Monday 20 November 2017

Bennett urges Waterford to seize their U-21 opportunity

Waterford's Stephen Bennett. Photo: Sportsfile
Waterford's Stephen Bennett. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Waterford starlet Stephen Bennett admits the senior squad was devastated by their replay defeat to Kilkenny, but says the Déise young guns are eager to bounce back by focusing on their bid for All-Ireland U-21 glory.

Eleven of the Waterford squad from last Saturday night will make a return trip to Thurles this Saturday as the Munster U-21 champions take on Antrim in the semi-final of the competition.

And Bennett is looking forward to the chance to make amends for that defeat.

"When you're that close it is devastating," he said. "At least we've the U-21 to really focus on, which a lot of the other players don't, we're lucky that way.

"The first few days are always negative. But when you think back, you have to focus on the positives being so close. Hopefully we'll get back now and get to an All-Ireland U-21 final, which none of us have been in."

Bennett was quick to absolve Pauric Mahony of any blame for his late free that dropped short which might have forced the tie to extra-time.

"We were in the dug-out saying, 'this is over (the bar)'. He's been brilliant all year. It's so hard for him. I know it was the last shot but we'd so many chances as well. So much stuff didn't go right. Just one little break," he said.

"You have to give credit to the goalkeeper as well. It was a great catch under that much pressure. That's Kilkenny. You think they're gone but they just come back."

Bennett has gone under the knife twice for operations on both hips which have dogged him for years. And after a promising season with the seniors, Bennett hopes those problems are behind him.

"You're always thinking that, will it ever be right? This year now it went a lot better, I got to most of the trainings and it's just about managing it," he said.

"You can't do everything. You'd be playing for different club and county (teams) and you have to be able to say no, or I can't for a month. But the management have been brilliant with that."

Bennett revealed that senior boss Derek McGrath urged his U-21 players to bounce back by winning silverware as he addressed his devastated dressing-room after the Kilkenny game. "He was brilliant. He just went around, thanked everyone. He told the U-21s to drive it on. Go win it and raise the spirits."

Irish Independent

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