Two points and scores galore for Déise hurlers
A ‘home’ win against Offaly was always likely in what was Paraic Fanning’s first competitive outing as Waterford senior hurling manager. However, nobody, not even a dispirited Faithful County fan, could have envisaged so easy a victory for Waterford in last Sunday’s Division 1B opener in Thurles, with the Déise prevailing by a whopping 21 points (2-28 to 0-7).
Taking their 2017 All-Ireland Qualifier into the equation, the aggregate score from the last two meetings of these sides now reads Waterford 3-63 (84 points) Offaly 0-21.
And while one welcomes any Port Láirge victory, anyone who loves hurling will lament the ongoing decline of a once remarkable dual county who, for so long, set the standard which counties such as ours longed to emulate. “We just have to keep doing what we’re doing and hope that we can improve enough to make sure we have a long year,” said a pragmatic yet pleased Fanning following Sunday’s full-time whistle at an icy Semple Stadium.
Speaking to WLR, the Waterford boss said the work rate exemplified by 16-point scoring Stephen Bennett was part of the parcel of the modern game. “When you don’t have the ball, you’ve got to work hard to win it back and we did that well today. We managed to get off to a good start and get two points off the board and for us as a new management team, it’s nice to get off to start like that.”
While Offaly’s capitulation offered another reminder of their sad drop down the game’s pecking order, the Déise boss felt his charges were hugely motivated, as demonstrated by their margin of victory. “I’ve huge respect for Offaly. I think they’re a really great hurling county and we were very much on our toes coming into it today which probably reflected our own performance too; we were well tuned in and that’s because we gave Offaly the respect that they deserved…and because when were that tuned, I think we managed to pull off a good win in the end…but it’s only the first game in the League, it’s only January and we have a mountain of work to do. There were a lot of things there today which were sloppy as well which we have to work on, we know that, the lads know that but I think we’re trying to do our best, the lads are trying to their best and that’s the most important thing.”
Meanwhile, Waterford’s footballers saw a six-point half-time lead flip into a single-point defeat to Wicklow at a damp Fraher Field on Saturday night, to make the task of promotion from Division Four that touch more testing after just one round. Manager Benji Whelan was pleased with the resolve his new-look team showed in the face of Wicklow’s second half showing, with a second successive draw between the sides appearing likely until visiting goalkeeper Mark Jackson converted an injury-time winning free. “We had a look at what we did right and what we didn’t do so well on Sunday morning and we know what we need to do to come back from Limerick next Sunday with the points,” Whelan told The Munster Express.
“Look, we’re naturally disappointed with the result but there were a lot of things we’ve been working on over the last few weeks that, at times, we did really well on Saturday night but in saying that, we know we made too many errors in critical areas. And if we reduce our error count and make both possession and territory count, then of course we can get a positive result next Sunday.”