Wednesday 22 November 2017

Where are they now?

1 June 2011; Waterford manager Fergal Hartley. Bord Gáis Energy Munster GAA Hurling Under 21 Championship, Quarter-Final, Tipperary v Waterford, Semple Stadium, Thurles, Co Tipperary. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
1 June 2011; Waterford manager Fergal Hartley. Bord Gáis Energy Munster GAA Hurling Under 21 Championship, Quarter-Final, Tipperary v Waterford, Semple Stadium, Thurles, Co Tipperary. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Fergal Hartley (Former Waterford hurler)

 

On the pages of the book Plassey's Gaels, a history of the GAA at the University of Limerick, is a picture of the 1994 Fitzgibbon Cup champions and in the back row are hurlers Fergal Hartley and Brian Lohan arm in arm, grinning broadly.

Both are in their early 20s, just embarking on their inter-county careers with Waterford and Clare respectively. Little did they know that they were on the verge of partaking in such a glorious and exciting period of hurling that would lead to a bitter rivalry between their two teams.

"We have great memories from those days and we made great friends," says Hartley. "The rivalry very much intensified after 1998 but we all got on grand, the rivalry was there, no one would deny that but at the same time we'd always shake hands after it and we'd always talk."

Having played underage for Waterford, Hartley was called into the senior squad in 1992; he made his debut the following year but lost in shocking fashion to Kerry. After that famous defeat they regrouped and throughout the rest of the 1990s challenged for Munster glory.

"That period of six or seven years was great. Every time you played it seemed like the sun was shining and Semple Stadium was full. They were fantastic days, you couldn't repeat them."

In 2002, Hartley captained Waterford to their first Munster title in 39 years, beating Tipperary 2-23 to 3-12. A year later, the centre-back retired but in 2005 he came back for one final effort. However, missing out on that year in-between is something he regrets.

During his club career he won eight county championships with Ballygunner and one Munster club title. He is 41 now and still playing intermediate hurling, he's also involved with the club's under 17 team that his son plays on.

The All Star winner runs Hartley People, a recruitment and training company in Waterford, and today he will make the journey to Thurles watch his county take on old rivals Clare.

"It's going to be very tight; they are two evolving teams who are in rebuilding mode. Clare have had more underage success and that will stand to them. Waterford had a really good league campaign, they missed out narrowly on a semi-final spot, they have a few injuries but I think that they have enough to edge it."

Irish Independent

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