Thrill of Munster final victory hard to beat for Prendergast

THIS was the company he kept.

Thrill of Munster final victory hard to beat for Prendergast

Ask Seamus Prendergast for a highlight, and the closing stages of a Munster final bobs into view.

“Eoin Murphy won the ball, and he got it to Declan (Prendergast, Seamus’s brother). He played it up the line to me, and I got it over the bar.”

That was the score which won the 2004 provincial decider, one of the immortal matches. Prendergast retired from intercounty action recently, but for over a decade he soldiered with and against the best of them.

Top opponents? Ronan Curran figured largely. Best player? Ken McGrath ranked highest. Those were the household names Prendergast played with and against.

“If you told me back in 2002, when I joined the panel, that I’d win four Munster senior medals, I’d have bitten your hand off. It was fantastic,” says the Norbrook Laboratories employee.

“That day in 2002 in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, for instance, when we hadn’t won the title in so long, to be walking around the pitch afterwards .. . I remember looking up into the terrace and there were people I knew from Ardmore crying. That was something to experience.”

It’s hardly a surprise that Ardmore looms so large in his memories: he, Declan and Clinton Hennessy often played on the same Waterford championship team. To outnumber the representation from the traditional powers like Mount Sion and Ballygunner was the kind of dream that would have been unheard of a few years before.

“It was great for the club, it was great for us,” he says. “Especially with the rivalry with Cork. There’re so many connections across the border, with cousins in Youghal and all of that, that there was a great edge to those games. There was a fair edge to the training, too. I often marked Declan in challenge games.”

How did those go? “Look, just put down it was honours even.”

He’ll have enough to do now with Ardmore. His wife Aisling is glad he’s retiring on his own terms rather than being forced out by something that might need serious surgery in a few years. “I was lucky. I didn’t pick up anything too serious playing, and I’m not packing in now because of my back or knees or anything like that. I knew in January this would be the last year for me, I just didn’t want to say anything until the season was well over.”

He feels there’s plenty of quality on the panel he’s leaving, though he warns the Deise faithful to give them time.

“As far as I can see the panel is young, and it takes a couple of years for lads in their late teens or twenty to get built up to the size they need for senior intercounty.

“When I came onto the Waterford team I was fairly big already, I was 22, but some of the players coming in now aren’t that big and will take a bit of time to get stronger.

“It’s not the same as playing minor or U21 at all, and what I remember is when I came onto the Waterford panel there were a lot of big men on the team as well, fellas didn’t need to be minded.. People will need to give them a bit of time to become a team of their own and to work on a style of their own, one that’ll suit them.”

The regrets aren’t plentiful, he says. Getting to run out on All-Ireland final day wasn’t the thrill it might have been, given the way Kilkenny swept them aside that afternoon in 2008.

Not having a Celtic cross is a disappointment after 12 years in a county jersey, but there are plenty of compensations, he says.

There’s the company he kept.

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