The 2022 campaign can be filed under ‘F’ for false dawn. Coming into the campaign they had been swimming at the deep end for a couple of years. And all the signs, early on, were good.
Waterford picked up a national title by winning the league but made no impact in the Munster championship. They had timed their run badly. By the end, they had lost momentum and their manager Liam Cahill. Perhaps, on both sides, the time was right to move on.
“When the call came about Liam going back to Tipperary, you felt like it was going to happen,” Hutchinson said as AIB marked its 32nd year of supporting the AIB All-Ireland club championships.
“Especially after him not going there last year. I think we kind of expected it when we heard the news that Colm Bonnar was gone from Tipperary.
“Maybe it was the right thing for that to happen because maybe we went as far as we could with Liam and things might have got a bit, ‘What do we do next?’ You know that kind of way? In fairness to Liam, we were after losing a Munster final, an All-Ireland final and an All-Ireland semi-final all to Limerick and then we had three bad weeks last summer and that determined how Liam’s time ended.
“It was unfortunate but we were unlucky that we’re after coming up against an unbelievable Limerick team over the last three years and we lost to them three times in a row,” added Hutchinson.
By the time Hutchinson gets back in with Waterford, there’ll be a new man in charge in Davy Fitzgerald but he’ll likely roll into the new campaign with only the minimal break.
Hutchinson won an All-Ireland club title with Ballygunner earlier this year in the most dramatic fashion before getting back in with Waterford.
After the county season it was back to another winning campaign with Ballygunner before diving into a Waterford football campaign with Gaultier, who were beaten in the semi-final just a fortnight ago. There’s still more to do.
On Sunday they welcome Tipperary champions Kilruane MacDonaghs to Walsh Park for an AIB Munster SHC club quarter-final.
“There’s not a whole lot of room for break and recovery. That’s something with the split season that maybe it needs to either slow down or quicken up, to give people a break. I think it could slow down a little and have set months for each competition.
“I know there is that in some cases but, like, us in Waterford, we play hurling first and then football and you have an eight- or nine-week gap then (to Munster), it’s not ideal because you don’t really know what you have to be doing in that time to be able to prepare for Munster club.
“I suppose it probably just needs to be a bit more structured in terms of what months are for what and, like, I think bringing the All-Ireland club forward again adds to that and maybe it shouldn’t be at all … or else finish it altogether before Christmas to give people, over Christmas, the break.
“I think there’s a good few things that need to be weighed up there but I’m definitely in favour of the split season, I think it’s more beneficial for clubs and players.”
Despite the schedule there has been some contact with Fitzgerald.
“Just a small bit. To be fair he’s leaving us do our thing with our club but look, as a player and a supporter in Waterford it’s an exciting time again because there’s freshness about Waterford and knowing Davy.
“I don’t know him that well, but from other teams and what I’ve heard, he’ll set up everything in his power to help Waterford win an All-Ireland and I get the feeling myself from Davy and the rest of his management team that that is going to be the aim.
“He’s going to put everything in place for us to go, please God, as far as we can with him.”
If 2022 has shown anything it’s that their approach to the league may have to change. But the fundamentals remain the same. Hutchinson is in no doubt Waterford have the credentials to go all the way.
“I still think Waterford are All-Ireland contenders. I don’t think we turned into a bad team overnight or anything like that.
“Last summer is after happening and look, we’ve a bit of freshness to look forward to now. But I still think we’ll be All-Ireland contenders. That’s the main aim in Waterford – to win the All-Ireland.”