'Deise need to find new leaders'
McGrath hopeful attacking young guns can rise to occasion and sink Clare
SUNDAY'S Munster hurling championship opener against Clare offers Waterford's young guns a great chance to step forward and mark themselves out as potential new leaders.
So says former Deise star and ex-selector Ken McGrath ahead of their trip to Semple Stadium. The retirements in recent years of John Mullane, McGrath and Dan Shanahan and the absence of Stephen Molumphy (abroad with the army) has left a leadership void up front, which McGrath believes their younger players must now step up to fill.
"We've no problem with leaders in the back-line – Brick (Walsh) is especially outstanding – but up front it's a small bit of a problem," said McGrath. "Seamus (Prendergast) is 32 or 33 and having a great year again. He's probably more vital to us now than a few years ago because he's big and strong and wins his own ball.
"We have loads of good young hurlers. The team that Michael (Ryan) has picked includes a lot of them and the hope is that some of them will stand up on Sunday and take leadership of the attack."
Waterford have picked a particularly young side, with a full-forward line of U-21s in Jamie Barron, Pauric Mahony and Jake Dillon, in addition to two other U-21s – Darragh Fives and Paudie Prendergast – starting in defence.
Prendergast, Dillon and Barron are making their Munster senior championship debuts and only six of the team – Liam Lawlor, Michael Walsh, Kevin Moran, Maurice Shanahan, Seamus Prendergast and Mahony – started against Clare last year.
That provided Waterford with their second consecutive championship victory over the Banner, but McGrath believes what has gone before will be irrelevant.
"Both counties are fielding young teams. Realistically, they're both out of the top four at the moment but both will probably feel they could push on if they got a run in the championship," said McGrath.
"The Clare U-21s were brilliant last year, they played a lovely style of hurling and some of them have never lost to Waterford themselves, so anything could happen and that's what makes the championship so special.
"There was a lot of doom and gloom in Waterford before the league, a lot of it unfair really because we only lost to Cork by a couple of points in last year's quarter-final when we should have been out of sight but didn't push on.
"But this year's league was great, it lifted spirits in Waterford again and there were great crowds going to league games again.
"You'd just be hoping now that some of the young lads will stand up, produce a man-of-the-match performance on Sunday and push it on again."
Mahony , still U-21 but lining out in his third Munster championship and selected at full-forward this weekend, doesn't believe it will be a war of attrition, as suggested in these pages by Mullane last Monday.
"I don't think it'll be like that at all. I think it'll be an open game of hurling," the Ballygunner star said at the launch of the Bord Gais All-Ireland U-21 Championship yesterday.
"Both teams are raring to go and it'll be helter-skelter alright. A lot of people are thinking the Davy (Fitzgerald) and Michael Ryan thing could play a part, but once the ball is thrown in that'll be long forgotten about."