Waterford hurling supporters can anticipate a side encouraged to play “off the cuff from time to time”, according to new manager Liam Cahill. The Déise’s tactical approach has been under the microscope for years but Cahill said yesterday he believes “hurling is played going forward” rather than backwards.
“It’s there to be seen what type of style that myself and (selector) Mikey Bevans like to produce," Cahill, who was speaking at the announcement in Lismore by TQS Integration of their 2020 sponsorship of Waterford GAA county teams in both codes from U14 to senior, said. "I’m a fierce believer that hurling is played going forward, I’m not a believer in going back the field to ask questions about the opposition.
“Now the fear is probably there that you could get opened up and when you go up in quality that may well happen. But I just can’t get my head around any team coming out and not being able to ask questions to the opposition. I said earlier that hurling is a game of instinct and being able to make a decision in a split second.
“I’ll ask these Waterford players to be creative and to hurl off the cuff from time to time as well and I think they’re well capable of doing it.”
Cahill felt the players’ confidence levels were low when he first met them: “I think so, looking in from the outside before I was appointed you could sense that the players had lost their mojo, really, from the heights they were at a couple of years ago.
“It’s hard to maintain those standards all the time, there’s always going to be a dip, but please God these fellas and some new fellas we hope to bring in will get really competitive in 2020.”
Players who won’t figure are Noel Connors and Maurice Shanahan, dropped by Cahill soon after his appointment.
“They’re always big calls,” said Cahill. “You’re making calls early on players that have massive performance labels for Waterford in the past and the accolades to go with them. Those wouldn’t be decisions that were made lightly, I would have talked about this before I came in. I would have looked, like any GAA supporter from the stands last year, that’s what I was going on.
Obviously with a new management there needs to be change and I commented on it from a development background. I said whenever I vacate this post I want to leave Waterford hurling in a good place. You have to look to the future as well.
Waterford must also plan without attacker Shane Bennett.
“We’re very disappointed, to be honest,” said Cahill. “He’s a really, really exciting young player, only 23 or 24 years of age, but in fairness he flagged it early and he’s been incredibly honest in what he what he has done.
“That’s our mantra for the year, to be up front and honest with one another. After Shane’s club campaign he flagged it, he said it wouldn’t be fair if he wasn’t able to commit 100% . But when the club championship starts again in April, if Shane shows anything we could revisit the situation.”
The panel has been boosted by the addition of Dessie Hutchinson and the return of Jake Dillon, he added: “Dessie is back in business and you know obviously we’ve seen him on numerous occasions — he’s a really exciting new player and a guy that comes with a brilliant attitude and mindset from his previous trade in England with Brighton.
“Jake Dillon has rejoined and is showing all of his enthusiasm and his energy to get around the field — he’s only 26, 27 years of age.”
Cahill praised the attitude of the Waterford players: “Contrary to what people might have said to me before I came down here I took on the job, the players have a massive desire to play for Waterford and the Waterford people probably need to know that they’ll give everything they can to be the best they can be.
“The players really really want to up their standards and, and to win matches and progress into the latter stages of the championship.”
All counties are suffering through pre-season routines at present but Cahill pointed out the need to “train smart” for the rigours of the championship.
“You’d hear war stories about various teams are doing and what have you, but this is about being smart as well. We want to train smart and make sure that we’re hitting the areas that need to improve from a physical and mental perspective and making sure that when the Munster championship starts that we’re ready.
“If that takes from now until until the end to get get up to that sort of a level then that’s fine, but I want us to prepare exceptionally well and just see where it takes us.
“It’s really a case of physically conditioning, these fellas properly. I’m not saying they weren’t conditioned in the past but intercounty senior hurling is so competitive now, the physicality, but it’s absolutely through the roof, and we need to be ready for that so when the sun is on our backs and the ball gets faster that we’re ready to move with it.
“Compared to 10-15 years ago players are prepared a lot better physically there, strength and conditioning of players now has gone through the roof. A lot of the work they’re doing is almost like that of professional athletes.
“But hurling for me is still about having good awareness, being able to move that ball fast and hurling with instinct more so than anything else, and that’s something that we’re going to work on. But to do that we have to be confident and be able to move quick as well.”