He told his friends, his former team-mates, to never give up, to never stop fighting irrespective of what is thrown at you both in sport and in life.
Jamie Wall inspired this near-flawless Mary I victory over holders WIT, manager Eamonn Cregan was in no doubt about that.
The Kilbrittain dual player and Mary I student contracted a spinal virus in June of last year which left him without power in his legs. Wall served at wing-back on the Mary I team to reach a first Fitzgibbon Cup final in 2013 and was invited by Cregan to address the team before the throw-in.
“The first-half showing, where we effectively won this game, was down to Jamie Wall,” said Cregan.
“The general theme of his words were that you never give up. He is an example of that because he refuses to give up, he is fighting, fighting, fighting to get back to where he was before he got this virus. We were delighted he came in, he inspired the lads and you could see that in the first-half.”
The home outfit, firm underdogs, tore into the visitors akin to a marauding pack of wolfs. Their all-Tipperary half-back line of Richie English, the impressive John Meagher and Tom Stapleton set the tone from the outset, completely nullifying the impact of WIT target-man Pauric Mahony. And with Austin Gleeson and Harry Kehoe absent through injury, Colm Bonnar’s side were limited in attacking options – captain and Waterford hurler Jake Dillon was rendered scoreless over the hour.
Cregan’s troops were already well on the road to securing their first win of the competition by the end of the first quarter, leading 1-7 to 0-1. Darragh Corry, set-up by a superb Niall O’Meara catch, blasted beyond WIT ’keeper Richie Walsh for the opening goal on 12 minutes.
The score was a direct response to Pauric Mahony’s opening point for WIT and by the time Mahony fired his second on 24 minutes, the gap had stretched to 11-points.
Mary I’s starting front six etched their names onto the scoresheet during a superb first-half showing, Limerick’s David Reidy top-scoring with five-points. The movement and precision of Declan Hannon, Niall O’Meara and Darragh O’Donovan tormented the WIT defence, with Seamus Kennedy similarly troublesome around the middle – the Tipperary hurler notching three points in total.
WIT, trailing 1-12 to 0-4 at the interval, desperately required a positive opening to the second period. No foothold were they allowed establish, however. Mary I refused to give an inch, pulling further clear through Kennedy, Hannon and O’Donovan.
Mahony, Gavin O’Brien and Liam McGrath hit consolation efforts for WIT and the spectators headed for home when Darragh O’Donovan goaled on 50 minutes.
Mary I return inside the whitewash tomorrow where victory over Maynooth will guarantee their involvement in the knockout stages.
Scorers for Mary I: D Reidy (0-8, 0-5 frees, 0-2 ‘65’s); D O’Donovan (1-2); S Kennedy (0-3); D Corry (1-1); D Hannon (0-2); N O’Meara, S Cahill, T Gallagher (0-1 each).
Scorers for Waterford IT: P Mahony (0-7, 0-5 frees); G O’Brien, M O’Neill (0-1 free), L McGrath (0-1 each).
MARY I: M Brown; L Corry, C Barry, A Ryan; R English, J Meagher, T Stapleton; S Kennedy, R Maher; D Reidy, D Hannon, D O’Donovan; N O’Meara, D Corry, S Cahill.
Subs: T Gallagher for Cahill (44 mins), S Linnane for Kennedy (52), C Fennessy for L Corry (53), J Hannon for O’Meara (55).
WATERFORD IT: R Walsh; B Whelan, G Teehan, J Maher; T Hamill, J O’Dwyer, E McGrath; J Langton, S Roche; M O’Neill, P Mahony, G O’Brien; L McGrath, J Hayes, J Dillon.
Subs: S O’Neill for Whelan (36 mins), E Ryan for Hayes (40), C O’Brien for Roche (44), D Murphy for E O’Brien (55).
Referee: C McAllister (Cork).