‘You don’t lose heart, you drive on’

Manager Páraic Fanning looks on as the sun sets on Waterford’s hurling championship campaign at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday evening. Picture: Inpho/James Crombie

A strange week ended at around 20 to nine on Saturday night for the Waterford hurlers, and with it their season.

Time became an elastic commodity for the Déise recently. The high of a league final just a couple of months ago seemed a distant memory when Páraic Fanning sat down to field questions after losing to Cork.

The Waterford manager had put down a week of apocalypse and speculation which zeroed into the 70-odd minutes of a championship game; to preserve the temporal challenges, the assorted hacks were dancing around the question of his future as Waterford manager.

When a reporter eventually asked if he wanted to be in a position in 2020 to rectify what had happened to his team this season, he obliged.

“Sure I will be in that position, I have a two-year term.

“They’re things which... without looking for banner headlines, this isn’t the time to be discussing those.

“We’ll reflect and review and make our informed decisions.

“The championship comes so quickly that only now you have the headspace — a match on a Sunday, then on a Saturday, there’s not much time only to get the team ready.

“Our championship is over for now, for this year, so we have to have a good look at things. I have a fair idea of what we need to do.”

That said, it was a challenging few days. Rumours before a championship game formed an untraceable currency for decades before bitcoin was ever dreamed of, but the whispers out of Waterford were on the edge of fantastic all week.

Players leaving the panel — the country, even — and refusing to play.

Or train. Or get the bus to Cork.

Fanning shrugged when asked about the rumours.

“I personally tried to switch off from all that during the week.

“You’d be aware of it, but there are things you can’t avoid for whatever reason.

“I don’t do the rumour mill, I can only go on the four walls of the room and what we have inside.

“Like any team, when you have bad performances there are things you chat through, but we had 35 guys come in for training Tuesday and Thursday and go at it. We tried to regroup and we were coming down to try to win this game.

“I thought we started well for a lot of it but then we gave away a couple of soft scores. Cork are a very good side and there were lads who had to stay on with injuries as we had used our subs, there was a couple out on their feet at the end.”

There were two teams involved on Saturday evening, of course.

Cork cruised to victory, pulling away in the fourth quarter, but manager John Meyler acknowledged the rumbling going on to the east all week.

There had been a lot of chatter about Cork doing their scoring difference a favour in the game, for instance, but Meyler stressed the win was top of the Rebels’ agenda.

“Winning the game was absolutely critical. We go to Ennis in eight days’ time and we need to up that performance again, that’s vital.

“Waterford are a proud county and they’ve done really well, they were in the All-Ireland final two years ago.

“We all have troughs in our lives as coaches — I’ve been there umpteen times myself where you lose matches by 10, 15 points and everyone gives out. I know Páraic Fanning a long time, he’s a fantastic hurling man.

“He’ll regroup, they had a lot of young fellas playing there tonight. They’ll refocus and re-energise. I think two weeks off and playing last week [would be better].

“You lost the impetus of the Limerick game, we were on a high after that, and we probably lost that coming into tonight’s game.

“I was worried we’d be rusty, and with what was going on in Waterford — in inverted commas — but the lads really put in a performance, that’s the most pleasing aspect of the evening.”

For Waterford, 2019 is a season to write off. Not before sifting through it for lessons, however.

“You always review every season with the county board,” said Fanning. “That would be no different to any normal year.

“We’d sit down ourselves, with the players, to reflect on the championship. It’ll be no different there.”

The Mount Sion man sounded a defiant note to finish.

“Clare were beaten by 13 points last week, it can happen, there’ll be other games in the championship this year where teams will suffer heavy defeats.

“We’ll get our hunger going again and try to find a game that suits us. We have a different type of player to the other Munster counties at the moment in our physique and we have to find a pattern of play that suits us and keeps us in the games.

“We lost a Munster final by 19 or 20 points a few years ago and closed that gap. We got to the All-Ireland final the following year.

“What you do is you get back on the field. You don’t lose heart, you drive on.”

Then Fanning left to rejoin the players for some food before they hit the road.

Time was moving on.

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