Happy return to lovely Leitrim for Déise chief Owens

WATERFORD boss John Owens returned to his Leitrim roots to achieve success in Sunday’s NFL Division 4 opener but insisted that the impact of that win will be negated if the Déise fail to beat London next weekend.

Waterford got their season off to a terrific start with a 0-13 to 0-10 victory against Mickey Moran’s Leitrim in Ballinamore on Sunday. The match marked Owen’s league debut in charge of Waterford and the trip evoked pleasant memories for him as he previously lived in and played for Leitrim.

“Personally it was very nice to be going back to Leitrim in my first league game with Waterford. It was a long trip for us, 175 miles for some of our players, but it was beneficial as we got to stay overnight and bond as a squad. We used the facilities of my old club Allen Gaels in Drumshanbo on Saturday evening for a kick around and that helped. They’re a lovely bunch of people up there and they couldn’t do enough for us. I lived there for four years, playing minor for the county and I played senior for Leitrim in 1991 before moving to Tipperary.

“So it was nice when I went back there, that we got two points in the bag. Unfortunately we missed a penalty and at that stage I would have taken a draw. But we’ve a determined and committed bunch, and they worked hard to achieve the win. But a loss against London would negate any progress that we made by beating Leitrim. They have a couple of very good players from Leitrim and Aidan Fitzgerald, who I’d know well from Fethard in Tipperary, is a big recent addition to them.”

Owens also revealed his misgivings about the alterations to the handpass rule and believes that it is impossible for refs to officiate on this.

“God help any referee trying to rule on the hand pass. What I saw on Sunday was the referee couldn’t see half the time whether the ball was being hand-passed properly because of bodies in the way. That’s not his fault. What was happening was players on both teams were instinctively passing away as normal. That frustrated the crowd, both benches and players. Hopefully it won’t be kept.”

Owens welcomed leading attacker Liam O’Lionáin back to the Waterford ranks on Sunday after a spell sidelined with a leg injury. The An Rinn player was introduced at half-time, but is still short of full fitness and his recovery will continue to be monitored. Half-back Paul Ogle is a doubt for next weekend with a hamstring injury, Niall Hennessy continues to be troubled by a dead leg while Kevin Power is struggling with a hamstring problem.

CIT Sigerson Cup winner Sean O’Hare will be marked absent again as he is focusing on football involvement at third-level ahead of the Cork side’s quarter-final against DCU next week.

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