Mullane chomping at bit to enter Deise fold
THEY also serve who only stand and wait -- and for John Mullane and Ollie Canning it's a waiting game in terms of the National Hurling League.
Their counties clash at Pearse Park, Galway, tomorrow, but Mullane and Canning have different agendas.
Mullane, the dashing firebrand and tormentor of opposing defences, is on an unaccustomed early-season break, while Canning awaits the game of Portumna's year against Ballyhale Shamrock in the All-Ireland club final on St Patrick's Day.
The two players were at Croke Park yesterday for the launch of the new Centra sponsorship of the All-Ireland hurling championship. Summer days and championship hurling are not foremost on the mind of either, yet they agree on what's basically at stake in tomorrow's encounter: two points.
Both Mullane and Canning were pleased that their team-mates had solid victories last week, with Waterford hammering Dublin, and Galway (eventually) accounting for a weakened Limerick side.
Mullane admits it was hard to follow the wish of Deise boss Davy Fitzgerald, who has sought to ease some of the older players into the season, instead of having them go all-out from January 1.
"It's a tough test on Sunday, regardless of Galway missing the Portumna boys, but two points there would set us up nicely for the remainder of the league," reflects Mullane.
"Personally, it's hard to take a step back; ask any GAA player. It's hard to watch games. You'd love to be out there, but I suppose the boys are seeing it build up the hunger and you'd be chomping at the bit to get back."
Mullane, Tony Browne, Dan Shanahan, Ken McGrath, Eoin Murphy and Seamus Prendergast are the six older hands that have been left to do a pre-season programme as set up by Ger Hartmann and Ger Keane of the University of Limerick Sports Centre.
"There's a lot of stretching and core work. It's something different to what the rest of the panel are doing but it's interesting," explains Mullane.
"Normally you'd be in with the rest of the boys in January, but Davy wanted to go down another avenue this year and give the young lads a chance.
"I hope it will help the six of us in the long term. Myself and a few of the other boys had a long campaign with De La Salle last year. Coming to the end of the season I was probably running on empty when I probably should have been kicking on.
"Hopefully with this new way of starting out, in the months of July and August if we get back to Croke Park, touch wood, it might have a big benefit for the six players."
McGrath is recovering from injury and is likely to return in April, but Mullane and the others are due to report back for squad training on March 8. By then, all concerned will hope to have some momentum built up in the league
Reflecting on Waterford's opening fixture in which they comprehensively defeated Dublin, Mullane felt it was a boost for the younger players.
"That was the general feeling out there, that Dublin would come down and beat us last Sunday," he notes. "Dublin were probably a bit over-confident. When you have young fellas in there, they're chomping at the bit to get their place. That's the way it was last week and our fellas shone. It just goes to show the talent that's down in Waterford at the moment."
Nursing the more experienced players along in the early part of the year might be seen as a good idea now, but what will happen Waterford when the likes of Mullane, Shanahan and Co inevitably rotate out of the scene?
"We'd a great minor campaign last year, Munster champions, and we had a great U-21 campaign too," he declares. "There's some great guys coming through that are 15 and 16. The whole set-up down in Waterford is spot on from Tony Forristal's level right up to minor level and colleges hurling, and you'll see the benefits of it within the next 10 years."
Waterford and Galway didn't meet very often in years gone by and then, in 2009, like the 46A bus, two meetings came in quick succession.
They had previously played each other in the 2005 league at Pearse Stadium and Galway won by seven points. Four years elapsed before their next encounter, in the 2009 league. Waterford had home advantage, but Galway won by six points.
However, when it counted most, Waterford got the upper hand in the All-Ireland quarter-finals, winning by a point. Ollie Canning describes that defeat as "very disappointing" but hopes his team-mates can tomorrow step up on their display against Limerick.
"Obviously going down to Limerick was a tough assignment. They (Limerick) were probably well up for it with the circumstances, and it took Galway a while to get going.
"Sometimes those games are a no-win situation. You win by a large margin, nobody passes a remark, but they did the business down there.
"They got out of it with a win and that was it. Move on from there. Maybe Galway need to up their game a small bit, but I 'm sure they're capable of doing that."