Waterford defender Noel Connors has revealed that the Déise are planning the direct route to potential All-Ireland glory, writes Jackie Cahill.
Speaking after today’s impressive Munster semi-final victory over Clare at Semple Stadium, Connors believes that Waterford are now primed to launch a meaningful assault on the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
And two-time All-Star Connors is pleased that Waterford have now avoided a potential qualifier minefield as League champions Clare face the back door route again.
Connors said: “You want to win every game and it’s a cliché used in around GAA circles and sport in general. You want to win every game.
“You want to go the whole way and everybody wants to win Liam MacCarthy – there’s no point trying to deny that.
“You want to go the direct route and be remembered for winning all your games.
“You don’t want to go in the back door because you have a pretty competitive back door with the likes of Cork in it now, Clare, Tipp or Limerick, Wexford as well and a few more along the way as well. It’s going to be an extremely tough back door.”
And Connors admitted that Clare’s free-taking woes were a boost to Waterford today as Tony Kelly and Conor McGrath badly misfired.
In contrast, Waterford had Pauric Mahony on the field for his first senior championship start since the Wexford qualifier defeat in 2014.
And the Ballygunner man took the chances that came his way from placed balls.
Connors reflected: “Kilkenny are a team that have an average of maybe 90% of a conversion rate when they tuck into frees and that’s fundamental at this level. It’s pure inches at this stage.
“It’s fantastic and definitely takes some of the pressure off when you get a score off a free because ultimately, you’re nearly expected to score them anyway.
“When they go over, it’s a small bit of, I wouldn’t say relaxation because you’re never relaxed on the field but it definitely gives you a boost and a mental boost.
“In the (League final) replay, we probably weren’t as clinical on the frees and Clare were the opposite.
“Maybe they (Clare) weren’t as clinical this time around but that’s championship and there was an incredible atmosphere here today and that adds to it.”
And Connors suspects that Waterford will be better prepared for a Munster final against Tipperary or Limerick on July 10 than they were for last year’s provincial showpiece.
He said: “It’s out of a lot of effort and commitment by the players. It’s probably stemming from the work of Derek (McGrath), Fintan (O’Connor) and Dan (Shanahan) and all the backroom staff.
“It’s not something that’s been worked on overnight. Derek’s been involved with us for a number of years now and it’s probably only starting to come to fruition now. You see the amount of commitment and work ethic.”