Having won the league from Division 1B last year and then reaching the All-Ireland SHC semi-finals, there might have been an external expectation Waterford would struggle to repeat those heights, but they are just two games away from back-to-back league titles after Sunday’s quarter-final win over Wexford.
“You always want to win the games,” de Búrca said. “This year, we were trying to prove ourselves with the big guns, being in Division 1A, we had to be up for it, so it was just as important. You have to prove your worth again.”
Waterford finished second in Division 1A and so were pitted against Wexford, who came third in 1B, but they were pushed hard, prevailing by a point. De Búrca, who was speaking at the annual UCC sports awards, where he was honoured with the hurling accolade, insists the Model County weren’t under- estimated. “We were definitely thrilled with the win,” he said. “They’re always hard to beat in Wexford Park, a lot of people might have been underestimating them but we definitely didn’t. Any day you play them, you know you’ll be in for a tough one.”
A growing maturity in a young team has helped Waterford to win such games.
“You definitely pick up the experience and we’re learning too from the likes of Kevin Moran,” de Búrca said.
“Derek [McGrath] is always saying, ‘You can’t just say we’re young now and we have loads of time’, you never know what will happen in sport.
“Whatever comes, you have to lead by example even if you’re young. There’s a lot of talk about systems, but that’s not what we’re about. We go out and we work hard, trying to outwork the other team, that’s what we do.”
Also honoured at the function at Cork’s River Lee Hotel were Brian Ó Beaglaioch (Gaelic football), Adrian O’Sullivan (basketball), Chris Mintern (triathlon), Lily de la Cour (kickboxing), Marie Ambrose (ladies’ football), Pamela Mackey (camogie), Paul Kiernan (rugby), Peter Coulter (hockey) and Seán O’Mahony (soccer).