Connors paints the global picture

The conversation with Noel Connors of Waterford took an odd turn early on.

“I’m interested in areas like strategy and globalisation,” said Connors.

“There’s a course on internationalisation here in Waterford Institute of Technology which involves a double degree — from WIT and from ESC Bretagne in Brest — so that’d be interesting. Different.

“You see how Europe is going, how finance is going, and that’s why I started off with a general business degree rather than getting stuck in economics or accounting and having to stay with the one thing.”

You expect corner-backs, their sporting lives ruled by the right angle of end and sideline, to be specific and definite. Connors is as good a corner-back there is in hurling, and he’s precise about his education.

However, we’re in the WIT canteen to talk hurling — the camogie team refuelling behind us for another night of celebrating after their Ashbourne Cup win — and a trip to France raises one particular question.

“From the hurling point of view it’s fine. It’s a week and you do a full module in the week, so I wouldn’t be missing much that way.”

Connors is enthusiastic about the new Waterford management team of Michael Ryan, Br Philip Ryan and Nicky Cashin — and physical trainer Pat Flanagan in particular. Kerry GAA officials are rueful they let the Tralee-based Flanagan escape, and the Passage man’s praise tells you why.

“I’ve huge respect for Pat — you only had to see how good Kerry were when he was there. Before I even met Pat I was talking to Joe O’Connor, who was working with us last year, and Joe recommended him very highly.

“When I met Pat I just felt here was a very genuine fella, I got the vibe from him that he really wants us to win, and the more we’ve got to know him the more inspirational he is. When we go out onto the field he brings something extra to the whole thing — I won’t say it’s something that we’ve been lacking, but there’s no doubt he has that extra experience.”

“He’s been through the mill with Kerry, and he’s already a huge asset. And he’s originally from Waterford, as well.”

How important is a fresh voice to a team? “Getting someone new in every year mightn’t be the best idea, obviously but it’s probably no harm to freshen it up every few years, to see what other lads think.

“You might take a tip from someone who was there the first year you’re on the team, then something else from someone a couple of years afterwards — all the time you’re building up a bank of stuff to help you, and so far so good with Pat.

“He’s very much into getting lads fresh for games — he doesn’t want lads getting into games when they’re tired, because that’s exactly when you’ll get injured.

“He’s also very approachable — you can chat away to him about various things, he’s heavily involved with IT Tralee and I’ve asked him for pointers about the future. He’s great to chat to that way.”

We’re talking in the aftermath of Lar Corbett’s departure from Tipperary, and the surprisingly early inter-county retirements of Cha Fitzpatrick and John Dalton, both in their 20s, from Kilkenny. Connors sees his older team-mates juggling work and family commitments and endorses John Mullane’s temporary withdrawal from the county panel.

“The older lads, you know they’re out five nights of the week and the kids have to be collected or put to bed or whatever — there’s a lot of organisation involved. I find it tough myself coming up to exams, you’d be stressed enough and need time off training, you need to be able to say to the selectors, ‘look, I need a night off training’, and Michael [Ryan], Br Philip and Nicky [Cashin] are good that way.

“They’re giving John [Mullane] a bit of time off because he’s been around the mill a good bit the last few years, and it’s no harm to keep him fresh. He doesn’t owe Waterford anything.

“You saw with Lar [Corbett], he had to pack it in because of pressure of work. Hurling is great but it’s not going to bring in the bucks for your business.”

Tomorrow night it’s Cork in Páirc Uí Rinn under lights. A tall order.

“It’s never easy to win down in Cork and playing under lights would be different for a lot of lads.

“There are so few games that you can’t experiment that much if you want to do well in the league.

” There are fewer games among the top teams, so there’ll be no easy game.

“Because of all of that you can’t really experiment, because if you lose your first two games you could be looking at relegation in the later games.”

Those later games coincide with the defender finishing up in WIT.

What’s next? “I said I’d do a three-year business degree because I wasn’t sure about committing to the fourth year, but I got into it and when the chance of a fourth year came up I took it.

“I’ll finish up in May, so I’ve only a few more weeks to go, but I’m thinking of a Master’s after that.

The way things are, I think companies are going to look for employees with as much education as possible.”

Noel Connors: the thinking man’s corner-back.

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