The Waterford County Board confirmed that as of now next year’s Munster championship games are still fixed for Walsh Park, but admitted that the 2018 championship “might be too soon” for its refurbishment of the county grounds, writes Michael Moynihan.
The new championship structure which comes into play next year means Waterford are to host Cork and Tipperary, but county board secretary Pat Flynn said yesterday that Waterford officials may have to wait until after the conclusion to proceed with works in Walsh Park.
“Realistically it (next season’s championship) might be too soon. The plans we’re looking at, we might have to wait until after the championship next year to commence with those – after June, probably.
“There are negotiations going on at the moment, we’re drafting plans about a possible redevelopment. Then we’ll be going to costings and see where we can go with those.
“At the moment the games are still fixed for Walsh Park, though. That’s what we’re looking at as the venue.
“There may be some remedial works that have to be done to raise the capacity up by a couple of thousand – at the moment it’s 11,500 so, depending on health and safety, we may need to put in those remedial works to raise the capacity by a couple of thousand.
“But as I say, at the moment the games are fixed for Walsh Park. We will be discussing alternatives if there are alternatives, but that’s our focus at the moment.”
In the new championship structure to take effect next year teams will be under pressure to win their home games, a point Flynn acknowledged.
“Yes, and we’ll have to consider all aspects of the matter along with the management and players. We have two away games and two home games, so if we don’t sort this we’d have four away games.”
Waterford senior hurling manager Derek McGrath pointed out that the competitive nature of the Munster hurling championship means
“you could lose the four as easy as win any of them”
“I was for it (the new structure), and I am for it,” said McGrath.
“The timing of it is killing me as such in terms of the 20th of May, if we could just move it from June into July and leave the finals as they were. I went about advocating it last year.
“Selfishly, you’re here saying that if you drew Cork and Tipp away you’d be used to going to Pairc Ui Chaoimh or you’d be used to going to Thurles. Now the draw, we’re going to Clare and we’re going to Limerick, probably the two hardest venues to go to in terms of Waterford’s history.
“I know we went to Ennis last year in the League but I think we have a horrendous record in the Championship down in Ennis and we’re going to Limerick as well and yet Cork and Tipp, the two teams that you’d be traditionally going to Thurles to play a match . . .
“We haven’t really discussed it as a management in terms of where we play them but I assume we’re playing them in Walsh Park because I think the development of Walsh Park is not started until after this year’s Championship ends. What I’m being told is that our last game is the 17th of June against Cork and I think the work is going to start then soon after that.”
McGrath pointed out that teams could be out of next year’s championship at an earlier date than their first-round game this season.
“The irony of it is, our first game of the Championship this year was the 18th of June against Cork and this year we could be playing our last game of the Championship on the 17th of June so it’s the timing.
“I like the format, I think we should embrace it, give it a chance. People in the GAA will make a decision on it anyway. If the year doesn’t go well, they’ll make some sort of decision on it that may involve the League.
“I think the tier two teams could be involved in the League section earlier which would give them a chance to integrate with higher class opposition. I still look at that proposal that Carlow had two years ago, I’m always on about it, the two sixes, where they can go across the games.
“I don’t think the League would be as diluted then in terms of what’s happening.”
Both Flynn and McGrath were speaking at the new sponsorship deal for Waterford GAA – Deise county sides will be sponsored by TQS Integration, a data intelligence company headquartered in Lismore.