Waterford looking for "hope" in Semple on Sunday

Waterford looking for "hope" in Semple on Sunday

The Waterford hurlers head to Semple Stadium this Sunday for their final outing in 2o23.

The Déise prop up the bottom of the Munster Championship table following a disappointing showing in their first year under Davy Fitzgerald.

Their only wins have come in the league against Laois and Antrim, while they drew with Dublin.

Their losses across league and championship came at the hands of Tipperary, Kilkenny, Limerick, Cork and Clare.


While the rest of the Munster counties have shown clear signs of growth since last season, the same can not be said for Waterford.

While 2022 - barring the League title - was not a year that will earn many inches in the history books, the team now looks like a shadow of the side we saw across 2020 & 2021.

"You just want them to be able to express themselves. Play up to their ability, and I think that's the most disappointing thing. It must be devastating from a player point of view because they're really not at it at the moment. In the last two games, the level of performance is just not where it needs to be. No guy puts on a jersey and goes out in front of 30,000 people not to play well," says former Déise captain Brian Flannery.

Flannery has been there for every Waterford game over the last number of years to see the highs and lows of the journey. He was there when Waterford stunned Kilkenny in the second half to wrestle that All-Ireland semi-final win from the Cats claws. He was there to see them valiantly battle Limerick in Croke Park in the decider, ultimately ending in failure. He was there to see a fourth-ever league title lofted by Conor Prunty in Semple Stadium.


Flannery knows what these players have in their lockers, and undoubtedly expects to see something better than what we have seen this season.

"For all sorts of reasons, it can not continue at that level because it has such an influence. It's your marquee team, your blue ribband team. It feeds everything else and that's why it's so important", Flannery added.

A concern that has started to circulate through the ever-precarious grapevine in recent weeks is that we may be looking at a very different squad of players when the group comes back together in November. Rumours are lethal, but nonetheless, they start from somewhere, and "the talk" is that several players are set to head to Australia or America while youth is still on their side. If that comes to pass then Waterford may be looking at an ever-steeper hill to climb in 2024.

Rumour and speculation aside, the reality holds firm that this is an aging side. Some players are now in their tenth season, while one is in his 11th. They are a mature team whose chances of winning an All-Ireland are dwindling year after year, and with the worrying state of the U20 and Minor setups, it's hard to see the new blood will come from to step into the boots of those who are likely to bow out in the near future.

The game with Tipperary this Sunday has been described as a "dead rubber" by many - including this writer - but another former Captain Fergal Hartley makes the point that there is plenty riding on it, and not just the player's pride.

"I think there is importance in it [the Tipp game] on every level. The county needs a lift. There is a level of despondency, I think there is even a level of apathy, there is almost a deficit of hope at the moment and that needs to be recovered."

Hartley also notes the senior players in the squad and what this campaign could do to their confidence. "There are a few of the senior payers at a stage in their careers who might question if this is worthwhile pursuing with," says Hartley, who lifted the Munster title for the Déise in 2002.

He added that the players, who have put in unfathomable work to be ready for their games, need something to confirm that their efforts went wasted.

"Unless there is a glimmer of hope, I mean, some of our senior players might look at this and say 'well, what's the point, why go and do this again'".