Waterford U-21 boss may quit over footballers’ treatment

THE man who guided Waterford to an historic first Munster U-21 FC title last year has threatened to quit in a row over the treatment of football in the county.

Manager Pat Nugent is angered that the West Divisional Board refused his request to postpone their U21 decider last Saturday and by the subsequent late withdrawal of county hurler Michael Walsh from the panel, which he claims was on the “recommendation” of the senior management team.

Nugent has vowed to resign if his side loses to Kerry in tonight’s provincial semi-final in Killarney.

“It is an appalling way to treat players and mentors who are trying to defend a Munster title won by Waterford for the first and only time last year,” Nugent said, adding a similar request from the county hurling management would have been readily acceded to.

Nugent’s postponement request came as many players involved in the Ballinacourty/Nire club final last Saturday ran the risk of incurring injury and missing tonight’s game.

His worst fears were realised when the Nire’s Shane Walsh, who scored the winning goal in last year’s final, sustained a hamstring injury which rules him out of tonight’s game.

Michael Walsh, who won a Munster SHC medal last month, announced his withdrawal on Monday night.

Walsh is recovering from an injury he picked up in the U21 hurling championship against Cork two weeks ago, but Nugent is adamant the player withdrew on the “recommendation” of the senior selectors.

“We have been training since last January and this is the way we have been treated,” Nugent said.

“Playing Kerry in a Munster semi-final in Killarney is difficult at any time, but playing them without our two best players makes the task a monumental one.”

Nugent, who was widely tipped to succeed Billy Harty as the Waterford senior football manager next year, said he has “all but had enough”, and has pledged to walk away tonight if they surrender their U21 title in Killarney.

“My fellow selectors, Ardmore’s Johnny Hennessy and Butlerstown’s Michael Monaghan, will be doing the same,” Nugent added.

“We are sickened at the way things have been allowed to develop.”

However, West Board secretary Anthony Walsh rejected suggestions that the county hurling teams would be given preferential treatment over their football counterparts.

“We played several U21 hurling club games on the weekend before Waterford played Cork in the Munster championship and there was no problem with that for the selectors,” Walsh said.

“We have an obligation to our clubs to complete our championships within a reasonable time frame and we were not in breach of any of our bye-laws in playing the U21 football final last Saturday,” he said.

“Of course it’s unfortunate that a key county player was injured in the game but that doesn’t give anyone grounds for lambasting the officials.”

Meanwhile, a county board official has reiterated the official line that Michael Walsh is recovering from injury.

The official said that on the team’s recent trip north to play Antrim, Walsh took no part in the game.

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