TIPPERARY enter Thursday evening’s (7pm) Munster minor hurling quarter-final against Waterford at Walsh Park, Waterford as defending All-Ireland champions, but manager William Maher knows that his side will have it all to do to beat a Déise side who the Ballingarry man expects to present a huge challenge.
“I think Waterford are probably the outstanding minor team in the championship this year,” William Maher told the Tipperary Star this week.
“They are obviously going to be back-boned by the Dungarvan Colleges team and, of course, Blackwater had a very good team this year as well. So, we know going down to Waterford that we are going to be facing a very good team, but looking at it from our point of view we just can’t wait to get stuck into it.”
The Waterford minor team will be back-boned by several of the Dungarvan Colleges team who were crowned Dr Harty Cup and All-Ireland Colleges champions this year. Indeed, on Saturday last Dungarvan Colleges saw off Kilkenny CBS to win the Croke Cup at Semple Stadium, Thurles. And, with Dungarvan CBS also making planning for an All-Ireland B final the bookies are sure to make Waterford favourites for Thursday’s quarter-final.
That said William Maher and his management team - Martin Maher (Borris-Ileigh), Brian Horgan (Knockavilla Kickhams) and Noel Morris (Loughmore-Castleiney) - have been delighted by the response of their players to training this term.
“They are very honest and their attitude is very good,” William Maher explained.
“These lads are going to try to play like we managed to play last year. They are going to try to play a high-skill game. They are very together and hopefully we will get a performance out of them.”
Éire Óg Annacarty’s Tom Fox captains the team while the panel also features outstanding prospects like Jason Ryan (Toomevara), Ronan Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Barry Heffernan (Nenagh Éire Óg) and Mark McCarthy (Toomevara).
William Maher, however, has admitted that having been drawn in a quarter-final does make it difficult to plan a successful campaign. Should Tipperary win on Thursday, for example, their respective semi-final will not be played until June 26th (against Limerick).
“Yes, it can. And, we are a month earlier this year as well so it’s very tricky,” William Maher said.
“It’s a very drawn out championship as regards the fact that the Munster final won’t be played until July and you only have to play two matches to get there. But, I suppose, that’s what it is and we can’t do anything about that.”
On top of that William Maher has had to concern himself this past week with the fact that several members of his panel have been involved in the opening rounds of the senior club championship.
“Hopefully all of the players will get over this weekend’s club championship matches,” William Maher said.
“Most of the guys on the panel are involved in a game so we find ourselves waiting for them to come through it and hopefully they all will. As of now everyone is fit and raring to go, but as I said I will be sweating on a few players making it through those senior club games.”
In 2012 Tipperary claimed a 37th provincial minor hurling title and a 19th All-Ireland title in great style. Previous to that campaign Tipperary had not won the Irish Press Cup since 2007. Therefore William Maher was able to prepare his panel in relative anonymity. This year, however, it won’t be so simple.
“Yeah, I suppose,” admitted William Maher.
“Last year there was very little talk about us and certainly less than there has been this year that’s for sure. No one expected anything of us last year and we went on to win the All-Ireland.
“The level of attention has gone up even though you would have a different group of players this year.
“Look, in the first round of the championship you will learn a huge amount. Until then you don’t really know what you have. So, we will know a lot more after next Thursday night.”