“A desperate shock,” says Waterford senior selector Dan Shanahan. “I played against Paul at club level and he handled games I would have played in. A very nice chap, we all had great time for him, we’re all just praying for his family at the moment.”
The news has overshadowed the upcoming Waterford SHC semi-finals, with the Ballygunner-Fourmilewater game postponed - it will now be played on Sunday week, October 11, in Fraher Field, Dungarvan at 5pm.
“Paul would have been related to a few of the players,” says Shanahan. “They’re a very close-knit community down in Ballygunner, so I’m not surprised the game is off.”
The other semi-final, Tallow-Ballyduff Upper, throws in at 2pm in Fraher Field tomorrow. Outsiders may be surprised by the absence of the likes of Mount Sion, but Shanahan isn’t.
“Coming where I come from, the west of the county, we’ve seen the strides these teams have taken.
“Tallow in particular are doing huge work and I’ve enjoyed watching them play this season. They have six very good backs for this level, and they’ll take some beating.
“In the other corner Ballyduff have shown huge heart - they lost the first three games in the group stages and people were writing them off, but they knuckled down. They had to win the last two group games, and they did - one of those was against De La Salle, a team many people tipped to win the championship, but it shows what Ballyduff can do when they’re up against it.
“They surprised a lot of people by making it to the semi-final - I don’t think anyone expected Tallow to beat Dungarvan, or for Ballyduff to beat Passage.
Shanahan was in his home ground of Lismore when Tallow and Ballyduff clashed there earlier in the championship.
“Tallow won that day but it was very tight, and this weekend is no different. It’s a very hard game to call.”
Wearing his Waterford selector’s hat, it’s encouraging for Shanahan to see the spread of teams involved.
“Most people would have expected Dungarvan, Mount Sion, Ballygunner and Passage to come through in the top four, and you’ve had people ask questions as to why they didn’t.
“But I think the four teams that are left now have come through on merit. They also all came through the same group, which is very strange, so they know each other well, but as a selector it’s great to see teams which weren’t tipped coming through, because it’s good for the game in Waterford generally to have new teams in a county final and also because it helps us cast the net a bit wider.”
His own club lost to De La Salle in last weekend’s relegation play-off: “It was a huge disappointment. In a few of our games we were unlucky not to get something out of them - we were unlucky we didn’t win against Roanmore, we were cruising against Cappoquin, and I thought we’d get something out of the Mount Sion game too.
“I wouldn’t think we were the worst team but we just didn’t perform when it was needed. It’s hard to get back up from intermediate - the hurling is tougher, more physical - and we’ve lost a lot of lads to emigration. “We were 46 years playing senior hurling, so it’s disappointing, but what can you do? Get back on the horse and plan for next year.”
On a happier note, Shanahan was delighted with Waterford’s 11 All-Star nominations. “It’s great to see that number of nominations, it’s a vote of confidence in the year we had and it’ll be great for the players as well, for their confidence. That all helps, to have the younger lads in particular head up to the event, to meet the players from other counties, in football and hurling, and to know they’re in that league. It’s a good sign for the future for us.”