Michael “Brick” Walsh is set to line out for a 16th season with Waterford in 2018, Austin Gleeson has revealed.
Walsh, who picked up his fourth All-Star last month, turns 35 next April but is believed to be on board for the new season. Captain and fellow All-Star Kevin Moran, another thirtysomething, is also set to return.
Both veterans shipped criticism in the county after Waterford’s Munster semi-final defeat by Cork, but Gleeson never doubted how integral the pair are to the Déise set-up.
“I think he’s back again,” said Gleeson of Stradbally man Walsh. “I don’t think there’s anyone gone. On June 18, people were asking Kevin and Brick to step aside and let the youngsters play and, there you go, the two of them have got All-Stars and Kevin nominated for hurler of the year. That came from a lot of people in Waterford. They picked them two out as having a bad day.
“If you’re asking the team who are the first two names on the team-sheet, it’s the two of them. The work that Brick does that the majority of people don’t see is phenomenal and we’re delighted to have him back again.”
That Derek McGrath is also on board as manager for a fifth season comes as relief to Gleeson who feared he might step away.
“There was a genuine chance, to be honest. I did a thing for him in De La Salle College, the school show was on, he was doing a draw and different things and I asked him straight out about it and he said, ‘I don’t know’. He had a lot of things (to consider), family, work life, he genuinely didn’t know whether he was going to go back or not.
“It would have taken a lot away from what we had done the last four years if Derek had left but thankfully he stayed on and everybody is staying on and the backroom team is staying on and it’s a massive boost.”
Gleeson is not fearful about the prospect of Waterford not being able to host their two Munster SHC games in Walsh Park next year.
“The two games we have at home are Cork and Tipp and I suppose if we end up playing in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Thurles you wouldn’t really complain. We’re after playing more games in Thurles the last three years than we have in Walsh Park the last 10 years, I’d say. It wouldn’t be something we think about too much, to be honest. If it comes to it that we end up playing the couple of games away we won’t complain.”
He indicated Waterford’s attitude towards the league will be based on how their opening couple of matches go.
“I suppose there is extra incentive in the league because whoever wins will be going to Australia to play Galway in a game so maybe that might be taken into consideration by some teams.
“I can’t see us looking at it too heavily. We’ll go at it and see what happens in the first couple of games and if we’re going well take it game by game and see where we can go.”
Gleeson backs the idea of changing the U21 All-Ireland hurling championship to U20 to complement the change of the minor grade from U18 to U17.
“I was U21 from when I was playing minor. The four years, I was almost happy that it was over because it’s such a long year. The U21 in Waterford doesn’t kick off until the senior is over so you’re literally going 12 months of the year.
“This is the first year I’ve had a break since I was 16. I have had a couple of weeks where you’re just chilling out and recovering from little niggles or anything like that.
“I know the minors are U17 now. Fellas could be playing U21 for four or five years and that’s an awful lot to ask, especially if you’re involved with your club, your college, inter-county as well.
“You could be on nine teams nearly so it is tough. I think it would be the best idea to go back down to U20 even though I won an U21 with the lads. The three-year gap might be the right idea.”
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