With the 2016 inter-county season consigned to the history books at this stage, Pundit Arena’s way-too-early season preview continues with Waterford. After reaching back-to-back All-Ireland semi-final berths, many fancy the Deise to improve next year and go one step further.
Waterford: The Déise
Manager: Derek McGrath.
Key player: Austin Gleeson. One of the best players in the game, Gleeson is a real difference maker for this Waterford team.
Next superstar: Shane Bennett. Should Bennett and Gleeson slot into the Deise’s half-back line and reach their potential, they won’t have to play so many bloody defenders in the new season. In all seriousness though, Bennett is a top talent.
Three reasons why 2017 will be their year:
Leaders of the chasing pack: Waterford seem best placed to knock Tipperary or Kilkenny off the top of the sport. After losing to both sides in each of the last two years, they must beat one of them to move up, though.
Austin Gleeson: As we already mentioned, he is one of the best, if not the best talent out there at the moment. If you have Gleeson on the field, you always have a chance of winning.
Players trust McGrath: With player power such a big thing at the moment, the Waterford side are fully behind Derek McGrath and his sometimes controversial game plan. With such respect from his players, McGrath can get the best out of his side and help them make the leap and finally end their All Ireland drought.
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Did last year give them hope?
Getting to back-to-back semi finals will give the Déise the confidence that they belong at the top table. However, as we saw with Limerick over the last few seasons, teams don’t always push on. Waterford can’t afford to take a year out, they must push on.
Realistically, where are they going?
They have every chance of making the All-Ireland final and even winning the thing. A moment of magic from Eoin Murphy saw Kilkenny sneak past in the semi-final replay last time around. It only takes a similar moment of genius from someone in white late in a game from this side to get to September hurling for the first time since 2008.
Draw for 2017:
Waterford await the winners of the Munster Championship quarter-final between Cork and Tipperary. Should the Premier come out of that game, Waterford will have be looking for a better effort against the Champions than they posed in the last few seasons.
Why one might pull against them:
Because everyone hates systems and seeing these systems backfiring is something the public love to see. It’s nothing personal against Waterford but lots of so-called traditionalists like to see their crowded defence beaten.
Joel Slattery, Pundit Arena
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