Lack of hype will suit Deise -- Frampton
DESPITE winning two and reaching four Munster finals finals in the last five seasons, expectations are unusually low in Waterford ahead of Sunday's semi-final clash with Clare in Thurles.
That's largely down to a changing of the guard -- on and off the pitch -- as new manager Michael Ryan takes Waterford into a transition phase.
"There's a feeling that with new lads coming through and some older lads giving way, Waterford are in rebuilding mode and that the management deserve a bit of time to get on with it," said former captain Stephen Frampton.
He sees advantages in that as it could empower the squad to hurl with real freedom. He also believes that it's a big plus for Ryan as he becomes the first Waterford native to manage the county since Tony Mansfield completed his term in 1996. Since then, they have been steered by Cork pair Gerald and Justin McCarthy and Davy Fitzgerald, who has returned to Clare.
It has put the focus of Sunday's game very much on Clare which, according to Frampton, will also suit Waterford.
"Davy will have the Clare lads wired to the moon. I'd say we'd be able to hear his team talk at the top of the stand. Clare will see this as a huge chance to get to the Munster final. They showed in the league that they are improving all the time but Waterford would be quite happy too with how the league went. It looked bad after losing the first few games but they recovered brilliantly to win the last two."
He believes that surviving in the top flight could be crucial to Waterford's development, not just this summer but also next year.
"If you're relegated, you can try to forget about it but you know that it happened because you didn't play well enough, which isn't what you want going into the championship. As well as that, relegation affects you the following year so it can be quite damaging over a long period. On the other hand, the way Waterford stayed up was very encouraging," said Frampton. It was certainly a big boost for Ryan, who would have drawn criticism if Waterford had been relegated in his first season. Instead, he has the cushion of a good finish to the league which, if followed by a Munster final, would be regarded as real progress.
"It's all very low-key in Waterford. I'd say expectations are much higher in Clare, which brings its own pressures," added Frampton.
For Ryan, it's a first step into the cauldron of Munster championship action under the critical eye of supporters who have grown used to extended summer action.
Frampton is convinced that the Waterford public will show patience even if things don't go too well in the championship, but, as many managers have discovered, the first season can be crucial in defining the direction of their stewardship.