'We're back to square one - back in a pack with everyone'
Pauric Mahony tells Martin Breheny that Déise will learn from All-Ireland final defeat
Pauric Mahony is not dwelling on the past but he knows it can inform and shape the future so it cannot be ignored.
All around him in the hurling All-Stars team hotel in Singapore are All-Ireland winners, men from Kilkenny, Tipperary and Galway, the latter ending the long wait for ultimate glory by beating Waterford in the final last September.
Mahony has talked to many of his counterparts from other counties, whose careers will always be defined as All-Ireland winners and wonders if that will come for him and his Waterford team-mates.
This year delivered progress when they reached the All-Ireland final for only the second time in 54 years but it ended in defeat by one score after a game where Waterford had opportunities but didn't take them.
"There's no silverware on the table and that's disappointing. That's the first thing you look for at the end of every year but at the same time we did make progress," said Mahony.
"We got to the All-Ireland final and we competed well but came up a bit short in the end. In fairness we bumped into a serious Galway side in the final."
Looking back on how things might have run differently is an integral part of sport and while Mahony has not over-stressed on the video analysis of the All-Ireland final, even a brief check yields clues as to why Waterford were beaten.
"I've looked back at bits and pieces. You analyse any game - win or lose - and you'll always find room for improvement.
"We made a few simple mistakes here and there but that's what a good team does to you.
"They force you to rush into decisions. That's when you make mistakes. Galway had us under pressure right from the start.
"We needed a big moment in the second half. Other than Kevin Moran's goal in the first half we didn't have any real big moment to drive us on.
"We needed one, maybe ten minutes into the second half - a goal or something inspirational. It just didn't happen for us," said Mahony (right).
It's in the past now, so all that matters for Waterford is the lessons they have taken from the All-Ireland final so that they are better next year.
Mahony has been preoccupied with Ballygunner's club campaign, which ended in defeat by Na Piarsaigh in the Munster final, so his focus has been elsewhere but it will soon return to 2018 and the massive challenge it poses.
So where do Waterford need to improve?
"It's hard to say at this stage. We're in off-season so we're trying to refresh and recharge the batteries. I'm sure Derek (McGrath) is working away in the background - thinking of different ways we can find that extra one or two per cent.
"If we're to get back to where we were this year and even move on, we need to find a few per cent here and there.
"We're back to square one in a sense - back in the pack with everyone. There are eight or nine teams there and if they can get a bit of momentum in the summer, they can go a long way. That's the way it is in hurling nowadays," he said.
He has heard the criticisms of Waterford's structure, complete with claims that they will not win an All-Ireland title without committing more men to attack, but he ignores them.
The Déise were, after all, good enough to reach the All-Ireland final this year and if they had beaten Galway, nobody would question their game-plan.
"Criticism doesn't really bother us. We're happy to play whatever way Derek wants us to play. When the ball is thrown in, it's a game of hurling and you get on with it," he said.