Seamus Prendergast still driving Ardmore forward
By John Harrington
Seamus Prendergast never really got the same sort of billing that many of his fellow forwards on the Waterford team of the noughties did.
He didn’t have the flamboyance of players like Paul Flynn, John Mullane, Dan Shanahan and Eoin Kelly, but he was just as important to the cause as any of them.
Big men with quick wrists are a rarity and Prendergast was one of the best of the breed.
His ability to win hard ball in the Waterford half-forward line and also take a score made him a nightmare for opposition defenders.
When Cork’s brilliant centre-back Ronan Curran was in his pomp he generally ate centre-forwards without salt, but Prendergast regularly gave him indigestion.
Even in 2005 when that Cork team at its zenith beat Waterford fairly comfortably in the All-Ireland Quarter-Final, Curran was powerless to stop Prendergast scoring four quality points from play.
Waterford have missed Prendergast since he finally retired from inter-county hurling after 12-year career in 2014, but the now 37-year-old remains a vital figure for his club Ardmore.
He struggled initially to come to terms with no longer being an inter-county hurler, but the buzz of helping Ardmore reach Sunday’s AIB Munster Junior Club Final has been as good as anything he experienced in his days with Waterford.
"I missed it (inter-county hurling), the first year that I retired,” Prendergast told GAA.ie.
“It was hard enough to watch. I don't miss it now. When you see how much time you put into it, you wouldn't realise how much time you've given up, after work or weekends and stuff like that. It's a huge commitment, now.
"I really enjoy still playing with the club. There's a lot less pressure on you, now. You can go out and enjoy the game and train. There's not the same level of pressure or commitment on you.
“For the older lads, if you get to, let's say two out of the three sessions in the week, then they'll be happy with you, once you're in decent shape. When you're winning, it makes it a lot easier as well.”
This has been the first year in a few that Ardmore have known what it feels like to be a winning side.
After winning the 2013 Waterford Intermediate title they went on a downward spiral that saw them relegated from senior back down to intermediate in 2014, and then relegated from intermediate down to the junior grade last year.
They were unlucky last year in so far as they lost a series of matches by narrow margins, but rather than feel sorry for themselves everyone involved with the team resolved to stop the rot.
Thanks to that collective effort, they've won a Waterford Junior Championship and will be back up in the intermediate grade again next year.
"We had a meeting in November last year,” said Prendergast. “It was the first time ever the club picked the manager well before the AGM, and he organised us with strength and conditioning training in the local hall.
"He started us off, in November last year, with push-ups, sit-ups and the usual, simple enough stuff. We all bought into that, that got us started.
"It was a good push by the young lads, maybe they saw that we had a good chance of winning something at the start of the year.
"Tommy Cronin is the manager. He's the local Fianna Fáil councillor, so he's really stuck in the community.
“He went off then and got Wayne Power who was a coach when Waterford won the minor hurling a few years ago. He's a good coach and he's only in his 30s.”
Power is younger that many of the Ardmore players he is coaching. Prendergast is one of seven players still playing who won an U-21 Championship back in 2000 and a Junior Championship in 2001.
16 of the panel would then be aged 23 or younger, a generation gap reflective of an issue in the community that is making life increasingly hard for the GAA club.
Because Ardmore is such a picturesque sea-side village, more and more people are buying holiday homes there which is driving up the price of property and making it difficult for locals to afford to buy or build houses of their own.
Many are being forced to move to other areas instead, which is proving to be a really damaging talent-drain for the club.
"It's gone expensive,” admitted Prendergast. “A normal three-bedroom house in Ardmore is probably 30 or 40 per cent dearer than what it would be in Durgarvan, for example.
“It's not the locals that are buying them, either, it's the ‘blow-ins’, as they’re called.
"They're buying the holiday homes. It's probably more retired couples coming in, and they're not bringing the young people in with them.
"It makes it harder to keep the club going. Up until a few years ago we would have had a second team, but there's not enough players around now to have 35 even."
That’s one of the reasons why Sunday’s Munster Final against Ballybacon-Grange of Tipperary is such an important moment in the recent history of the club.
Prendergast’s generation of players won’t be around for much longer, and helping the club win a Munster title and maybe more could inspire those that follow them to keep the club on the right track.
"It'd probably mean more than any Munster medal I ever won with Waterford,” said Prendergast.
“I've been playing with Declan, my brother, and the other older lads, Cathal (Hennessy), Wayne (Hennessy), and Richie (Hennessy) since I was five.
“You can't beat that, I'm playing with them 30 years or whatever - you'll never beat that with a county team.
"The bunting is gone up. There's signs up. The schools are excited, they're all buying their gear. There's parents who wouldn't be GAA people, they're bringing their kids.
"That should do well for the future. There's a real buzz.
"It'll keep the thing going, anyway. We've a couple of minors to come onto the panel next year, they're decent enough hurlers, committed lads so if this run gets a few more like that, it'll be great for the club.”