Eir has been unveiled as a new official sponsor of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship for the next five years.
Hurling stars from across the country were present to launch the sponsorship alongside eir at Croke Park on Wednesday, including Declan Hannon, All-Ireland winning captain with Limerick, Waterford talisman Austin Gleeson, Cork flyer Shane Kingston and Dublin captain, Eoghan O’Donnell.
The five-year deal begins with the 2023 Championship season.
County star Gleeson spoke to the media at the event where he addressed the change in the intercounty setup in the county. "It's different I suppose to previous years with new management, new backroom team, and new everything," said Gleeson. He continued "It's just getting used to the lads' training. How they run things is the next step. Yeah, he [Davy Fitzgerald] told us it's going to be a tough few weeks, but an enjoyable few weeks as well. It's living up to that billing at the moment."
2022 was a mixed bag for Waterford hurling. Claiming a first league title since 2015 (a fourth in all) was followed by an early departure from the Championship. The dreaded round robin once again proved to be the downfall for the Déise who picked up just one win beating Tipperary at Walsh Park. The side looked set to carry their league form into the business end of the year, but consecutive losses to Limerick, Cork and Clare spelled the end for Liam Cahill's time in charge. Failure to get out of Munster saw the end of the Tipp man's time in charge of his neighboring county.
Rumours still abound as to what went wrong. Overtraining after the Limerick loss, a bust-up in the camp etc. Only those in the camp will likely ever know what actually happened but regardless, two months after the loss to Clare Cahill stood down as Waterford boss and would shortly after take up the mantle with his home county - taking selector (and Gleeson's Mount Sion club man) Tony Browne with him.
Gleeson said that the postmortem has only begun in the last week or two now that they are back training. "We had a good league campaign and had a good performance in the league final which was massive for us - maybe we got a bit complacent, I really don't know." Asked if it is hard to accept that they might never have an answer as to what went wrong Gleeson says it is indeed a tough one to swallow. "Yeah, definitely. It would be easy to say 'We have that fella injured or this fella injured' but we didn't really have much injuries. We can't put our fingers on it to be honest."
It didn't take long for the rumour mill to kick back into full gear following Cahill's departure and the stories went around that Davy Fitz was set to make a sensational return to the county that gave him his start in intercounty management. For once the rumours were right and Fitzgerald was announced as the new boss in August.
The former hurler of the year Gleeson is expecting big things next year as the last man to win a Munster title makes his return, "No matter what the outside perception is - he's a winner" said Gleeson.
"He's had success in every county he's went to. Even when he was with Waterford for the first year he got them to a first All-Ireland final since '63. He went down to Wexford and won Leinster, he won an All-Ireland with Clare.
One of the biggest challenges the team will face is conquering the round-robin. In twelve attempts Waterford have only won one game. "Our main aim is to get out of Munster" says Gleeson. "We haven't got out of Munster in this new round robin yet - so that's the biggest thing we need to achieve".