Waterford last chance of appearing in an All-Ireland Final to be played at Croke Park this year rests on the shoulders of the counties Intermediate Ladies football team.
Since Waterford lost their senior status in 2008 after playing senior for over 20 years having won the Junior Final in 1986, the first to be played and won at Croke Park, they have played some very good football.
Just over a month ago, Waterford won their six successive Munster Intermediate final.
While Waterford has been very consistent when it comes to the game at National level, but have gone close on a number of occasions.
Waterford has reserved some of their best football since dropping to intermediate for the even number year.
In 2010 the side lost to Donegal at Croke Park in the All-Ireland Final and two years later opposition from Ulster, this time Armagh were to end Waterford’s hopes of getting back up to senior.
In previewing the All-Ireland Camogie semi final last week, I made reference to the superstitious amongst us, and how they believe 3 to be a lucky number, so as 2014 is the third even number year that has come our way since Waterford dropped a grade, hopefully it will be a case of third time lucky.
However, before Waterford are crowned All-Ireland Champions, they have a long way to go first, starting this weekend with an All-Ireland quarter final against Fermanagh this Saturday at Blanchardstown in Dublin.
The challenge of Fermanagh will one that Waterford will not be taking lightly. Waterford will know from their All-Ireland defeats to Donegal and Armagh in recent years as well as last years All-Ireland quarter final defeat to Cavan, that ladies football in Ulster at this point is strong and that more and more sides want to join the likes of Armagh and Monaghan amongst others playing at the top table.
The sides clashed in the semi final in 2010 and on that occasion the two sides played out a very close battle which Waterford won on a 2-10 to 0-14 score line, and it would be no surprise if this weekend’s battle was to prove to be just as tight.
The two sides played in different divisions in this year’s National League. Fermanagh played in division two, where they lost all seven games they played and found themselves relegated as a consequence for the 2015 league.
Waterford played in Division three, where they won five games in the league section of the competition, loosing to Sligo and Armagh before loosing to Armagh again in the final at Parnell Park.
On that day, it was only late in the second half that Armagh pulled away from a Waterford sides that really put it up to the eventual winners. On the day, not for the first time lady luck was not with Waterford. A penalty was missed and Armagh intercepted a pass out of the Waterford defence before half time and scored a goal from it.
Fermanagh in the Ulster Championship lost to down in their first game before beating Antrim and then lost to Down again in the Provincial decider.
The Ulster side have an advantage going into this game in that they have played a competitive game between their Ulster Final loss and this game. They played Antrim again recently in the second round of qualifiers, a game they won 4-18 to 1-4.
Every side has at least one star player and Fermanagh have one in Caroline Little. She could well prove to be a thorn in the side of the Waterford defence on Saturday afternoon, but in saying that Waterford most certainly have the players that can keep Caroline Little quiet.
The problem about keeping one particular player quite at times is that you run the risk of allowing others to be the star for the day, and in the likes of Kirsty McGuinness, Lynn McFrederick and Edel Campbell the ulster side have other match winning players other than Caroline Little.
In the Munster Championship, Waterford again had a good campaign.
After a struggle for much of the game with Limerick in the opening game of the league section of the competition, Waterford were pinned to the collar by a dogged Limerick side and it was only late in the game that Waterford were able to hit the scores that secured the win.
In Waterford’s second game played at Carrick-on-Suir against Tipperary, Waterford had no such worries and easily accounted for John Leahy’s charges, which set up a Munster Final against Limerick who had beaten Tipperary between the time they played Waterford and when Waterford beat Tipperary.
In the Munster Final, Waterford easily beat Limerick in the curtain raiser to the Cork and Kerry senior final.
Waterford were always on top in this game. Sometimes, when two teams meet in close proximity, the advantage lies with the team that lost the first game as the winners of the first game might have a mental thing at the back of their mind telling them that because they won the first day they will win the second. Not having seen the game, I cant sat that Limerick might be over confident going into the Munster Final and may have underestimated how strong Waterford are.
Taking a look at the Waterford panel will show how strong the side is. Many of the side are around now with a few years, while Pat O’Brien has brought in some new blood this year which had freshened up things as well, something that can only be good in any panel.
Linda, Mairead and Aileen Wall, Michelle and Karen McGrath, Michelle and Louise Ryan, Grainne Enright, Aimee Jordan, Grainne Kenneally, Nora Dunphy, Elaine Power, Hannah Landers, Mary Foley, Shona Curran and Margaret Revins all very experienced players at this level while the likes of Liz Devine, Megan O’Connor, Lauren McGregor and Shauna Dunphy have settled in nicely to the panel this year and have made their mark in different games.
On what has happened in competitive games so far this year, Waterford could well go into this game as the favourites.
But lets not under-estimated the challenge of Fermanagh too quickly or to easily. They may have not won a game in the league, but they played against what some might say were stronger opposition to Waterford and this is something that should stand to the team. They also have had the advantage of a competitive game against Antrim recently. Waterford too played games, but no challenge game comes near a competitive game, and they have also played in what is a very competitive Ulster Championship, where when teams win and move up to senior, they are more than a match for anyone else.
However, in saying this, I for one expect Waterford will come out on top in this game. The side is very experience, and even on the bench this year, a great deal of experience can be sprung at any stage.