Only Liam Lawlor, Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh, Kevin Moran, and forwards Maurice Shanahan and Seamus Prendergast retain their places, the side otherwise hit by retirement (John Mullane), work and travel commitments (Stephen Molumphy and Pauric Mahony) and a plethora of injuries.
“Stephen Daniels is out for six months, broke his kneecap in a challenge match, has had the operation,” selector Sean Cullinane explained after last night’s training-session, held in an almost continuous downpour.
“Shane Walsh and Shane Fives both have hamstring injuries so they’re out as well. Brian O’Halloran has a slight ankle injury, suffered a knock against Limerick in a recent challenge game but he should be alright, went through his paces tonight.”
It will give further ammunition to those who see Waterford as mere cannon fodder in Munster (“I had to check with Croke Park today to see if we were actually still in the championship!” Michael Ryan’s tongue-in-cheek comment last night) but, says Sean, that’s not how it’s seen in Waterford itself.
“Lads have been really up for it, they know what’s ahead of them on Sunday, going to be a tough game. There was nothing between us and Clare in the championship last year, only a point in it, same again in the league this year, so we know they’re every bit as good as us, they know we’re every bit as good as them — it could come down to a break of a ball.”
The fact is though, Waterford actually won both those games and they have every intention and every belief that they will do so again this Sunday.
Cullinane said: “This week is all about sharpness, getting their eye in, everything done at speed to make sure they’re up to championship pace. We’ll have just one more session, on Thursday, sharpness again, then that’s it, focus on the game.
“It was a long break from the end of the league, we were glad we weren’t in a relegation battle but it would have been nice to have made the semi-final, got another two weeks out of it. Having said that, the lads were able to go back to their clubs, play a couple of serious games there, so we’ve used the time well. We’ve played a few challenge games also, beat Limerick last weekend by a couple of points in a very open game, lost to Tipperary the week before in another open game, again by only a couple of points, so we’re going well enough.”
Waterford are underdogs on Sunday, but that doesn’t worry Michael Ryan. Indeed he is dwelling on the positives.
“I’m delighted by it, just delighted,” he said.
“The more people write us off the better. It only grates if you let it grate. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but that won’t have any bearing on the game. It’s all about performance. Once you cross the white line all our focus will be to get the best we can from our players on that particular day.”
WATERFORD (SH V CLARE): I O’Regan; D Fives, L Lawlor, N Connors; J Nagle, M Walsh, P Prendergast; S O’Sullivan, K Moran (c); M Shanahan, S Prendergast, B O’Halloran; J Barron, P Mahony, J Dillon.