BEGINNER Brian Murphy summed up Waterford’s disappointment at last season’s climax.
“It breaks my heart,” he said told reporters. “I came home to play for my hometown club and this is probably my last game.
Waterford had just been beaten by the UCD in the playoff and relegation final.
It was a dramatic season for the club.
The coaching team of Kevin Shidi and Mike Newell saw a catastrophic start leave after nine games.
After that, the team gradually improved under the leadership of Mark Bircham and looked able to make a great exit, only to have the former QPR player controversially fired in the days leading up to their most important game.
The out-of-game beating seemed to have affected the team, which was briefly led by former Tottenham player Ian Hendan, was deservedly beaten by students on the night.
However, despite the minima of that moment, the new season brought back Waterford’s sense of optimism.
Being one of three full-time teams in the First Division along with Cork City and Galway, they will be among the favorites for promotion.
“That’s what we want to do,” says new boss Ian Morris. “We will adjust. We will try our best and do our best. That is the goal. There is no gray area on this side. If you look at the league, you can see how well the managers have put together the teams. It will be a fantastically competitive league. And it’s fascinating. Season tickets, if you also look at the league, they’ve grown, and hopefully the crowd will increase, and that will add to the fantastic atmosphere on the night of the matches. ”
Morris knows what it takes to avoid second tier Irish football. The 34-year-old has twice managed to win the Shelbourne title, including watching their success last season.
However, the latest achievement was surprisingly not enough to save his work, as the outfit of Tolko Park decided to go in another direction.
“You have to be tough, resilient, you have to be able to achieve results, and you have to be dominant,” he says. “We have very exciting players at the top of the field, we are hoping for goals. We would be sure to come out and create a lot of chances in each game and keep as many clean sheets as possible. It’s a really tough, stubborn league. If you look at some players, this year’s lineup is true quality, if you look at the lineup lists, there are players that can hurt you on both sides [of the table]».
Waterford is certainly proud of the history of the Irish League. With six top summer champions, only five clubs – Shamrock Rovers (19), Dundalk (14), Shelburn (13), Bohemians (11) and St. Patrick’s Athletic (8) – have won more.
However, all these triumphs occurred between 1966 and 1973, and the last of the two FA Cup victories was in 1980.
So Morris faces a huge challenge when he seeks to regain his glory days, but that sense of potential was part of what attracted the manager to the club in the first place.
“The city, the size of the crowd, the facilities, the full-time work, and then the consideration of the core group that we are potentially going to keep and who we will also add to it. It all just falls into place. So I think it’s a sleeping giant. I hope that as soon as we start moving again, we will return to where we should be. “
One of his immediate tasks was to convince key team members to stay in the chaotic end of last season.
“When I took a seat on Christmas week, it was a skirmish, right on the phone, talking to the guys, trying to just convince them and tell them how we want to go, and thankfully we have to keep the bulk of the squad. We had a good foundation and we added to its quality. And hopefully this will lead to a successful year.
«[The players] Obviously I wanted something in stone. I think that’s why nothing was announced before [regarding contracts], they wanted to see what was happening, what was changing, what would be in place. It’s my job to show it and I think we had a pretty stable pre-season training and a good routine. The training was very good, the staff was different classes, and the players matched what they needed, so in general, I can’t complain.
“We had a serious injury [recently]who will rule Killian [Cantwell] anyway. In addition, it was a good pre-season training. “
And what about the aforementioned Brian Murphy, whose former clubs include QPR, Ipswich Town and Portsmouth?
Despite the doubts expressed last year, the 38-year-old goalkeeper will remain for at least one more campaign.
“It was vital that we keep Brian,” Morris adds. “His experience, his quality, his leadership in the group are all huge [pluses].
He’s been here a long time, he knows what “good” looks like. We had quite a few conversations, and thankfully we managed to make Brian as soon as possible. So far he has been fantastic in the pre-season, so hopefully he will move on to the start of the season. ”