Whelan thrilled as Waterford stay in winning groove

Two wins in six days. Rare air for Waterford’s senior footballers indeed. For manager Benji Whelan, while clearly thrilled with the victory over Antrim at Carriganore, both feet remain firmly planted on terra firma.
“Sure it’s huge for the lads,” the Kilmacthomas native began. “We gave away an awful lot of wasteful ball in the first half. I thought it was going to hurt us in the second half but we played an awful lot better with the ball in the second half. Thinking of the lads, the whole point of this management structure and the whole point of this exercise is to get these lads thinking that they’re on a par with anything in Division Four – and maybe ahead of a lot of it, so that from that point of view, to win twice inside a week is a massive step for us to take.”
Benji added: “They fought hard to win this week and last week in Wexford, and I feel the players are starting to see that the plan we’ve adopted has its merits and that it’s important to stick to it. And for me, we wouldn’t have both of these wins without the previous losses. It’s hugely important to us to learn from every experience, from every game we play we trying to learn from it…
“We were exposed in the earlier games but we haven’t been exposed in the last two games, I feel, so credit has to go to the lads: it’s their responsibility to make sure they communicate effectively enough to make sure it doesn’t happen on the pitch. If we were further along the road and this project was a further year down the road, then we’d be looking back at games we have lost narrowly and saying ‘that shouldn’t have happened’ so I do feel we’ve learned a lot from those losses.”
What’s the step up been like for the new manager? “Well, every day throws up a new challenge, every day throws up something different. There’s man marking jobs, covering space jobs, all kinds of jobs that need doing. There’s stopping guys running into different channels, there’s working ball into different areas, there’s pulling them out of positions. Every day throws up a new challenge and eventually what you’ll see is that the boys will learn on their feet and they will learn in games and that’s what we’re looking for.”
He continued: “When you get to higher levels and hopefully this group will go on and achieve at a higher level but when you get to that level you have to up the ante and you’ve got to back yourself to be able to sort it out and I’m going to relay that to the rest of the boys. The games aren’t won on the sideline; games are won on the pitch and the really top level teams can sort out problems on the pitch and that’s what we’re trying to create in this group.”
As for deploying as many of the panel as he can over the course of the Spring, Benji Whelan stated: “Of course we’re conscious of guys that haven’t got game time, we’re very conscious of that and we’re eager to get them game time. In saying that, we’re playing a lot of games outside of the National League. These lads have played three competitive games and this week they’ll play a fourth so they’re getting time on the pitch but a lot of the lads are realising that they need to move on a little bit, that they need to smarten up their play and hopefully what these games are showing them.”
He continued: “The guys that are at the level already are just waiting for their time to come in . We’re eager for them to have a chance but we will always have a couple of projects. That was the purpose of having a big panel, bringing it up to 32, 33 mark this year so that we could nurture and produce and bring the play up to a higher level for next year and the year after. Their participation this year will be limited because of their inexperience but that’s to be expected . Some of these guys we have involved are very important for their clubs but when you go to a higher level invariably someone has to occupy the 22, 23, 24 (players on the panel).”
How pleased is Benji Whelan with the progress the panel has achieved under his watch thus far? “I think we’re on a par with where we thought they’d be, there’s a lot of things that are positive, there’s an awful lot of things to learn still, I think our error count (on Saturday) was quite good, typically it has been too high and you just can’t compete at any level if you continuously give the ball back to the opposition. It’s something we’re fine tuning, we’re trying to get that aspect right but it is coming, I think from the point of view of game management and set up we’re doing quite well. There’s always ways to improve and there’s always ways to develop the skills . that’s something that needs to be drip fed, we just can’t flood the pitch with that kind of stuff. It takes a while to get that right on the pitch and once you get certain things right you can move on and ask them further questions but at the moment we’re on a par with where we wanted to be. We just need to stick with it now, keep learning, put all the lessons we’ve had to good use.”
As for the cross-channel trip on St Patrick’s Weekend, the Deise boss stated: “Going over to London, it’s a difficult one because of the travelling and everything that goes with a game over there. That said, we couldn’t be coming into the game in a better frame of mind. We’ll be looking for a good, solid performance, putting it up to London. If we can draw them on to us and stick to our guns and play good defensive football and break when the chance comes we’ll be there to thereabouts.”

Justly proud: Waterford senior football manager Benji Whelan.

Justly proud: Waterford senior football manager Benji Whelan.

Waterford’s Dessie Hutchinson solos up field at the WIT Arena.

Waterford’s Dessie Hutchinson solos up field at the WIT Arena.

Waterford’s Shane Ryan showing his strength when breaking the tackle of Antrim’s Colum Duffin.

Waterford’s Shane Ryan showing his strength when breaking the tackle of Antrim’s Colum Duffin.

For full story see The Munster Express newspaper or
subscribe to our Electronic edition.

Leave a Comment