You can try all the favourites talk you want, Dan Shanahan isn’t buying. The big man from Lismore has been down the road too many times to give in that easily.
True, most people are picking Waterford for a place in the All-Ireland semi-final draw, to be made on Monday morning.
Tomorrow, however, Déise selector Shanahan will don the maor foirne bib in Páirc Uí Chaoimh when Waterford take on Wexford in the All-Ireland quarter-final. Having beaten Kilkenny for the first time in over half a century and reached the All-Ireland semi-finals last year, most observers expect...
“Hold on a second,” says Shahanan when you try that tack. “Go back a couple of weeks. We drew with Kilkenny in normal time and we needed extra time to get out of Thurles.
“Think about the Wexford-Kilkenny game, then. Wexford gave away a penalty in the first minute but they still won that match, and probably should have won it by more than they actually did. They stuck to their game plan and drove it on.”
True enough. Wexford’s passionate followers have been a highlight of the GAA summer, and plenty of them are expected to make the trip tomorrow — alongside their neighbours.
“Those road works in Killeagh, we all have to go through there,” says Shanahan. “Seriously, though, I think the way Cork have come back to form has kind of overshadowed Wexford a little bit, and particularly their supporters. They’re fantastic.
“I’d say the Leinster Council were over the moon the way so many people from Wexford went up to the Leinster final and made such an occasion out of it.
“I know it’s not ideal for people from both Wexford and Waterford, all having to take the same road to Cork this Sunday, but I don’t think it’ll put people off at all. If anything I’d expect the place to be jammed.”
Describing the new stadium as “awesome”, Shanahan says Waterford can’t wait to play there. “We went up for a look last week and it was fantastic, I have to say that. There’s huge credit due to everyone in Cork for producing such a magnificent stadium.
“I loved playing there myself — not the dressing-rooms, as such, they were a bit tight to say the least — but there was always a fantastic atmosphere if you had a good crowd in the stadium.
“It felt like a bowl, the way the noise would roll in over you. Even running out through the tunnel, out through the supporters, that was special. Though I’m glad we won’t be doing that this weekend.”
Waterford were planning a frontal assault on the championship until they came up against Cork in the Munster semi-final.
“In fairness, and it’s not being wise after the event, we knew how good Cork were.
“They beat us in the league down in Waterford, and after the game Derek (McGrath, Waterford manager) said that he felt Cork’s forwards were as good as any team out there. At the time people might have thought we were making excuses because of a loss, but they’re not thinking like that now. Whoever comes up against Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final will have it all to do.”
Waterford would like to be involved in that last four themselves, but there’s the minor matter of Wexford first.
“We haven’t given the semi-finals a thought, and that’s being honest. I know you’d nearly expect every manager or selector to say so at this point, but it’s true.
“We have no right to be saying ‘ah we’ll beat Wexford, who will we get in the semi-finals’. The record doesn’t bear that out at all.
“Go back to 2008 and we barely beat them up in Thurles, the year we got to the All-Ireland final. Back in 2003 we had Munster medals and had just lost a Munster final to Cork — and they beat us in Nowlan Park in the qualifiers, they won by four or five points that night.
“Those are the types of games that we’ve borne in mind this week.”
Shanahan isn’t hung up on Wexford’s defeat in the Leinster final either: “Galway were too strong for Wexford that day, but that’s been a common occurrence this year.
“There were nine points between the teams in the Leinster final, but look at the league final, when Galway beat Tipperary by 16 points.
“That’s the kind of quality that Galway are producing on a regular basis, yet Wexford were able to stay in touch for most of that game. You’d always expect a Wexford team to play with great heart, but Davy (Fitzgerald) has them playing to his system and doing very well. In Lee Chin you have a player who’s probably on most people’s shortlist for player of the year, while Conor McDonald has been a class forward for years now. They back each other up all over the field and Shaun Murphy is settling into the sweeper role very well.
“We’ll be up against it tomorrow, certainly, we know that.”
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