Waterford hurling manager Páraic Fanning said yesterday he would have been “very disappointed, gutted really” if his side had been denied the opportunity to play their homes games in the Munster SHC in Walsh Park.
Asked if playing their ‘home’ games in a neutral venue was off the table as an option, Fanning said: “Yes, for me. I won’t say it was a gimme because there were processes to go through, but I’d have been very disappointed, gutted really, in the GAA if the games weren’t going to be in Walsh Park.
“I’m delighted they are (in Walsh Park). It’s going to be very difficult for our supporters but looking back at last year, to give it a broader context, it’s only right.
“I have to look at it from a players’ point of view, to be selfish, in the sense that the lads have a short career in which to win something — and we have to make sure we have the same chance as everybody else.
“Looking at an inter-county career, it can be only three or four years long, but in that period of time, you have to get the best out of yourself.
“Our lads are very ambitious and we now have the same chance as everybody else with the home games.”
Kildare forced the GAA to play a football championship game in Newbridge last year after a stand-off, but Fanning wasn’t sure he’d have engaged in a similar campaign last year with Waterford.
“Speaking for myself, I would have wanted the games in Walsh Park, but there were reasons around that, too, to be fair... there were decisions made and people have changed their views on it.
“I’m a funny guy, I probably would have been a little more pushy, but I wasn’t involved last year. And then you see places like Thurles, a venue we’re used to playing in. You can see the logic.
“You can see the logic now, with people looking for tickets, it’s a decision you make early in the year. But after last year — and it’s nothing to do with Kildare, it’s just my own view — it’s about the structures of the championship, and fairness.
“And the fairness is that every team is entitled to two home games and two away games. We have two home games and that’s the fairness.”
Fanning said Waterford have moved on from their league final defeat to Limerick last month, dismissing any suggestion that a run of final defeats would affect the team’s confidence.
“No, not at all. People put out figures on the number of finals — we weren’t in a final since 1959.
“We can have no impact on previous finals as a management team, some of the players were involved in those but no, I don’t think there will be any mental scarring or residue from that. At the end of the day we looked in its entirety, we had a really good league.
“We are looking forward to the championship, I’d love to get to another final and see then can we get over the line, but that’s a long way off. So no, it’s not going to have any impact.”
Fanning paid tribute to Limerick’s class: “They are a very cohesive unit, their workrate is fantastic and they are really slick at what they do at the moment.
“People talk about the gap, I think that comes around after the league — in previous years after the league people would have said the same about Tipperary, said the same about Galway, people are saying the same about Limerick now.
“I’ve looked at the league final — with a few minutes to go, even though we hadn’t played well, Patrick Curran had a chance to put four points in it. I’m delighted he tried to break the line for the goal. At that stage, that’s what we needed. Obviously we got stopped and that was it.
“So without playing well we were still in that game, even though we weren’t happy with the performance. No, I don’t think there is as big a gap as people think and I certainly wouldn’t be one for heading into the championship thinking we have a big gap to close.
“I think we are there or thereabouts. Everybody knows the teams who are in contention for the All-Ireland. I’d like to think we are one of them.”
The Mount Sion clubman, operations manager at the WIT Arena, said he hoped to pick from a full panel come the summer: “Touch wood, we have another round of club games this weekend and everybody comes through.
“We had a lot of players out during the league and coming to the league final, we were very close to having them all back and that’s nearly the case now. So based on where we are at now, I think we are very close to having a full deck going into the championship.
“There will be one or two lads who will be touch and go for the first game, they’ll definitely be okay for the latter games.”