Waterford will revel in the underdog tag, warns Deegan

Ten is a big number, but 11 is a bigger one, emphasises Clare selector Mike Deegan about the Waterford team named to face them on Sunday.

Much has been made of the 10 changes to the Déise team from the side which won last year’s Munster semi-final between the counties.

Read a little closer, asks Deegan. There are only three debutants in their team while 11 of them have sampled the white-hot championship heat.

In his opinion, even without John Mullane and Stephen Molumphy, it is an all-round better Waterford team than the one that beat Clare in 2012. “There’s all this talk of 10 changes to the team from last year when realistically there are only three new faces in their team.

“Nine of them have won Munster championships, 11 have championship experience and 13 were with Waterford under Davy [Fitzgerald] so you can’t say it’s a weak team.

“I wouldn’t be believing everything I read about this Waterford team. They’re a seriously strong team and physical too.

“We’ve our work cut out for us, they’re stronger than last year and who’s to say it will be the team that starts? We won’t know until four o’clock on Sunday.”

Earlier this week, Michael Ryan spoke of how Waterford don’t mind being written off, with Clare seen as favourites coming into the Thurles clash.

Deegan feels no team thrives on being tagged as underdogs more than Waterford.

“I’m afraid that applies to them and I don’t understand why the talk is about us because they have one of the best half-back lines in the country and they’ve built around it,” he said.

“Noel Connors and Liam Lawlor behind them are solid and I saw Jamie Barron, the corner-forward, in a game recently and he was flying.

“The favourites’ tag is not something we can control and there’s no better incentive for a team than the other one being talked up. The top few teams can turn it on every day regardless of whether they’re fancied, but we have to get the run of the ball and making us favourites puts pressure on developing sides like us.”

Waterford have beaten Clare in the last two league and championship meetings, while Clare haven’t won a Munster SHC game since 2008.

At the same time, Deegan is not reading much into those results.

“We can’t be too worried about the opposition either and how they’ve been going against us. They are a serious outfit, they don’t get the respect they deserve, but we have to focus on ourselves.”

Deegan is anticipating a decent-sized support will travel from Clare.

“Even if people who don’t agree with the way we play, they’ll still come out and support Clare.

“We’d be hoping for a big crowd because we got them for our league matches especially against the likes of Galway and Kilkenny and it would mean a great deal to the players.”


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