Friday 27 April 2018

Déise need to change to prosper - Noel Connors

GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail chats with Waterford hurler Noel Connors at the launch of the Club Leadership Development Programme in Croke Park yesterday Photo: SPORTSFILE Programme in Croke Park yesterday: SPORTSFILE
GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail chats with Waterford hurler Noel Connors at the launch of the Club Leadership Development Programme in Croke Park yesterday Photo: SPORTSFILE Programme in Croke Park yesterday: SPORTSFILE
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

It mightn't quite be adapt or die but Noel Connors knows Waterford will have to find a new edge if they are continue to force their way further up hurling's pecking order.

The Déise were the surprise packets of 2015 when emerging from Division 1B to win just the county's third league title before reaching the Munster final and the last four in the race for Liam MacCarthy.

However, Waterford's defensive style brought some criticism and Connors agrees that they will have to bring something different to the table in their new campaign.

"I think that last year we were kind of an unknown identity, where maybe we were taken for granted at times - I'm not 100pc sure," commented Connors, at the launch of the GAA's Club Leadership Development program which aims to equip club officers with the skills necessary to perform their roles.


"But now people … and I suppose all counties realise what we have in our team and also in our panel, and what Derek's and Dan's and Fintan's mindset is.

"It's probably (about) being able to analyse that over the couple of months that the inter-county scene is closed and to try and rectify some of the areas that teams have fallen down on and maybe try and nullify some of our forwards, the likes of Maurice (Shanahan), and the likes of Kevin (Moran) in midfield, to stop him running.

"And if we don't change that, we're obviously going to take a step back in that instance."

Connors felt that even as 2015 wore on, teams were developing strategies to help them cope with Waterford's style.

"I think it was even more evident as you went on in the championship, it was that more people were trying to understand or trying to counteract what we were doing, to an extent," he said.

"Look, we'll have to change … if we don't change, we might struggle for the vast majority of games. It's like that whole notion, change is inevitable - if you don't change you're lost.

"That's probably a whole business terminology but it's very applicable to sport.

"But I'm sure that (manager) Derek (McGrath) being the person that never stops thinking, I'm sure that he has a couple of plans to try and counteract the whole thing. Or maybe he has a few new ideas on how to take a few steps forward and maybe get to the All-Ireland final - or even win it. That's the overall aspiration."

McGrath's options will be boosted with the return of Pauric Mahony from his horror leg break later this year.

"He's been in the gym before he probably could be able to walk and I suppose that's testament to the character he has," Passage clubman Connors continued.

"He's back in and jogging at the moment, probably still a small bit away from where he is to being selected. I couldn't actually tell you how far away he is and I'd say his overall aspiration will be to get to championship.

"It's great to see him back. It's probably a boost more so for everyone else to see the amount of torture and pain he went through when we were going through the joys of the summer, where he was sitting on the sideline on crutches.

"I suppose it's good to see him coming back into the panel and it brings that bit of experience and it definitely inspires a lot of young lads to see what he has gone through in the last couple of months."

Waterford's season was due to get under way last weekend with a Munster SHL clash with Limerick but that fell by the wayside due to the weather. Despite unveiling a host of new faces in the last two seasons, Connors believes it's vital the county find new talent this month to buttress their squad.

"When it comes to championship it is all about the strength of the panel more so than anything else.

"I suppose that is evidenced when you see the likes of Kilkenny last year winning the hurling and Dublin the football. Richie Power coming on in the All-Ireland final with a few minutes to go, he really turned the game, winning primary possession.

"I suppose it was the same in the football when they really had their backs against the wall, (Dublin) brought on the likes of Alan Brogan, went up the field and got a fantastic point, so it's coming to that stage where their panel is really going to pay dividends."

Irish Independent

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