Déise All-Ireland legends reckon Waterford have a chance
Survivors of 1959 final hope there’ll be 15 new Waterford legends created after Sunday
Martin Óg Morrissey, who played centre-back in the 1959 final: “I still have fellas coming up to me, nearly genuflecting”
Although Waterford are about to play only their second All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final in more than half a century, some of players involved in the county’s last success are feeling bullish about the Déise’s chances against Galway on Sunday.
It is believed that 10 players from the 1959 campaign, when Waterford beat Kilkenny in a replay to win the title for only the second time, are still alive.
For these players the great rival was Kilkenny, who they faced off against in finals in 1957, 1959 and 1963. Before the 1950s, some of the same players also played against each other in the minor final of 1948.
The 1959 final went to a replay after a thrilling first encounter in which Waterford were able to outscore the black and amber by 18 scores to 10. The only problem was half of Kilkenny’s scores were goals.
Martin Óg Morrissey, who played at centre-back in both matches, says it is now in the modern panel’s hands.
“The nearer we’re getting to Sunday the more convinced I am that they will win it. If they play open hurling they should run out winners in the end,” he says.
Morrissey, of Mount Sion GAA club, recalls the weeks following the All-Ireland win, when they visited communities across the county with the cup. “They went on for three weeks, we had a great time. Going all over the county. We were fed and wined and dined, so we were.
“We toured everyplace in the county: Dunhill, Kilmacthomas, Dungarvan, Cappoquin. I suppose it was only the second time the county had won one so we had to celebrate that. We wouldn’t be like Kilkenny.”
Despite his confidence, Morrissey does think the Tribesmen pose a danger to Waterford, who are managed by Derek McGrath.
“The Galway of old would play a good match, and then two bad matches. These fellas now have been playing consistent hurling with the last two years,” he said.
One player who featured against Kilkenny in that 1948 minor final, a game the Déise won 3-8 to 4-2, and who was still on the senior panel 11 years later, is Michael O’Connor.
Not long after playing in the 1957 final loss to Kilkenny, he was hospitalised for six months due to TB. O’Connor eventually featured again in blue and white in 1959 where he was brought on off the bench. He retired from playing not long after, partly because of fears over his health and partly due to getting married.
I have a feeling about it, the team are terrific and Derek McGrath is doing an impressive job managing them
He and his wife Mary set up the well-known Cappoquin Chickens factory in the west Waterford town of the same name. The factory closed in recent years due to the recession.
Despite those setbacks, he has received solace from the wider GAA community.
“You can go somewhere and meet another player or a supporter from a different era and they’ll know you. The GAA brings people together that way,” he says.
His opinion is much sought-after these days, and he too is optimistic about Sunday’s game.
“I have a feeling about it, the team are terrific and Derek McGrath is doing an impressive job managing them. I’d love to see it happen.”
He has a connection to the 2017 team, too, as he is the first cousin of Darragh and Shane Fives’s grandmother.
Martin Óg Morrissey remembers O’Connor as a “lovely hurler”, who he said was unfortunate to miss out on so much game time but remains a Déise legend.
“I do hope there’s going to be 15 new Waterford legends after Sunday. I still have fellas coming up to me, nearly genuflecting. No matter where you’d be, if there’s any people who followed hurling at that stage, and if you’re in a pub they’ll say, ‘What are ya having?’ I hope they get that.”