Fanning keen to push boundaries

Déise manager thrilled by Waterford’s 14-point win

Paraic Fanning ought to be delighted with how his initial months in the Waterford job have fared. Indeed, it’s been as encouraging an opening trio of months as any Déise senior boss has enjoyed over the past 20 years. As noted last week, the body language of players and backroom staff alike underlines the sense that this is a very happy group. They know Clare and Limerick have to travel to Walsh Park for the Munster Championship. There’ll be a welcomingly short journey to be made on both match days. Between now and then, the rhythms of both occasions will be planned and then re-plotted, in terms of the pre-game meet up, the warm-up session, the trip to the ground, the dimensions of the pitch, every scintilla that needs to be checked and re-checked will be.

A focused Paraic Fanning during Saturday’s National Hurling League Quarter-Final at Walsh Park.  									| Photos: Noel Browne

A focused Paraic Fanning during Saturday’s National Hurling League Quarter-Final at Walsh Park. | Photos: Noel Browne


In the wake of the welcome Munster Championship news, a sense of relief around Walsh Park these past two weeks was matched by a sense of expectation, that the wheels which came off the wagon last summer can be re-assembled. That Waterford can mount a significant provincial challenge and move on from there. 1959 and all that. No Celtic Crosses are handed out on the basis of two good displays in March, and another fine performance against Galway at Nowlan Park might not mean there’ll be white and blue ribbons on any of the three trophies currently up for grabs. Realistic Waterford supporters, the kind who don’t wait for the better weather to arrive before supporting their team, are readily aware of that.

But statistically Waterford are already in the black compared to last year’s disappointing showing and don’t tell me that doesn’t already feel good? See off Galway, who had Joe Canning in blistering form against Wexford last weekend, and a League Final against Dublin or All-Ireland champions Limerick awaits. It’s a fantastic prospect. So let’s just park Championship considerations for the here and now and enjoy this League run. We’ll have plenty of time to discuss May 12th once the first major trophy of the inter-county year is handed over. “Similar to last week, I think the foundation for the victory was probably laid in the first half again,” said Fanning in the wake of Waterford’s 14-point win over The Banner.
“We managed to do a lot of good stuff against the breeze and get up the field and keep the scoreboard ticking. Sometimes when teams play against the breeze, they can become too defensive and you could find yourself chasing it too much. We focused on making sure we had a chance to engineer some scores and we did, so I was quietly pleased at half-time about where we were and the situation we were in because, out here, I knew how strong the breeze was – it was always going to be difficult to come up against it.”

As for the overall effort, the Déise boss replied: “I’m thrilled with all the players and the way the lads have approached everything in general. Stephen (Bennett) would be the first to say it and all the lads would say likewise: they work very well as a unit and that’s the big plus for us. They’re a great bunch. We’re doing the best we can. Whether we’ll get a big result out of it at the end? I don’t know. All I know is that we can keep pushing the boundaries as much as we can to see where it takes us.” Paraic Fanning isn’t expecting to have too many currently sidelined players back in the fold for the Galway match. “There are one or two lads who are improving but each week we’re hoping that this could be the week they get to push on a little bit more. They’re getting closer; we had Maurice (Shanahan) back today and Patrick Curran was back in the squad today but there are lads coming back alright: two weeks ago we only had 23 players who could tog out, now we’d 29 togged out today so the good thing for us is that lads are coming back, there’s a few more yet to come but as regards next week, that might come a bit too soon for a few of them.”

Saluting his backs, on a day when Callum Lyons, Noel Connors and Kevin Moran proved outstanding, the Waterford manager commented: “It’s very satisfying to see the way the backs have played throughout the League in general. It’s difficult in the early stages to gauge where they are but we’ve had three tough games now; I suppose the Dublin game, we weren’t overly happy with ourselves in that match but we took a lot of stuff out of that match and you’d have to be happy to keep the score down the way we did today against a top tier team like Clare.” Indeed, conceding only four points from play was every ounce as noteworthy as the 31 points that flew over the opposition’s crossbar. Here’s to more of the same in Nowlan Park next Sunday.

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