Mullane can arrest Deise slide -- Connors
Heavy defeats to Cork and Kilkenny in the opening rounds of the league have thrown an unwanted spotlight on the Waterford hurling team once again.
But Noel Connors, their 21-year-old former All Star, believes the negativity surrounding the team's performances under new management has been overplayed. Admitting it had been a tough start, Connors, who could miss the entire league campaign due to injury, is confident the imminent return of John Mullane to full training will act as a significant fillip to the rest of the squad.
And with a probable return by Eoin Kelly also on the cards, Connors is confident they can ride out the storm.
"John's return will take a lot of pressure off because fellas are starting to knock the team now -- it's easy to knock when you are down," he said.
"It has been a tough start but you have to look at the positives. You can't really look at the negatives too much, it's going to bring everyone down.
"The positives are -- we had 11 injured against Cork and in the second half we outscored them. We had 10 injuries against Kilkenny last weekend and we were only a point away at the end of the first half.
"The majority of fellas out are established players, the fellas you are depending on."
But it's the leadership provided by Mullane which will drive the Deise most according to Connors, the 2010 All Star full-back.
Mullane has been out of training for the last five weeks, a practice he has taken to in recent years which he feels serves him best in the long run.
"Everyone knows how animated John gets when it comes to championship. John is a leader and always has been," said Connors. "I'm there four years now, and John takes it on himself to get everyone going and make everyone realise the potential that they have. He's a leader and it will be a great boost."
Connors, speaking at Azzuri's launch of their new range of fully approved sliotars and footballs, admits the compression of the league into smaller groups played off in a shorter time puts added pressure on teams like Waterford.
"It is so short that if you get an injury or a knock it is very tough to come back from it," he said. "We still have Tipperary, Galway or Dublin. One win could get us going again, get us and up and running for the rest of the campaign."
Connors has been laid up with back trouble which has forced him out of both games and doesn't hold out much hope of making it back for a much abbreviated league.
"It will take another few weeks. It's a bulged disc on my back and it is just pressing on my sciatic nerve. I was told that the majority of the time, it goes back itself with a small bit of rest.
"I've been resting for the last three weeks. I do feel a lot better. The pain in the nerve was going from my backside to the back of my calf. It has been relieved a lot because there is not as much pressure on it.
"The main objective is to get right for championship. It is very disappointing to miss all the league. It's disheartening to sit on the sideline."