Skipper Is Keen To “Tipp” Premier Over

Waterford have implemented the game plan established by the Deise's management team to promotion-winning effect.

Waterford have implemented the game plan established by the Deise's management team to promotion-winning effect.

Captain Kevin Moran pleased with Deise’s flying start to ‘15

Kevin Moran is a very happy captain, and with good reason. Leading Waterford out of Division 1B at the first time of asking is a significant box already scratched off the Deise’s ‘to do’ list for 2015.

Sunday’s League semi-final clash with Tipperary represents a second successive fixture against top ranking opposition, and the De La Salle clubman is welcoming the prospect of taking on one of the game’s big guns.

“Maybe in the last year or two we didn’t do ourselves justice,” Moran told The Munster Express when reflecting on the upsurge in Waterford’s competitive fortunes. “This year, we really wanted to get everything right, to find that extra 10 per cent and I think we’ve held onto that focus since we got together for training back in the depths of the winter.”

Kevin added: “And now we’re in a position where we’re a team that’s being talked about more now, locally and nationally, we’ve got manage that, keep our heads down and keep doing the right things – and we’ve a semi-final against Tipperary, arguably the best team in the country to look forward to, and these are the sort of matches we all want Waterford to be involved in on a regular basis.

“Each game we’ve had so far this year has represented a different challenge: going away to Limerick and getting a result put us on the front foot , and then to go to Offaly and Wexford and win the way we did against them both was very satisfying. And to put together the type of display we did against Galway, against opponents from 1A, that felt like we’d built on what we’d achieved in terms of winning promotion, and it kept that run of wins going to into the bargain.”

As for Eamon O’Shea’s Tipperary? “They’ve definitely stepped it up a notch this year. They’re the best team out there in a lot of people’s eyes at the moment and, there’s no point in saying otherwise, it’s a massive game that both teams will be very keen to win,” said the Waterford captain.

“It’s super that we’re back in this position; you’ve to go back to 2007, one of my first years in the panel, for us to be involved in the latter stages of the League and it’s something that, I hope, will give us confidence beyond Sunday, whether our next match is the League Final or the Munster Championship against Cork.”

While Tipperary will be without leading scorer Seamus Callinan (through suspension) and John McGrath (due to a pelvic injury) this Sunday, there’ll be little argument made about their favourites’ status.

And one suspects their week’s warm weather training in Spain (incidentally, Laois were also away last week) represents ideal preparation ahead of Sunday’s south east derby.

“Of course we’ve had a look at Tipp and how best we feel we can approach them but we’ve not fallen into the trap of potentially spending too much time worrying about how Tipperary might play; we’ve got to try and set the tone ourselves…we’ve got to try and make a good start and attempt to lead from the front next Sunday.

“That’s easier said than done, of course. We know we’re going to be up against serious opposition – Tipp have plenty of good hurlers, so we can’t think all that much about the few household names they won’t have playing on Sunday either. They could have any number of lads who’ve been flying in training who could prove equally as good.”

Moran continued: “But we can’t take our eye off the ball in terms of what we’re doing ourselves, we’ve got to get ourselves right if we want to progress and get the better of Tipperary, but we know it’s a big challenge too.”

The physical challenge is one which Waterford have taken to with great relish in the League to date.

As John Mullane observed on RTE Radio, the Deisemen “bullied” Wexford on their own patch and physically over-powered Galway in Walsh Park en route to a brace of impressive victories.

On Waterford’s greater levels of physicality, Kevin Moran stated: “It’s something as a player you mightn’t be completely aware of in the middle of a game, for example, but that’s been mentioned a few times to us over the last few weeks alright.

“There’s huge hunger in the panel and there’s a great bond and relationship between the players and the management. We’re all working for each other very hard on the field and we’re getting good numbers around the ball.

“We’ve a good bit of work done in terms of fitness, but so have other teams, but there seems to be a difference alright. We’ve worked very hard and it’s certainly paying off so far and that’s something we want to maintain.

“It’s very much a 20-man game nowadays, you need to empty yourself in the first half, take that into the second half but you do that knowing there are plenty of good players who can come in and keep up that level of work rate all the way to the final whistle. There’s good chemistry there at the moment and you’d have to say it’s been a case of so far so good, and let’s hope we can keep that going now.”

With at least 20 scores recorded in each NHL outing thus far, a few more goals against better ranked opposition would surely be welcome given that Waterford didn’t find the net against Limerick, Wexford or Galway.

So is this a legitimate concern or merely journalistic griping?

Kevin Moran replied: “I think we’re creating a lot of goal chances, so perhaps that is something we need to improve on ourselves in terms of being more clinical, but I don’t think I’d describe it as a concern, to be honest. And when you’re stopping other teams from scoring (just three goals conceded in six outings thus far), then it’s clear we’re doing something right, but ideally we’d love to have it going both ways.

“If the goals start to come, that’ll be great, but it’s not something that’s really troubling us; we’re creating plenty of overlaps so it’s just something we have to work at, and hopefully the goals will start to come over the next few months.”

While the world won’t come crashing down in the event of a reversal this Sunday, seeing off Tipperary in a national competition would represent the cherry on top in terms of this League campaign.

“You want to out-do the best possible opposition out there,” said Kevin Moran. “A win like that would be another huge confidence booster and it’d demonstrate to us what we’re capable of with an eye to later on in the year, perhaps.

“It’d be great to beat Tipperary, of course, it’s something we’d love to do, but wins like that have been hard to come by for us in the last few years (Kevin struck a memorable winner when last the Deise saw off Tipp in the 2013 NHL). We’ve another opportunity on Sunday, we’ve worked hard to get into this position and it’s important that we make the most of this opportunity.

“Well, we’re there now, it’s all about performing on the day and seeing where we’ll be after 70 minutes.” From a Deise perspective, let’s hope they’ll be in the winner’s enclosure come teatime on Sunday.

Dermot Keyes

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