Monday, 25th September 2017
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Bright opening in huge defeat

The Waterford minor hurlers travelled to Cusack Park in Ennis on Wednesday in the opening round of the Munster Minor Hurling Championship. After an opening half in which the Deise youngsters kept pace with their highly vaunted opposition, there was a complete turnaround which saw dominance around the field by the home team who ran out comprehensive 1-24 to 0-9 winners. In a week when the Senior Hurlers lost their Allianz League challenge to Galway in Salthill, it was a disappointing few days.

Waterford, under the stewardship of James Lacey, travelled to the Banner County with a very inexperienced outfit. Just a handful of the team had previously seen Munster hurling while Clare could call on a number of players who had experience in last year's competition. That said, at this level one can see a huge turnaround in the fortunes of teams having taken from their opening fixture's experience.

Eight minutes into this contest Waterford players Sean Crotty and Billy Power had the sides level at 0-2 apiece. The Deise struck the lead through Ian Beecher but Clare midfielder Kieran White added two points to send the home side ahead 0-4 to 0-3. As Clonea clubman Power continued to find the range it was the visitors who slipped two points clear 0-7 to 0-5 but the Banner then took control and led at the break 0-9 to 0-7. That said the Waterford management would be well aware that there was a huge thirty minutes ahead although the visitors could have sneaked a goal before the break but keeper Eamon Foudy was alert and saved the situtation.

Little were we to know the transformation that was to happen as the second half got underway. With midfielder Keith White driving Clare forward they took control. The Inagh-Kilnamona clubman hit six points from midfield and with support from Lee Brack, Conor Tierney, Gary Cooney and wing back Diarmuid Ryan the points flowed for Clare as Waterford struggled. The Deise defence finally gave way in the 54th minute as Rian Considine set up substitute Colin Haugh to blast past keeper Eoghan Browne. Indeed it could have been so much worse as the Mount Sion lad was called into action a number of times to clear a dangerous situation.

Late points for Waterford from Billy Power and substitute Thomas Kearney made little difference as Clare at this stage were rampant and ran out comprehensive winners.

The minor hurlers will now travel to play Cork on Leeside and if taking experience from their opening game, ala Tipperary in the 2016 championship, then who knows. Waterford beat the Premier in Walsh Park 1-20 to 1-17 in the opening round of the Munster campaign before going out to Limerick 0-19 to 0-17. Tipperary came back through the "second chance saloon" and beat Limerick in the Munster Final 1-24 to 0-10 before going on to beat the Treatystone lads in the All-Ireland Final by seven points 1-21 to 0-17. So nothing is certain although Cork will be favourites but, so were Tipperary in Walsh Park 2016. We can only wish them the best.

SENIOR HURLING CHAMPIONSHIP ROLLS OUT

How time flies. Christmas, St Patrick's Day and then were are suddenly back in championship mode with all clubs dreaming of Summer success. The months just seem to roll one into the next. This weekend will see the opening round of the Senior Hurling competition with six games down for decision. Difficult to gauge where teams are at present. Intercounty players are back training with their clubs. The league is in full swing so perhaps that is a gauge for the championship although, many see the league and championship at opposite ends of the spectrum. Presently in the County League championship favourites Ballygunner top the table with maximum pointhaving recently beaten Passage 1-13 to 0-9 which sees the latter pointless. Ballyduff Upper and Mount Sion played out a 0-18 to 1-15 draw on Saturday lastand have three points while Sion along with Tallow and Fourmilewater have a point each

In Group B Abbeyside lead the charge having beaten Roanmore 2-17 to 0-20 giving them four points with the city club on one point. Portlaw accounted for De La Salle 3-17 to 0-17 and have two points Lismore while Dungarvan are on the coat tails of the leaders with three points. At present De La Salle have no points but all could well change in the coming weeks and months.

Back to the championship.

In Group A on Sunday afternoon De La Salle will face Ballyduff Upper in Fraher Field at 2pm. The city outfit have not hit the ground running yet in the County league but then again this time it is championship. Ballyduff Upper on the other hand sit just behind Ballygunner in their section. At 3.30 at the same venue Tallow face current Championship favourites Ballygunner. The Bridesiders will know that this is a huge challenge but have accounted for "huge challenges" in the past few years. At times blowing hot and cold they will set a marker for the

Gunners but the Knockboy outfit will be hoping to continue their early season form. At 7pm all roads will again lead to Fraher Field for the meeting of local rivals Abbeyside and Dungarvan. The Old Boro have promised much over the last couple of years and will have been disappointed with the end result while Abbeyside have begun the league in whirlwind fashion, topping their section of the table.

On Saturday Group B, in Fraher Field, will see Lismore face Passage at 6pm with Mount Sion against Fourmilewater at 7.30. These are two difficult games to call. Lismore, after the shock of relegation in 2015, were imperious in their promotion bid last year while Passage have proven themselves a championship team. Fourmilewater have a very good record against Mount Sion but the Monastery have accumulated more titles than any other club at Senior Hurling level. Both games, a double header, should certainly bring the crowds to the famed Old Boro venue.

As regards results even the bookmakers are having difficulty separating the four teams. The last game of the group is an all Eastern affair with Roanmore facing Portlaw. The Tannerytown are coming in on the back of a league win over De La Salle. This game is timed for a 3.45pm start in Walsh Park.

Overall the completion of the opening round of the championship can prove very informative as where club are at present and I have no doubt that this time round will prove much the same.

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