The opening round of group games in the Waterford SHC dominate the GAA scene in the Déise this weekend, with four of the six scheduled ties set to go ahead in doubleheader programmes at Dungarvan’s Fraher Field.
Pride of place undoubtedly goes to this evening’s (7.30pm) eagerly awaited clash of defending champions Ballygunner and an Abbeyside opposition that, incredibly, is still waiting for the big championship breakthrough in this grade.
The challengers have been hit with Gary Hurney’s withdrawal through injury after he sustained a fractured jaw in a football club game last weekend. There is also a question mark about the availability of current county player Richie Foley because of a long-term injury problem.
The Gunners are powered by county stars Paraic and Philip Mahony, goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe, Shane, Brian and David O’Sullivan but while they will carry the mantle of favourites into the game they can brace themselves for a mighty challenge.
This evening’s opening game at the venue (6pm) pits former champions Roanmore against a Fourmilewater side rated potential dark horses in the title race.
In Shane Walsh, Liam Lawlor and the O’Gorman twins, Maurice and Thomas, they have a quartet of exceptionally talented players and while Roanmore can look to the inspiring leadership of rising county star Gavin O’Brien, any result other than a Fourmile victory will be a surprise.
Tomorrow evening’s double header at the same venue is an equally mouthwatering one, with the local derby showdown between Dungarvan and Lismore (5.30pm) looking like a cracker.
As always Lismore will look to the Shanahan brothers Dan and Maurice to lead their charge, but a youthful Dungarvan side that includes Jamie Nagle, Gavin Crotty, Shane Kearney, Cormac Curran, and Kenny Moore could well spring a surprise.
In the second game (7.30pm) Tallow, with Aidan Kearney, Paul O’Brien and James Murray to the fore, will be favoured to master last year’s intermediate champions Dunhill for whom senior panellists Shane Casey and Eamon Murphy will be key figures.
All the indicators point to a winning start by Tallow whose last title at this level was more than 25 years ago.
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