Wednesday 13 December 2017

Kevin Moran revelling in positives of Deise's 'statement' victory

Waterford defender Noel Connors celebrates his side's league semi-final victory over Tipp on Sunday
Waterford defender Noel Connors celebrates his side's league semi-final victory over Tipp on Sunday
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Within 15 minutes of their Allianz Hurling League semi-final win over Tipperary on Sunday, Waterford's Nowlan Park dressing-room was clear.

The contrast to the state of 'lockdown' that they went into in the same room after their humiliating defeat to the locals in a routine league match 13 months earlier, as Kilkenny hit them for four goals (4-22 to 0-14), perhaps captures best the great leap they have made since.

That evening Derek McGrath kept them in for almost an hour as they digested a defeat that sent them into a relegation play-off.

When Kevin Moran speaks of "embarrassment" now that evening must be firmly etched on his mind. Waterford are transformed this spring but the memory of where they were doesn't fade easily.

It was in Nowlan Park too that their championship ambitions ended rather tamely too against Wexford, casting some doubt on the whole project undertaken by McGrath. The venue never figured in their thoughts in the build-up to this semi-final but the scars did and have shaped the type of team they want to be.

"It wasn't a good year last year, let's call a spade a spade," reflected Moran. "We didn't do ourselves justice, we didn't do the management justice. There was a lot of questions asked, some soul-searching last year. We said to ourselves, 'If we are going to do this with the amount of time and effort we are going to put in we are going to have to give 110 per cent'.

"It's days like this when you appreciate it and say that's why you did the work, where as this time last year we were asking ourselves, 'Is it worth it?' It's been a huge change but it's going in the right direction.

"It was important that we just got a performance out there and tried to beat one of the better teams in the country."

Moran admits the pre-season training they did was up there with the hardest he experienced, preparing them mentally as much as physically for the challenges ahead.

"There was a huge amount of fitness work done, some really hard stuff done to prepare us mentally.

"We needed not to be ever able to use it as an excuse so days like what happened up in Clare last year and in Nowlan Park against Kilkenny and even against Wexford won't happen again. Because there was a lot of embarrassment after those matches, not doing ourselves justice. So it's just about never experiencing those days again.


"If you lose, lose with your chest out and your chin held high. We'll have ups and downs and we'll had ups and downs on Sunday. We were seven points down against one of the best teams in the country and we managed to just (hang in).

"It's a big statement, but big statement games are what we needed to win, whether that's by a point or 10 points.

"We just needed a big win and we got it, and we're delighted - there's no point in brushing it up any other way. It was badly needed for Waterford hurling. We know what we're doing and we know that we're not going to fold."

The fundamental of sound defence has been at the core of their revival, familiarity in personnel a trait that stood to them well.

For the seventh successive game the same core of defenders were on duty - Shane Fives, Barry Coughlan, Noel Connors, Tadhg De Burca and Philip Mahony clocking in each time.

Only an injury to Austin Gleeson for the Antrim game, which necessitated Michael 'Brick' Walsh stepping back, prevented McGrath from selecting the same six defenders for every game.

Now they have the certainty of facing Cork twice in a matter of weeks, the league final in Thurles on Sunday week followed by their Munster semi-final at the same venue on Sunday, June 7.

Moran knows the history of vacant trophy cabinets in Waterford to appreciate what the first instalment means to them.

"We've nothing won, we need to remember that, but it's great that the public are rowing in behind us," he added.

Irish Independent

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