WATERFORD senior football and Mourneabbey ladies football manager Shane Ronayne has been impressed with Cork’s progress ahead of the new GAA season.
Despite a string of decent displays, Waterford finished a disappointing seventh in last year’s Covid-affected Division 4 of the National League. This year, new manager Shane Ronayne’s side will face Carlow and Wexford in a reduced Division 4 South. Both of Waterford’s matches are at home, in Dungarvan, offering hope of a positive start.
As for the 2021 Munster Championship, Waterford will be eager to improve on recent results, a 0-9 to 0-8 loss to Clare (2019) and 2-14 to 0-9 loss at the hands of Limerick (2020). Billy Lee’s Limerick will once again provide Waterford’s opposition in this year’s provincial quarter-finals.
A meeting with Cork is on offer for the winners but Shane Ronayne is involved in GAA long enough not to look beyond his upcoming national league campaign or facing Limerick in Munster.
Still, Ronayne has been impressed with Cork’s recent progress at both senior and underage inter-county level.
“I think Cork senior football has made great progress in the last couple of years,” the Waterford and Mourneabbey manager said.
“They did what they had to do to get out of their division last year.
“As for championship last year, they stuck at it against Kerry and got their reward with a late, match-winning goal. It wasn’t necessarily pretty but they won. Cork will have been disappointed with last year’s Munster final defeat to Tipperary.
"They just didn’t perform on the day. There is probably a lot of hurt still there after that game because it was an opportunity missed to reach an All-Ireland semi-final.
“I’m sure Ronan McCarthy and the lads have been working extremely hard since then. There is a lot of talent in the Cork senior panel. It is a matter of having belief, confidence in themselves and just going out and winning a few league games. Cork were in Division 3 last year and expected to win it.
“Winning games breeds confidence in a team. The same will be true for ourselves in Waterford. If Cork can get a couple of early victories under their belt and possibly get promoted then they will head into the Munster championship in fine fettle.
“Whoever wins between Waterford and Limerick will face Cork in the Munster semi-finals. With all their experience, Cork will be hoping to reach another Munster final later this year.
"It is clear that Cork are making good progress. They may not be where they want to be just yet but are on the right track. Having continuity with their management team will also be important for them this year.”
Having agreed to take over the Waterford management job, the Mourneabbey All-Ireland winning LGFA coach, a role he is set to continue, had to introduce himself, explain his ideas and plans for Waterford football’s immediate and long-term future virtually rather than in person.
“It hasn’t been easy.
“One of the most important things you can do when you first go into a new role like this is to build up a rapport with your players. The same is true for your management team and the county board. All of that has been done virtually since I agreed to take on the Waterford senior manager’s position.
"We kept things to a minimum online with the Waterford players over the last couple of months. I was aware that everyone was online all day long as it was with work or college. We didn’t burden anyone with too many additional online meetings.
“The Waterford players are a very diligent bunch. They have been sending in their daily activities and have been completing all the work our strength and conditioning team has given them. Now we can focus on football matters, back out on the pitch, for the next three or four weeks before the National League starts.”
Shane Ronayne guided Mourneabbey to Cork LGFA, Munster and All-Ireland successes before making a positive impact with the Tipperary senior ladies footballers. Expect the Mitchelstown native to improve Waterford’s senior footballs this year and beyond.