No room for error against 'clinical' Cats, warns Mahony
Whatever the perception of the upcoming All-Ireland hurling semi-final, Waterford's Pauric Mahony won't accept that it amounts to a free shot at Kilkenny. He doesn't buy into the notion that they should travel to Dublin in hope more than in expectation.
The build-up to Sunday has been curiously low-key. Perhaps that's because football will sell out Croke Park on Saturday night. And that Kilkenny seem to win these games with the minimum of fuss doesn't help either.
The Cats' usual good form combined with Waterford's systems failure in the Munster final mean that not too many expect anything other than a Kilkenny win. The bookmakers have the Déise as long as 10/3 to upset Brian Cody's side on Sunday.
Mahony, however, doesn't see it that way. They lost to the Cats by six points at this stage 12 months ago and he is expecting improvement from his side this time around.
"From a player's perspective the pressure is still on because we want to go to an All-Ireland final," he explained. "Losing a semi-final is not going to be acceptable. It would be a poor year from the players' perspective because at the end of the day you want to go to September and go up the steps in Croke Park.
"That's what we're training for so we'll be going out against Kilkenny and doing absolutely everything we can to get over the line. Anything less will be seen as a failure for us."
Their quarter-final win over Wexford helped put some of the ghosts of the Munster final to rest. And Mahony admits there was " a lot of pressure" on his side going into that game.
"We felt we were after making a good bit of progress over the last 18 months. If we had to lose (against Wexford), a lot of that would have been out the window. We would have been at a bit of a crossroads. Thankfully, we got through it.
"It was said amongst the players, that we owe it to Derek to put in a performance. The Munster final was no reflection on the work he put in. The players, we let ourselves down on the field. It wasn't any management decision, it was players under-performing."
And with the Cats coming into view, Mahony believes they will have to be more efficient than they were 12 months ago if they are to progress to an All-Ireland.
"I suppose we did have a few chances last year that we didn't take and with Kilkenny you have to take every chance that you get because they're a clinical team. And as we saw the last day against Galway, when they came out of the second half in that ten minutes they can blow any team away.
"That's their strengths and that's why they're All-Ireland champions at the same time. You have to respect them for what they do and, as I said, we're going to have to be at the top of our game and there's no room for error."