by Paddy Hickey
Waterford hurling boss Paraic Fanning has resisted the temptation to recall any of his Ballygunner players for tomorrow night’s League clash against Carlow at Dungarvan.
After winning the Munster Club title, Ballygunner’s involvement in the All-Ireland series careered to a halt when they came up short against Kilkenny’s Ballyhale Shamrocks in last Saturday’s semi-final at Semple Stadium
But, despite that fact, the new Deise supremo has decided to persist with the same squad of 26 players that he named for the emphatic victories over Offaly and Laois in the first two rounds.
“The Ballygunner lads have had a long and hard campaign and obviously they’ll be very disappointed with the way the All-Ireland semi-final went for them,” Fanning commented on the members of the Waterford and Munster Club champions included in his panel.
“So they deserve a bit of a break and we haven’t decided if we will be calling on them for our last two games in the division (against Dublin and Galway, on February 24 and March 3, respectively).”
Among the Ballygunner players that could feature for Waterford in the latter stages of the League are goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe and half-back and half-forward brothers Philip and Pauric Mahony.
But their teammate, Barry Coughlan, Waterford’s regular full-back for the last six years, will not be making a return to inter-county duty, having decided to retire at the age of 28 following last year’s Championship campaign.
In addition to the Ballygunner players in his panel, Fanning will once again have to plan without the services of defender Conor Gleeson and brothers Darragh and Shane Fives for the contest against the Barrowsiders who pulled off a shock draw against Galway in their second round tie.
“Conor Gleeson has had a shoulder operation and he definitely won’t be back before the end of the League,” explained Fanning on the Nire-Fourmilewater clubman, who missed the 2017 All-Ireland final loss to Galway after picking up a red card in the semi-final against Cork.
“But we’d be more hopeful about Darragh and Shane being match-fit before the start of the Munster Championship,
“Darragh broke a bone in his hand, but he’s out of plaster, and Shane has a calf strain.
“As well as those lads, a number of players picked up a few knocks and bruises in the game against Laois.
“But our physios have been working on those lads over the last 11 days or so, and hopefully they will have recovered sufficiently in time to be considered for the Carlow game,” he added.
With an aggregate winning total 43 of points in the wake of the contests against Offaly and Laois, Fanning could hardly have got his reign off to a more encouraging start since taking over from Derek MeGrath, who stepped down after five years in the Waterford hot seat.
“Yes, we had two good wins against Offaly and Laois, and naturally we’re pleased to have four points on the board,” he commented on his charges’ opening two ties.
“But we know that we are going to face a very strong challenge from Carlow, and they will come to Fraher Field full of confidence after their great performance against Galway.”
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