There’s only one possible starting point in any Waterford hurling conversation this week: Last Sunday’s trick sideline cut, when Waterford were trying to reel in Galway’s lead in their rescheduled Allianz Hurling League clash.
Shane Bennett lined up a sideline cut, but the attacker then looked around and seemed to be told to leave the ball and push infield.
His shoulders slumped and he trudged off, but not before nudging the ball an inch or two.
That put the sliotar in play, with Jamie Barron hurtling over to pick it and point.
Cue a huge reaction across all media and platforms. Did that reaction surprise Waterford manager Páraic Fanning?
“A little,” he says now.
“It was innovative, I suppose. It’s probably something that you see at this time of the year and view as being something out of the ordinary.
“It did get a lot of attention on social media and on the TV highlights programme on Sunday night.
“It was good to see it come off when we tried it, and it was enjoyable as well, and the way Shane did it, he carried it off to a T.
“Look, it worked out for us last weekend, and it’s always nice to see something like that work out.”
There were plenty of suggestions that Waterford should have kept the trick for the championship.
“I know people have been asking that, why didn’t we keep it in our bag for the championship, but you don’t know if you’ll get away with that in the championship, either. The opportunity was there to do it, we did it and that’s it.
“As for the idea that by doing it you’re keeping defenders honest, I don’t know; we just decided to try it, and if you don’t try things, you don’t get anywhere.”
Although they’re facing Clare in this weekend’s league quarter-final, the championship clash with the same side is on many minds.
“A team of Clare’s calibre, who weren’t too far away from winning the All-Ireland last year, they’re a great test for us.
“The fact that we’re playing them in the championship... it’s only human nature that people are going to be saying, ‘oh, you’re holding this player back, or this tactic back, you’ve to keep something in reserve’, but we’ll see how it plays out. I’m just happy now to have a tough test, and a home game. We didn’t have a home game in Walsh Park for almost a year, and now we have two games in a week there, both against top opposition.
“We’ll enjoy it and hopefully it’ll give some of our less-experienced players, in particular, a chance to sample a good atmosphere against a very good team.”
As it is, Waterford are dealing with a good few absences, with almost an entire defence sidelined through injury.
“We have a good few players out with knocks, so this weekend is another opportunity to see how lads are going and to get a performance.
“I’ll go through the list, but I’m bound to forget someone: We’re missing the likes of Tadhg de Burca, Brian O’Halloran, Conor Gleeson, the two Fives brothers, Conor Prunty, Kieran Bennett. Some of them we’d have hoped to get back by now, but that just hasn’t materialised for various reasons.
“We’d hope to have them back soon, the majority, within the next month. I know that may be just a bit too late for the league, even if we qualify for the latter stages, but it is what it is.”
Absence equals opportunity, however, on an intercounty panel.
“A lot of the players who are out have started championship games, so there’s a lot of experience missing, but having said that, we’re very happy with the depth of the panel and, as I say, it’s a chance to look at other possibilities, and the competition for places will sharpen up in the coming weeks with those experienced players coming back into contention, and that’s all any manager would want.”
Today’s a dry run for May 12, and Fanning’s optimism about the date isn’t restricted to the playing field.
“I think the atmosphere will be very good today. I know it was an awful day weather-wise for the Galway game last weekend, but I thought there was a bit of a buzz around the venue, and this week, with another home game, I can sense a bit of a buzz building this week as well.
“That’ll grow, too, as the championship approaches. We haven’t had championship hurling in Waterford for a long time, so that’ll be great, and we’re just hoping the crowd will come out again this weekend.”
The Mount Sion clubman will be hoping to build on his experience with Wexford this summer.
“Being involved for the last few years with Davy [Fitzgerald) and with last year’s championship structure in particular, being familiar with what’s involved, we’ve planned accordingly,” said Fanning, who’s happy with where the side are at.
“We have a good few out injured at present, but overall we’re happy with where we are conditioning-wise, training-wise, it’s all worked pretty well.”
As for tricks, are there any planned for today?
“People will just have to turn up and see,” said Fanning, laughing. “We always have something, but we wouldn’t be alone in that. All teams would have particular things they could try, and it just so happened that last weekend something we tried happened to work out well, and we had a bit of fun with it.”