Former Waterford selector Dan Shanahan says the Déise players must lift a downbeat county against Limerick in Walsh Park tomorrow. Waterford were pipped by Clare in their opening game but were well beaten by Tipperary two weeks ago. So the home joust with the All-Ireland champions is a chance to kickstart their campaign.
“People have been down since the Tipperary game, which isn’t surprising. We didn’t get going at all, and when Conor (Gleeson) got sent off it was always going to be really hard,” Shanahan says.
“But we can’t just give up, we have a game against the All-Ireland champions in our own backyard and we need to give a display that’ll give people a boost, belief in the team.
“It’s a terrible cliche — I’ve used it myself often enough — but the first thing is to produce a performance and let the result look after itself. Even though it’s a cliche, it’s true. Unless you have the performance you haven’t a hope of getting a result.”
It’s a second Munster Championship game at home for Waterford, and the 2007 Hurler of the Year is hoping supporters get behind the side.
“We really have to make full use of home advantage,” said Shanahan. “Last year it would have been a big help to us, and in Waterford generally we’ve been looking for home games for years, so now we have them we have to get the full value for them.
I thought we’d create a more hostile atmosphere for the Clare game, and the supporters got behind the team in fairness as the game wore on, but it’d be great to see them involved from the word go tomorrow when it’d really help the team.
Shanahan feels Waterford will need all the help they can get against Limerick, who will be keen to bounce back from their opening-game defeat to Cork.
“You can be sure that Limerick training for the last couple of weeks was cranky and bad-humoured, no matter what they say outside the camp.
“After losing to Cork they’ll be savage keen to get back on the horse, and Waterford are in their way. All the talk all spring was how good Limerick were and how nobody would be able to keep up with them, and then Cork go up and beat them.
“John Kiely and his selectors will be sure they’re not going to take their next opponents lightly, that’ll be the message they were listening to for the last fortnight.”
The big man from Lismore says Limerick won’t be fazed by a new venue, but adds that Waterford must take them on from the start: “The fact that they won’t know Walsh Park won’t put them off. They’re the All-Ireland champions, they know all about facing challenges.
“Right now, though, Waterford have nothing to lose, so they might as well go all out. The big thing for me is they have to match Limerick physically — they’re a big strong team and they’ll impose themselves on you if you let them.
“That doesn’t mean just trying to outmuscle them, because in a few places they’re probably bigger and stronger than our lads. It’s important that Waterford play a game that suits them and the qualities they have.”
Shanahan has sympathy for Paraic Fanning and his selectors after a disappointing start to the campaign. “It’s always tough in your first year, I know that well myself from working with Derek (McGrath, ex manager). We were relegated from the top division of the NHL that first year, so we were up against it.
“In fairness I thought they were unlucky against Clare, there were a couple of decisions that went against them which could have changed the result of that game, and then we’d be facing a totally different scenario — you’d have points on the board and the supporters would be behind you, everything would be positive.
“I know that Paraic and all the lads are working hard to get it right for tomorrow, and I think there’s a big performance in them. I hope it goes well for them and that they come out with the win.”