‘Once you win, who cares how you get there?’
Pauric Mahony unfazed by the criticism of Deise style
For Pauric Mahony and Waterford, the end justifies the means.
In 420 minutes of 2016 League action they have found the net just once, yet defeat to Dublin last month is their only loss in 14 League games, spanning two remarkable seasons between Division 1A and 1B.
Criticism of their goal dearth, and their defensive structure, is like water of a duck's back to Mahony. For a county starved of All-Ireland success stretching back to 1959, a win is a win.
"Look, we still finished second in the League with three wins, a draw and a loss. It's about winning games. Once we're winning we don't really mind how we're winning," Mahony said.
"You know if you're going into the shop someone could say to you 'oh you're too negative' and stuff like that which happens. You have to just let that go in one ear and out the other.
"We won't care if we were to win an All-Ireland or a Munster Championship or a National League, once you have that silverware no-one can take it away from you. . . how you get there, who cares like?"
Inter-county players must develop a thick skin against negative vibes but the Ballygunner attacker is quick to note that Waterford need to learn from 2015, when they made massive strides but didn't achieve their ultimate goal.
"Everyone involved wouldn't be reading into the perceptions on the outside but obviously we are a work in progress too, we've a lot of areas we need to improve on," he said.
"What we did last year wasn't good enough to get up the steps in September so we're going to have to find an extra edge this year but what that is, that's up to Derek (McGrath)."
Mahony didn't imply it in any way but he's one of the most obvious examples of what that edge can be. The go-to man up front during their magnificent run to a League title, finishing joint top scorer, his season came to a crashing halt just six days after the final.
The 23-year-old Waterford IT student typified everything good about the Deise last spring but a horrific leg break denied him the opportunity to challenge for Championship honours. Hurling turned his world upside down but it was still where he found solace during tough times.
"Because it is such a big part of your life I didn't just want to walk away from it either. Being around the lads, we get on very well, just for the bit of craic. If you were sitting at home 24-7 you'd go off your head," he said.
"We could have been training with Waterford on a Tuesday and Friday, I could have been with the club on a Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Waterford on a Sunday. Every night I was gone, involved in some capacity.
"It helped the time go pretty quick. But watching on at the games is tough. Nobody likes sitting in the stand - you aren't really any benefit to anyone.
"When the team is winning it isn't too bad, but that game against Kilkenny, it is tough because you'd love to be out there to say you could be able to give 1-2pc that could swing things."
Almost 12 months later he's back in tow with a few games already under his belt and the "relief" of pulling on a Waterford jersey again is clear to see. He admits his return against Galway last month was like a second debut.
"I was like a child at Christmas, I just couldn't wait. I came on for three or four minutes and I probably played that over 50 times in the days before," he says. "There was times where you'd question whether you'd ever get back to that level. Early in the rehab you'd be like 'this is slow, how am I ever going to get through it?'"