Waterford Senior Hurling Championship – Quarter-Final
Ballygunner v Fourmilewater
Ballygunner looked extremely strong in the early rounds of the group stages as they enjoyed easy wins over Dungarvan, Roanmore, Passage and Tallow. Many people waited with bated breath to see how they would get on when it was really put up to them. We saw that in the last round of group games, when Mount Sion really got stuck into them in the opening 20 minutes, to such an extent that they led by 12 points at that stage. However, it is to Ballygunner’s credit that they fought back at that stage and made a game of it and it must be remembered that they were without Shane O’Sullivan, Stephen Power and Alan Kirwan for that game.
What the game may have illustrated is that the Ballygunner conveyor belt may not be as efficient as people think and that like everyone else, they are vulnerable when missing a few players. They will hope to have all their missing players back for this encounter.
Fourmilewater have been the unluckiest team in the championship over the last few seasons. Who can forget their agonising semi-final defeat to De La Salle in 2008 or their four one point defeats in 2009 which cost them a place in the quarter-finals? This year, they seem to have at last got lady luck on their side and although they were defeated by Lismore in the opening round, they managed to stay unbeaten for the rest of the campaign with a draw against Munster champions, De La Salle being a stand-out result. The word on the street is that Fourmilewater are really concentrating on hurling this year and are making a real push to win this championship.
The accusation levelled against them in the past was that they did not have the forwards to defeat the bigger teams but the form of Shane Walsh and the coming of age of Jamie Barron have certainly negated that argument. The return of Richard Fenton from his travels is also a huge boost.
De La Salle v Passage
De La Salle and Passage meet in a repeat of last year’s semi-final on Saturday afternoon.
De La Salle did not quite hit the heights of last year’s knock-out stages during the group stages but they still topped the group to qualify for the so-called easier quarter-final. While they did get through undefeated, draws against Fourmilewater and Abbeyside prevented them from having a perfect record. It must be remembered that at this stage last year, De La Salle appeared to be struggling somewhat but once the championship hit the quarter-final stages, they really took off and no one in the county or the province was able to catch them thereafter.
Passage have not managed to hit the same heights as last year but it must be acknowledged that there has been a turnover in personnel. They had to rely on a last round win over Dungarvan to clinch a place in this quarter-final and that match was the first time this year that they got anywhere near the form of 2010. However, of last year’s team, only Aaron Connors remains unavailable and Tipperary native, Stephen Mason has proven to be a very useful addition around the centre of the field.
If Passage can rise to the heights of last year, get enough ball into Eoin Kelly they might have a slight chance. However, De La Salle are such a powerful outfit that they are unlikely to be able to do that and I take De La Salle to win.
Verdict: De La Salle