Tom Devine was hardly expecting his first Páirc Uí Chaoimh performance to be like this.
It was a sold-out crowd, sure, but it was a different experience speaking to the 400 people in the conference centre at a Cork Science Festival event than his teammates had on the opening weekend last July.
Devine was travelling in the US for that quarter-final against Wexford, as he was all summer while Waterford marched to an All-Ireland final.
But ask him did he regret his decision for even one moment as he sat in the Croke Park crowd on the first Sunday in September, and his answer is emphatic.
“No, there wasn’t (any pang of regret) at all,” said Devine.
“I had a good feeling that we were going to win and I wrote it off in my head before going: ‘Look, feck it, I’m going to have my summer. It’ll be my last chance to do this. If they win, they win, and I won’t be one bit sorry about it.’ And I wasn’t.
“I came home just for the All-Ireland. Derek McGrath was sound enough to send on tickets for it and my heart was in my mouth — I thought I was going to get a heart attack the whole way through. I was fierce disappointed — not as much as the lads, obviously — but what can you do?”
This summer marked Devine’s second stint wearing a Tipperary jersey, lining out for Tipperary San Francisco three years after playing for Tipperary Boston.
McGrath had tried to talk him out of it, of course, after a league in which Devine blasted 3-2 in his final two games before opting out.
However, Waterford fans will be relieved to hear he’s committed fully to the Déise for 2018.
“Last spring, I just said (to McGrath) it was going to be my last college summer, I’d have full-time work after that and it’d be my last chance to have a summer to travel. He tried to talk me out of it but I had my mind set on going because I wouldn’t get the chance again.
“I met him then a few weeks ago and just said, ‘Look, I’ll fully commit to next year’.
“He welcomed me back with open arms. It was very kind of him like that.
“He understands what it’s like for college students, that you need to have a life as well, apart from training.
“We’re definitely lucky with him that he does look at you as young men developing, apart from being athletes.
“I was delighted (he agreed to stay in charge). I’m sure all the players will agree he’s absolutely inspirational. The things that man does for Waterford… It’s incomparable the level of time he puts in. We’re all glad to have him on board for another year.”
Devine, a fourth-year medicine student in UCC, contributed to a panel discussion on ‘Sport, Nutrition, and the Microbiome’ last Monday, organised by the APC Microbiome Institute.
McGrath has pointed out how few medical students have achieved the right balance while playing: “Jack McCaffrey, Conor McDonald with the Tipp footballers, and Brendan Murphy of Offaly — you can’t name too many who get the balance right”.
Devine admits that mixing his hurling and college work will be difficult, but he’s making tough decisions to find that magic formula.
“This year, it’s definitely going to be a big challenge. There’s a good crowd of Waterford lads in Cork that are travelling up and down from Cork IT and UCC for training and I said, ‘Look lads, I’m going to put headphones in and study and be a bit unsociable that way.’
“There’s a few hours being lost twice a week travelling up and down. I could get five or six hours’ study done as opposed to just chatting in the car, so that’s what I’m doing this year.”
Devine won’t be coming into the pre-season out of shape either. He ran the Dublin Marathon with his brother three weeks ago (that’s Ireland’s Fittest Family champions for you) and will be ready for the earlier start to 2018.
“Everything is a bit earlier this year. The pressure will be on straight away come the new year, full on, so this time of year we’re just in the gym training and trying to get as strong as we can for the next few months. Working hard.”
Tipperary have decided not to participate in this season’s Munster Hurling League, Tipp FM have reported.
Michael Ryan’s side had been earmarked to take part in the pre-season competition having not participated in recent seasons.
But it has been reported they will withdraw believing the games would cause a fixture pile-up ahead of the earlier National League start.
Waterford have already withdrawn from the Munster League as they will be away on a team holiday.
Munster GAA officials will meet at the end of the month to decide on a format for the competition.
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