Cunningham slams scheduling of Déise semi-finals

WATERFORD county board chairman Tom Cunningham has expressed “disbelief” at the GAA’s decision to fix the county’s senior and minor hurling championship semi-finals on separate Sundays at Croke Park.

The Déise’s seniors face Kilkenny in the senior semi-final on August 7, with the minors asked to play against Dublin a week later, as a curtain-raiser to the other senior semi-final between Tipperary and Dublin.

The suspicion in Waterford hurling circles is that GAA chiefs want to get Dublin fans “in early” ahead of the senior semi-final and have therefore scheduled the capital’s minors to play their semi-final at 1.30pm on August 14. But Waterford insist this move is unfair as their supporters will have to endure two round trips on both Sundays if they wish to see both teams.

Instead, the Clare-Galway minor semi-final will act as the curtain-raiser to the Waterford-Kilkenny senior clash on August 7 and Cunningham has hit out at Croke Park fixtures-makers.

He said: “Waterford supporters are very angry but there’s nothing we can do. We had a request in to facilitate our seniors and minors on the same day.

“My initial reaction is disbelief. Waterford supporters have to travel 150 miles each way to Croke Park and in the current financial climate, it’s not fair on our supporters to ask them to go to Dublin two weekends in a row.”

Cunningham believes that Waterford’s minors will be the big losers in terms of support, as he had anticipated the prospect of 15,000 fans travelling from the county had both teams been in action on the same day.

He admitted: “I don’t know how many will go up on the second day – the minors will be the big sufferers.”

Cunningham, meanwhile, has slammed mindless ‘supporters’ who bombarded manager Davy Fitzgerald with “mysterious” phone calls and text messages following the 21-point defeat against Tipperary in the Munster final.

Cunningham insisted that he’s standing firmly behind his manager and publicly backed the former Clare goalkeeper after the Páirc Uí Chaoimh collapse.

Cunningham revealed that he had seen some of the text messages on Fitzgerald’s phone and said: “Even to condone them would be an understatement. They wouldn’t be good Waterford GAA fans anyway. I back Davy Fitzgerald and his backroom team. And the players were 100% behind him.”

Meanwhile, Waterford expect veteran defender Tony Browne and centre back Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh to be fit for the semi-final against Kilkenny. Both players picked up hamstring injuries against Galway on Sunday, while Browne also took a blow to the ribs.

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