The Rebels lost by 10 points in Sunday’s Allianz HL Division 1 final, with Waterford’s massed ranks around the middle proving difficult to break down.
The counties clash again in a Munster semi-final in just under five weeks, but O’Neill is adamant that an increase in workrate between now and then will be the key defining factor.
“We’ve played them a lot over the last few years and while last Sunday was our first time facing that system, it’s not like it was something totally new to us,” he said.
“We just couldn’t seem to counteract it. The pace that they played at, if they keep it up for another 70 minutes — and they seemed to have been able to do it during the league — we’re under no illusions.
“Just because we played them and we’re some way used to the brand of hurling they play, that’s not going to automatically translate to us beating them.
“It’s still going to come down to us. You can look at tactics and stats but, at the end of the day, it’s still 15 on 15 on the pitch and they were far hungrier than us.”
O’Neill was speaking at last night’s open training session, where Cork fans were given the opportunity to meet their heroes. It was the team’s last get-together for a fortnight and they will review the league final upon their return.
“We’ve a break now with the clubs for a few weeks,” O’Neill said.
“After any big loss I’ve had in the past few years, I’ve found something like that always beneficial. When we come back, we’ll have a proper debriefing and I prefer it like that, focusing on championship with the club now.”
Meanwhile, Kanturk clash with Ballydesmond in the opening round of the Cork IFC in Newmarket at 7pm tonight.
Both of these Duhallow sides were beaten in the first round last year, Kanturk losing to Fermoy while Ballydesmond lost to Mayfield after a replay. Kyrle Holland carries a lot of the Kanturk scoring threat while Aidan Walsh, Ian Walsh and John and Lorcán McLoughlin contribute to a strong spine.
Donagh Duane and Cork hurling goalkeeper Anthony Nash aren’t playing football this year.
For Ballydesmond, Cork star Donncha O’Connor will play a key role, assuming that he is fully fit after a recent toe injury. Paudie Breen and Niall Fleming are also likely to be among the scores for them while Bertie O’Callaghan’s aerial ability is sure to be an asset at midfield.