Waterford banking on debutants against Clare

Waterford had four championship debutants against Clare last year in the first round of the Munster championship. This Sunday against the same opposition, they unveil three more in Paudie Prendergast, Jamie Barron and Jake Dillon.

Waterford banking on debutants against Clare

In fact, manager Michael Ryan and his selectors have made ten changes in all from this game last year, most of those enforced, leaving veteran centre-forward Seamus Prendergast surrounded by youngsters.

On his right, Maurice Shanahan, younger brother of former hurler of the year, Dan, on his left another youngster in Brian O’Halloran, and the full-forward line is a trio of tyros, Jamie Barron, Pauric Mahony and Jake Dillon.

“Yeah, a lot of new faces around but any of those who have come in have already done well at colleges or minor level so there’s great experience coming through, good hurlers.”

Many of those good young players are coming through from West Waterford, formerly the football stronghold. It’s a trend that could have been started by Seamus himself who, along with his brother Declan, helped grow the small-ball game in Ardmore, winning the Waterford IHC title in 2002. Just a few weeks ago Dungarvan Colleges (a combination of CBS and the Abbey) won the All-Ireland colleges A title and the CBS followed it up by winning the All-Ireland B title.

“When I was younger, Dungarvan was only an intermediate club, now they’re a force at senior, Abbeyside too. A lot of strong senior sides now in west Waterford and that’s a positive. The more the merrier. A lot of good young lads coming through because of that.”

Would he perhaps like to hang around for a few more years, play with Patrick Curran and Stephen Bennett from that side?

“I’m not even thinking about that, I’m just concentrating on Sunday and Clare,” he grins, “At my age now every game is a bonus. But these are all good players, very committed, their skill levels are huge. And they’re big lads also, which helps. You look at the fellas coming through for Tipperary, Galway and Kilkenny. Size is a major factor. Even at only 17 or 18 they’re already established adult hurlers.”

All of which leaves Seamus a little bemused as to why Waterford are practically ignored. Only one national newspaper bothered to cover their media evening on Tuesday.

“Yes, that’s hard to understand but over the last few years we’ve become used to that in Waterford, underdogs every time we go out now. It doesn’t do us any harm but it is disappointing to see people are not giving us the credit we deserve.

“Different parts of the media don’t seem to know we even exist but look, that’s their opinion, we just have to get on with our own business.”

That business? Clare, Semple Stadium, Sunday at 4pm.

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