‘He’s a real team player’ – 2010 underage glory, soccer career and Waterford’s All-Ireland title bid

IT’S A DECADE now since Dessie Hutchinson scored goal in an All-Ireland final and celebrated a title win with the Waterford hurlers.

On Sunday 29 August 2010 he was part of a Waterford U14 team on home soil, a healthy crowd in attendance at Walsh Park as they won the Tony Forristal All-Ireland final, seeing off Kilkenny by two points.

Hutchinson’s strike in that match arrived just before half-time, described as ‘a cracking goal’ in the Waterford News & Star that week when he flicked a sideline to net. It helped to fashion an eventual 2-8 to 2-6 win.

It seems simple to draw links between that underage promise and the current senior progress that sees Hutchinson a key player again for Waterford in an All-Ireland final, albeit on a bigger and more prominent stage in Sunday’s senior clash.

The connections are furthered by present team-mates involved back then with Patrick Curran captaining that Waterford side, finishing top scorer in the final with 0-5 and playing in the opposite corner-forward role to Hutchinson. Conor Gleeson began the game at centre-forward while Shane Bennett, amongst the substitutes, is another recognisable figure.

With the recent semi-final success in mind, there were also familiar names in the Kilkenny ranks back then in Conor Delaney, Liam Blanchfield and Alan Murphy.

Source: Irish News Archive

Naturally the intrigue with Hutchinson lies in the circuitous route he has taken to this point with different sporting diversions.

His senior championship debut arrived just under six weeks ago when Waterford took on Cork.

In the time frame from that U14 days life has seen him join Brighton at 16 before that drew to a close in May 2018, his last season featuring a first-team appearance in a League Cup game against Bournemouth. There was international recognition with underage caps for Ireland. He spent the summer of 2018 with his hometown club in the League of Ireland. 

Dessie Hutchinson (right) in action for Waterford FC in the LOI Premier Division.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

In 2019 there was a call-up to the Waterford footballers, scoring 0-2 in their narrow loss in a May Munster quarter-final against Clare, and then he cut loose on the club hurling scene with Ballygunner.

It has been a tale of rapid progress but not one that has caught his club team-mate and Waterford captain Pauric Mahony off guard.

“Yeah, I’m not one bit surprised. First of all I’ve seen how hard he works on and off the field.

“And I remember a couple of years ago when he was U21 and he was home for a weekend. He won’t mind me saying it now but at the time, Brighton didn’t know he was togging out for Ballygunner U21s but he came on with 20 minutes to go in the game and he hadn’t trained or done anything and he was just lethal inside.

“At that stage he hadn’t picked up a hurley in five years and he got a couple of points, if he had started we probably would have won the match.

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“So we knew when he came back that he’d pick it up fairly quickly and he hasn’t left the hurley out of his hands since he’s come home.”

Dessie Hutchinson (left) celebrating Ballygunner’s club title win in 2019 with his brothers Wayne and JJ.

Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

His scoring totals at club level made a persuasive argument for him to be drafted into the county scene.  In the 2019 Waterford senior championship he struck 3-17 from play and was man-of-the-match in the county final before positing 1-10 in three Munster club outings. As Ballygunner retained their title in the compressed 2020 season, Hutchinson shot 6-22 from play across five games.

In the wake of that October club final win, concentration moved to the inter-county scene. Hutchinson has racked up 2-8 from play in four outings. His form has picked up noticeably of late with the 2-1 blast against Clare coupled with a lovely assist for Jack Fagan’s goal and a more influential second-half showing against Kilkenny when supplied with a decent service of possession.

Dessie Hutchinson in action against the Kilkenny defence in Croke Park.

Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

His grounding in professional sport is standing to him as he closes in on helping Waterford hurling deliver the ultimate prize.

“He’s one of the first there at every training getting his work done, his activation and all that kind of stuff,” says Mahony.

“You see his whole approach outside rather than just coming into training or a match, how he looks after himself. The way hurling is anyway you are nearly living a professional lifestyle but it’s an amateur sport.

“He sets a good standard and even for the young lads I see in the club in Ballygunner they look up to him already and he’s there two years. He’s a great influence on them, very positive and he’s not afraid to have a word with a lad as well which is a great sign of a player.

“Dessie he’s a confident player, ultimately he’s a real team player and for such a inside forward with the talent he has, he is all for bringing other lads into the game. You all saw the pass he gave Jack Fagan in the quarter final epitomise that really.”

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