When it comes to the Inter County scene in Football, Waterford are some way off joining the big boys when it comes to winning Provincial and National titles at senior level and to a lesser extent at underage level, but at club level Waterford club sides are up there with the best and while a first title for a Waterford side in the club championship is yet to be registered, surly it is only a matter of time before it will happen.
Maybe that breakthrough will happen this Sunday when Waterford Senior Football Champions – The Nire take on their counterparts from Kerry – Austin Stacks and the now new venue of Pairc Ui Chaoimh
The venue by the Lee has in recent years have seen some mixed results for Waterford sides playing at the venue. The defeat of the Waterford Senior Hurlers in the 2012 Munster hurling final against Tipperary is a day we all like to forget about. But to counter days like that we all remember vividly the day that the Waterford senior hurlers beat the Premier County to win the 2002 Munster Hurling Final the first for the county in 39 years.
In football, there has also been numerous days when Waterford sides came out of the ground disappointed having suffered a heavy defeat or maybe even as what The Nire experienced in 2006 loosing narrowly to Dr. Crokes in the Munster Club Final.
The venue is to have work carried out on it in the coming months, work that will be welcomed by all who attend games there, but wouldn’t it be great if Waterford has one more big and great day there before construction workers take over the grounds.
The Kerry Champions will go into the game as the favourite’s to win, but something is telling me that it is going to be Waterford and The Nire’s day this Sunday.
As would be expected, sides from Cork and Kerry have dominated the past 49 finals played. Sides from Kerry have won the competition 16 times and Cork sides have won it 28 times. The other five finals have seen Clare sides win it three times and Limerick sides have won it twice.
When it comes to sides reaching the final and not winning things are even enough. Clare sides have lost 15 finals, Tipperary and Cork sides have lost in the final 9 times each, sides have Kerry have lost 8 finals, four Waterford sides (Stradbally and Kilrossanty twice each, The Nire and Ballinacourty once each) have lost six finals and Limerick sides have lost on two occasions.
The Nire’s opponents this weekend are Austin Stacks who would be down the pecking order when it comes to predicting the winners of the Kerry Championship at the start of the year, and as I saw someplace during the week, even if they were to win this weekend, there would be others in Kerry that would be favoured ahead of them to win the 2015 championship.
In Waterford while we are all hoping with some time that one of the likes of Kilrossanty, Clashmore and An Rinn amongst others will break the recent dominance of The Nire, Stradbally and Ballinacourty who were always going to be the favourites to win the Conway Cup in 2014 and The Nire has the current holders will go into 2015 as the favourites to retain in in twelve months time barring that one of their opponents sign up a player of the highest quality which would make them clear favourites to win.
One key component is in Stacks favour heading into this game is that in almost every game this year, Kieran Donaghy has been a decisive player for both club and county and his influence has paid deviants.
Donaghy according to many is unmarkable. While he has come up against some good players in the Kerry Championship as well in the colours of Kerry it is fair to say that he may not have come up against some of the type of player that The Nire have.
Players like Maurice and Thomas O’Gorman, one of whom are likely to follow Donaghy everywhere on Sunday, are fine players. If they were playing in clubs in places like Tyrone, Donegal, Dublin or Kerry they would by now have a Celtic cross or two in their collection of medals.
However, while Donaghy could well prove to be the stand out player on Austin Stacks side, if The Nire were to pay too much attention on him leaving others to influence the way the game pans out, it is the like Wayne Guthrie, Mickey Collins and Shane Carroll could be the match winners.
In their win last time out against Cork champions Ballincollig, it looked early on that it was not going to be their way and that the Cork Champions would win handy, but the relocation of Kieran Donaghy made a major impact, as did his centre of the field partner Fergal McNamara.
The Nire already have the Conway Cup resting on the sideboard in Shane Ryan’s home, but the piece of silverware that they have craved for so often since first winning the county championship 21 years ago this year has yet to come their way.
If that trophy is to find a home in the Ballymacarbry and Nire Valley area the men in Yellow and blue shirts will first have to overcome the challenge of Austin Stacks this Sunday. This will not happen easy as there is seldom if ever is a poor football side that comes out of the Kingdom to represent the county.
Austin Stacks like The Nire will head into this weekends game with a never say die spirit.
Both sides also share a high winning average – Austin Stacks won their games in the championship (both the Kerry and Munster) this year by an average of just over five points per game, with Nire have an average winning margin of just under eight points per game.
The Nire are a side that is in fine form of late and central to their fine run of late has been Conor Gleeson, the brilliant young teenager which former Waterford manager John Kiely has claimed to be the best teenager in Munster.
It is expected that the Tralee club will have come up with a plan to try and reduce the influence he has had in recent games, but that could well allow the likes of Shane Ryan, Shane Walsh, Liam Lawlor, Jamie Barron or Michael O’Gorman all fantastic footballers to have big games in attack, while at the other end of the field, Craig Guiry, Brian and Diarmuid Wall, Justin Walsh and the O’Gorman twins are expected to have big games.
Since the Club championships began in 1965 no Waterford club have won the senior football championship. Kilrossanty, Stradbally, The Nire and Ballinacourty have gone close. Sooner rather than later the title is going to come to Waterford. Will 2014 be the year?
The Nire it has to be said have an outstanding chance to do so, but they will know that they face a difficult task. Maybe it could be envisaged earlier in the year than another of Kerry’s Clubs would have won the championship. The fact that Austin Stacks beat these clubs to the title would suggest they are good.
The Nire will know that if they can curb the influence of Kieran Donaghy then victory can be theirs.
In the past when it came to games between sides from Waterford and Kerry at any grade in football, Waterford sides have been found guilty of showing too much respect to their opponents.
The Nire will respect Austin Stacks in the lead up to this game, whatever the outcome of the game they will respect the Tralee club, but once the side cross that white line on Sunday they will have to forget where their opponents are from. If they can play as we know they can, there is nothing to suggest why football supporters in the Deise County will be celebrating with those from The Nire and Ballymacarbry on Sunday evening.