford had sat out the first day and had edged past Dublin in the second round but that was still one less outing than Offaly, who would have struggled even without such a taxing schedule.

A third successive Sunday was just too much and as limbs ached discipline wavered with three sent off, reducing their options even further for next Sunday's probable relegation play-off.

There was a cautious reaction from Davy Fitzgerald afterwards as he wondered what the effect of a third successive weekend in action would be this Saturday in Wexford park when Galway visit.

Meanwhile, Offaly reach for a fourth successive weekend against a Dublin side that has enjoyed the perfect mid-campaign break. Is there a better solution? Fitzgerald has been vocal in his call for a little more slack to be cut during the round-robin series.

There's a three-week gap between the last round-robin game in Leinster and the final, which takes place on the same afternoon as the Munster final. Perhaps a break weekend in the middle, this weekend for instance, would leave teams breathing a little easier.

Munster started their round-robin a week later, but they too could consider an earlier start with a break in between so that the round-robin programme is completed over a six-week stretch instead of five.

Any other change would require taking time off clubs and that's something the GAA are unlikely to contemplate.

But already this May-June hurling period is looking a little to condensed.

Cork are also in action for the third week running, faced with the only six-day turnaround in Munster as Limerick head to Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Trying to put so much into a more compressed period of time was always going to be a challenge and everyone is feeling it, none more so than a Waterford team whose season is threatening to end before you could say it even really began.

Irish Independent

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