Ballymacarbry in dreamland as Waterford go for All- Ireland hurling glory

Eamon  Lacey


Eamon Lacey


Ballymacarbry in dreamland as Waterford go for glory

Young Deise fans Michael and Tommy Byrne wish Jamie Barron all the best for Sunday

                Fourmilewater is a  unique and beautiful name  for a GAA club but since Waterford  qualified for only their second All-Ireland final since 1963 it could be more appropriately referred to as Dreammilewater.

The Ballymacarbry community, which takes in the Fourmilewater club for hurling and The Nire for football, is bursting with pride at the enormous contribution locals have made to the Deise drive to end a fifty eight  year wait for the Liam McCarthy.

For a rural club like Fourmilewater on the Tipperary border  the impact it has made has been phenomenal.

Fourmilewater is punching well above its weight on and off the field. All-Star Jamie Barron, his all energy performances and spectacular goals, and man marker supreme Conor Gleeson have been vital components  in the Waterford machine while at administrative level  the club is also leading the way with  Paddy Joe Ryan as the County GAA chairman and Pat Grant as the West  Board chairman.

Nowhere is the excitement  in the lead up to this final as evident as on the club pitch where the enthusiastic juveniles assemble to train hoping to follow in the footsteps of their Waterford heroes.

The U/12s are not in awe when Jamie Barron strolls in to keep an eye on them training  as himself and Conor are always  around, having spent their days on the same pitch from a very young age honing their skills.

The new generation of youngsters are fortunate to have players capable of playing on the biggest stage as members of their own club and they show great desire to learn the skills of the game.

“Jamie has a great touch and I  want to learn that” said Padraig Byrne while Billy Byrne wants to specialise “soloing into space”  having admired Barron scoring memorable goals against Kilkenny and Cork with incredible style.

Ironically  the Fourmilewater stars of the future are relying on Declan Spellman (“I think I am the only Galway man living in Ballymarcarbry”) to teach them those skills.

“It's fantastic for the young lads, they have the stars to look up to on their own doorstep whereas in previous generations they would have had to be looking to the likes of Ballygunner and Mount Sion,” said Declan.

These young lads have great confidence in Waterford to overcome Galway on Sunday with U/12s Ger Long  predicting a 2.22 to 1.19 outcome while Sean Harte is    expecting a more comfortable win by 3.20 to 1.18.

When Jamie Barron was their age he looked up players such as  John Mullane, Dan Shanahan and Eoin Kelly and he remembers being in Croke Park “absolutely devastated” as Kilkenny kept  firing home the goals against Waterford in their last All-Ireland appearance in 2008.

“It was an awful day, I remember crying, everybody was so upset” said Jamie.

He is delighted for the juveniles in the Fourmilewater club that they can enjoy the build up and feel part of it.

“Everybody is looking forward to it but it’s really special for of that age  group, it’s fantastic “said Jamie.

Reflecting on the year, Jamie said that Waterford had managed to build up a momentum leading into the final with a good run of victories.

“In that game against Cork in the Munster championship we were a bit flat not having played for eleven weeks and it showed. We got going again and recovered  and you do build up confidence on a good run” said Jamie.

If Waterford are going to do it on Sunday they will have to do it without Conor Gleeson who was sent off in the closing stages of the semi final win over Cork.

That such a popular young man who has become such an important figure in the team in such a short space of time due to his quality man marking  role will miss out on such  a massive occasion is the cause of great heartbreak throughout the community.

“It is very sad, everybody is devastated for Conor and his family. Everybody in the club is upset about it and all we can do in the club is support Conor and his family. He is young and no doubt he will play in Croke Park again but missing out on Sunday is  cruel” said club Chairman Billy Walsh.

 County Board chairmanPaddy Joe Ryan said everybody in the club was very proud of the role played all year by Jamie and Conor in bringing Waterford to this stage.

“ Conor  has been unbelievable, he is the most improved player in the country. I have no doubt he will be back in Croke Park in the future” he said.