WATERFORD hurling selector Peter Queally is pessimistic about captain Stephen Molumphy’s chances of playing in Sunday’s Munster final against Tipperary.
Molumphy had to be substituted in Waterford’s Munster SHC semi-final replay win over Tipperary with a knee injury, and Queally is doubtful whether the Army man will make the first 15 this weekend.
“Stephen’s unlikely to make it,” Queally admitted yesterday. “We’re going to give him every chance, and there’s a fair likelihood we’ll still name him on the team, but put it to you this way – if he plays he probably won’t be 100%. Sunday’s game has just come too soon for him, but we’ll give him every chance before we have to rule him out of the picture.”
Waterford have other injuries to deal with – Ken McGrath (knee) and Gary Hurney (shoulder) are medium-term absentees, but Queally says that gives opportunities to others.
“At least we know for a good while that Ken and Gary wouldn’t be playing. That’s given us a chance to get our heads around what alternatives we’re going to have to use. If those injuries had happened this week it’d be a huge blow. It is still a big blow to them, the fact that they’re missing out on an occasion like this, but for the panel as a whole, we’ve tried a lot of fellas in the league. We’re happy with the squad. Waterford probably haven’t been given credit in the past for having depth in the panel, and this gives someone else a chance to step up.”
One player who has stood out for the Déise this year is teenager Noel Connors of Passage, who has starred at corner-back. Queally and the management are happy with the youngster’s progress: “Noel’s had a good schooling in the Harty Cup, but he’s made a big step up into senior. What’s helped him a lot is that while he mightn’t be the tallest he’s very strong, very well-built.
“A lot of youngsters, no matter how good they are, find the physical difference a big challenge when they play senior but that’s one thing in his favour. He’s got a good head on his shoulders as well, we’re very confident in him.”
If the build-up is relatively low-key in the southeast, Queally expects a good turnout of white and blue support this weekend in Semple Stadium.
“There’s no great buzz down around Waterford, it’s as if it’s just another game, but that might be no bad thing. That said, the tickets are going well so we’d be hopeful of a good support. Attendances are down everywhere and the attendance at the Limerick games was down, but that was true of both counties, not just Waterford. The numbers might have been small for the replay but they made themselves heard and drove us on. They were a great help on the day.”
They’ll need the help. Tipperary have impressed this year, with some newcomers getting Queally’s attention.
“Noel McGrath is the obvious one, he’s a class act, but they have plenty more that have caught the eye this year.
“Their backs are very solid. Paddy Stapleton has fitted in well at corner-back – he looks like he might have more hurling than a lot of corner-backs. Young Padraig Maher was outstanding in the league final against Kilkenny.”
For his part, Queally feels the Limerick replay should stand to his side.
“You can’t beat a championship game to bring fellas on,” he says. “That game showed what the lads are capable of.
“There might have been a doubt after the drawn game, a sense of ‘what’s gone wrong here’, but the replay showed we still have good hurlers, we still have a good team.”
Having edged out Tipp in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final, Waterford know well that the Premier County are looking for revenge. They’re ready, says Queally.
“We know it’s going to be a huge test. When Tipperary set out their stall at the start of the year you can be sure that one team they wanted to face was Waterford.
“That was a huge setback for them last year, losing the All-Ireland semi-final to us, and they’ll have a score to settle. It’s up to us to match the fire they’re going to bring to this game – and hopefully better it on the day.”
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