'You can't be nervous if you've already scored with your mind' - Pauric Mahony
Published 28/04/2015 | 02:30
It is a hurling league final that promises to be a fascinating showdown between two of the finest gunslingers in the business right now.
Cork sharpshooter Patrick Horgan stands at one end of the street, with 2-80 already notched on his holster.
Facing him in Sunday's Allianz NHL decider is Waterford's equally trigger-happy Pauric Mahony with 1-79 to his name.
The Ballygunner student is still only 22 but, since the departure of legends like John Mullane and Ken McGrath, it is his metronomic free-taking that so often carries the Déise across the line.
So what is the trick?
Hours of extra training and an invaluable tip that he received from respected local coach Nicky Cashin when he was still a minor. "He just said 'visualisation,'" Mahony explains.
"When you get a free just visualise it over the bar before you hit the free. You can't be nervous then hitting the free if it's already over the bar! That's one piece of advice I've always carried with me.
"As a free-taker you have to be very mentally strong," he acknowledges.
"You could be a great free-taker but when it comes to games it could be the key point in it. Obviously there are three or four lads in Waterford who are very good free-takers and who practise before and after training.
"When it comes to the big frees in games you have to stick to your routine and just be mentally strong. If you are, you can't have any regrets at the end of it."
Visualisation is a psychological technique that is scientifically proven to improve physical performance.
Many elite athletes use it but all the mental practice in the world won't help if you haven't got the necessary skills and hurling is clearly in Mahony's family genes.
His brother Philip - older by a year - also lines out for Waterford on the opposite '45 on Sunday and their uncle Shane O'Sullivan is a county team-mate.
Philip's return after a bad leg break last year has restored valuable experience to Waterford's baby-faced half-back line yet, off the pitch, the Mahonys' sibling rivalry can apparently get a little too competitive at times.
"We have a table-tennis table in the house and it got very competitive there for a while. We had to call a halt to that fairly quick!" Mahony reveals with a grin.
His older brother, he confirms, is also a lot better at FIFA on the PlayStation and "a lot better than me on the diet front. He doesn't put a bad thing in his body."
If the Mahonys are true brothers in arms, it is a description that also applies to Derek McGrath's entire tightly-knit young panel who have surprised everyone this season.
After last year's relegation they bounced back to top Division 1B and then took out Galway and Tipperary to reach their first final since that famous victory over Kilkenny in 2007.
The Mahonys were schoolboys back then, watching in awe from the Semple terraces, but had already encountered McGrath as a teacher and a coach in De La Salle school where he led them to back-to-back All-Ireland schools' glory in 2007-08.
Philip won two Harty Cups and two All-Irelands, Pauric won one of each and many of their current team-mates were part of those school teams where they first saw McGrath's extraordinary attention to detail.
"He set a standard through the colleges scene that I suppose a lot of other schools have followed since," Mahony says.
McGrath threw himself and Jake Dillon into an All-Ireland colleges quarter-final in 2008 and is now showing the same faith in youngsters like Colin Dunford, Tadhg de Burca and Austin Gleeson with the county seniors.
"I was only 15 on that colleges team. He gave me my chance and it was really since then I started to believe in myself as a result of that colleges' campaign," Mahony explained.
"I think we've been building a nice team over the last couple of years. Fintan O'Connor came on board this year, who would have been involved with the Blackwater Colleges team over the last number of years and would have known a lot of the lads from west Waterford."
He sensed this team had turned a corner twice this year; when they battled back to draw with Limerick in their league opener and won the semi-final after conceding two goals to Tipp.
"We were seven points down. In the 2011 Munster final they got the two goals and went on to get seven but we managed to shut the door the last day."
A final-year business student in Waterford IT, with whom he has lost and won successive Fitzgibbon Cup finals in the last two years, Mahony is starting his final exams next Tuesday but Sunday is his latest big examination on the hurling field.