Dermot Keyes reports
It’s a great time to be Waterford captain, I put it to Kevin Moran ahead of Sunday’s League Final against Clare.
After all, the games are coming thick and fast, there’s a trophy on the sideboard from 12 months ago and the next run out represents an opportunity to keep that pot here on Suirside. And who knows, maybe a few more trophies may come the county’s way soon enough.
“And over the next seven weeks, it’s a great time to be hurling. The evenings are getting longer, training’s good, we’ve a League Final to look forward to, then it’s back to the clubs for a week or two, then we’re back again for a training camp and the huge Championship match on June 5th. It’s an absolutely super time and I’m loving every minute of it.
“The role as captain – it’s brilliant and I love doing it – but at the end of the day it’s just a role really, but it’s an exciting time and I’m really enjoying it, as is everybody else, and that’s the way it should be.
“And that’s why most of us got into hurling when we were younger: the hope that we would enjoy days out like Sunday week in Thurles and give the Waterford supporters something to shout about. We were down in the doldrums for a couple of years but we’ve put in huge work – and if you put in the work you get the rewards – and hopefully we can pick up another reward against Clare, but we know it’s not going to be easy.”
Admitting to “huge satisfaction” in leading Waterford into another national final, Moran added that “it’s a great time in the development of this team”.
“Derek and everyone involved over the last couple of years have put in a huge level of effort to get us to where we are at this stage, and this is what we where we want to be, playing in national finals and Munster finals and so on. You’d never say no to the opportunity of playing in a match like next Sunday’s and we’re no different, sure we’re over the moon to be there.”
To cast the mind back only two years, to a horrid week on the road in Kilkenny and Ennis, and to contrast that with two League campaigns, totalling 13 matches and including just one defeat, Waterford’s progress has been incredibly impressive.
“You have to remind yourself of those days from time to time; Waterford hurling has had some tough days, and the day that you might think you’re top of the world, you don’t have to go too far back to remember heavy, humiliating defeats. And that keeps you grounded, you learn and improve from tough days like that and we’ve not lost sight of that.”
Leading so level-headed a group reflects the ‘every game as it comes attitude’ which manager and captain alike have consistently espoused. “There are no superstars in this group. There’s no-one bigger than the team. You want to be winning matches; you want to be involved in big days and you have to try to not get too carried if you happen to win a few of them. But it’s a nice place to be, everyone knows their role within the group but we’re all keeping our heads down and working hard, and it’s not working out too badly for us at the moment.”
“We can’t take any
backward steps now.”
Was it pleasing to see the team finally cut loose the way it did during that second half against Limerick, racking up 3-12 and forcing the Shannonsiders effectively into submission?
“Well it’s always nice to get a spell in a game when you’re hitting lots of scores, when things are coming off for you,” he replied. “We were probably a little unlucky in the first half when we were just a pass or two away from creating goal scoring opportunities. But even in previous matches, against the likes of Cork and Tipperary, we were quite unlucky not to get that breakthrough and we’ve been creating chances. But it’s something we’re working hard on and we feel that it will eventually come, and it certainly clicked for us against Limerick; it was nice to be able to pounce on so many of the chances we created. But it’s not about putting a gloss on a result or anything, it’s all about winning matches and we’re delighted to be back in a League Final again.”
One suspects it was to Waterford’s benefit that their 3-12 was, remarkably replicated by Clare during the first half of their win over Kilkenny, ensuring, outside the Deise at least, that the focus ahead of Sunday’s Final is likely to have a saffron and blue hue to it.
Kevin replied: “Well they’ve earned that, having put on a display like that against the All-Ireland champions; I haven’t actually seen any of that match yet, but we’re fully aware of Clare’s capabilities, and Kilkenny’s too for that matter. Clare got on top during the first 20 minutes and we’re going to have work hard to avoid that possibly happening to us. But we want to try and focus on ourselves and one thing we’ve spoken about is concentrating ion what we can do, on getting what works for us right and being clinical in front of goal.
“Derek and the guys will do their homework as they always go on the opposition but I think we just have to try and focus on ourselves more so rather than getting too carried away by what Clare might be capable of producing. Every game is different, and the match in Thurles will have a life of its own, and we’re all really looking forward to it…
“We know the Championship is what we’ll ultimately be judged by, but we have been going about our business well up to now. We need to keep improving, we know that, and there are signs that we’re doing that.
“We’ve got to ensure that we don’t take a backward step now, that we keep on building, and if we do that, I believe we will get good results and the good days will come back again. Sure, we’ll have ups and downs, but we’re mad keen to keep on winning, to keep on improving and seeing where that takes us.”