A big step for Waterford after annus horribilis?

Stephen Bennett wants Waterford to make Walsh Park a fortress this year.

A big step for Waterford after annus horribilis?

Stephen Bennett wants Waterford to make Walsh Park a fortress this year.

The Déise opened their Allianz League campaign with a home victory over Cork on Sunday — and it’s a trend they want to continue when they host the Rebels and Tipperary at the Waterford city venue in the Munster Championships.

The bitter sting from their 2019 provincial trimming from Limerick is one that still pains Bennett.

He recalled: “I remember walking out of the dressing room after the Limerick game and it was just total embarrassment. We don’t want that to happen again. This is our home.

“I know it’s only the League but we need to start winning games. You need to be winning games.”

Waterford were not fancied to beat Cork and Bennett completely understood such logic.

“You wouldn’t blame people for thinking that — we haven’t won a (Championship) match in two years.

“This is only a small step. It was nice to win, but it was disappointing to be six points down after three minutes!

“We know we have a lot to work on, but we worked hard which is nice to see.”

But he also sounded a note of caution: “They had the last shot of the game (to equalise). Had that gone over you’d be talking about Cork and brilliant work-rate and we f**ked it away.

"So I don’t know how much to read into this result. We’ve a lot more to give. We’re training hard and we have a few fellas to come back.”

Bennett was pleased with how the game went for the debutants such as teenager Iarlaith Daly and Jack Fagan.

They carried no baggage of the past two seasons into the tie.

“A few lads were making their debut and they haven’t had the experience of losing so they’re confident.

"Iarlaith Daly who is 18, Jack Fagan, a few fellas like that stood up and they were hurling like they were back at home.”

The message from Liam Cahill to play with abandon was music to the players’ ears according to Bennett.

“The lads only told us to just go out and play. (The message was) ‘don’t be nervous, don’t hold back, just try’.

I think the best thing they said was, ‘make mistakes but make honest ones.’ They don’t care if you make mistakes as long as you try and do the right thing.

Bennett was even more thrilled for his older brother Kieran who excelled in midfield, picking off five points.

“He had a brilliant game. It was nice to see him go and do it. He had a great year with Ballysaggart and he’s confident.

"It’s tough — one bad game and another fella will stand up. It’s no good if he doesn’t go out next week and do the same thing.

"The panel is brilliant, we have the players to do that.”

Toggling from the full-forward line out towards centre-forward, Bennett himself was impressive in posting 11 points although he was quick to highlight his failings too.

“At times, I probably came too far out. We can all shove back one — I think that’s the way teams are playing now.

"It was very enjoyable there, but I was disappointed… I say I had about 20 wides, but it’s nice to be out there and score again.”

Westmeath are now on Waterford’s radar and Bennett wouldn’t be surprised if Cahill tries more new players in Mullingar this weekend.

“It’s tough, but it’s very good,” he says of training under the Tipperary man.

“Fellas had respect for him as soon as he came in. They management are brilliant, in fairness, the whole lot of them. It’s a very professional set-up.

"Everyone is happy and they’re just trying to get onto the 26.”

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