Waterford sharpshooter Pauric Mahony could be set for a sensational return to inter-county fare for the Munster senior hurling final against Tipperary on July 15.
It was feared as recently as May that Mahony would be ruled out for the entire championship after undergoing surgery on a groin injury. But the talented Ballygunner man has made remarkable progress since then and is back in full training ahead of the decider at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Déise sources have hinted that Mahony, 19, may not be fit enough to start but could make an appearance from the substitutes’ bench in Cork.
Mahony scored 12 points from frees in Waterford’s final two National League matches against Galway and Dublin as the Déise preserved their Division 1A status.
And the 2010 Waterford Young Hurler of the Year was nominated for an All Star award last year on the back of a superb debut season as a senior inter-county player.
Earlier this year, Mahony finished as top scorer in the Fitzgibbon Cup as University College Cork claimed victory. However, he was hampered by the groin injury during the league and was left with no option but to undergo surgery — and missed the recent Munster semi-final victory over Clare.
Waterford boss Michael Ryan is also remaining optimistic corner-back Darragh Fives will be ready in time — but he is nursing a broken finger.
Meanwhile, county board top brass remained silent last night on claims made by Munster Council chairman Seán Walsh that Waterford wanted a financial "sweetener" to play the Munster final at Semple Stadium instead of Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
It is understood that Déise chiefs are extremely annoyed by Walsh’s comments and may come out with an official response after the Munster final.
A county board source revealed: "We were prepared to draw a line in the sand but he [Walsh] has resurrected it again.
"His comments didn’t go down well in Waterford. We weren’t worried about a sweetener.
"Our supporters and players wanted to go to Thurles.
"I’m disappointed with Seán Walsh coming out like this. He shouldn’t have got involved at this stage, so close to the match."