The retirements of Seamus Prendergast and Shane Walsh this week, Liam Lawlor’s omission from the 2015 panel and the elevation of six members of the 2013 All-Ireland minor winning squad suggests Waterford hurling is moving into a period of transition, the focus solely on nurturing the underage talent of recent years.
Shane Bennett, DJ Foran, Mark O’Brien, Tom Devine, Michael Kearney and Cormac Curran are to be part of the 2015 set-up, joining former minor colleagues Austin Gleeson, Stephen Bennett and Patrick Curran who were drafted in this year.
“There is no doubt about it that Waterford are going through a period of transition. If you go back to the team of 2007, 2008, that team is effectively gone. Most of the personnel who take to the field next year will be doing so for the first time,” said 2002 Munster winning captain Hartley. “Certainly from the heights of 2002 to 2010 when Waterford were at their peak, things have changed dramatically. The Waterford team is much younger now but it does seem to be a younger mans game. One time the leaning used to be on experience, it is now on youth.”
Hartley says expectation must be lowered among Waterford’s hurling following.
“Patience needs to abound to allow Derek build a team. That is the reality on the ground. I think the right man is in charge. He has a great track record in getting the best out of young players. He needs time. I think the expectation amongst the Waterford hurling public is not as high as it would have been in the past. There is an appreciation and understanding that this is a young team, lads need time to come through.
“Waterford need to be targeting a place in the Munster final and a place in the All-Ireland quarter-final. Is the expectation in the county that we are going to win an All-Ireland? No it is not. I think you still have to set goals and try and reach them. We have be somewhat ambitious. We can’t just take it as a period where we are going to be threading water. We have got to try and advance in any way we can.”
Added John Galvin: “I don’t think there should be any pressure put on the lads. If you don’t give the lads time, if supporters start coming down on their backs, you could be worse off than where you started from. The players need time and the new management time to get settled in and begin building a new team. There is no written law that you are going to bring All-Ireland-winning minors and turn them into consistent senior performers overnight. There has to be a honeymoon period, a valley period, a fallow period where this team is afforded time to come on and mature. They have to be given time to show what they are capable off at senior level.
“The younger lads needed to be blooded during the league next year, get them into the frame of mind of an inter-county senior hurler. There was rumour of Liam Lawlor being dropped but I believe the door will always remain open. In three or four months time, lads that were not initially included could be back in the fold.”
Coach Frank Flannery this week revealed he would not be part of Derek McGrath’s backroom team next year, with physical trainer Keith Hennessey also cutting ties with the Déise. Added to Willie Maher’s departure last week, the Waterford backroom team is also set to be overhauled entering the new season.
Fintan O’Connor has been mooted as a possible replacement for Flannery.
“Certainly, the general expectation was that Frank would remain on,” said Hartley.
Continued Galvin: “It is crucial he gets somebody on board straightaway because the coach has a big role to play. The sooner he gets his backroom team in place and gets back to work the better. To blood a team during the league and to get a team ready for next year’s championship, they need to get cracking straightaway.”