New Waterford manager Liam Cahill is enjoying the league so far. Then again, he’s always been a fan of those early-season outings.
“The national league is a brilliant competition to follow, I think. I know some people might knock it from the point of view of the elements and the conditions, ‘how can a guy hurl in this weather?’, that kind of thing, but the bottom line is that you’re still representing your county, and there are a lot of qualities required for that.
“It’s still a great opportunity to see how training is progressing. Even as a supporter I thought it was a great competition to follow because it gives you great entertainment and a great idea of what’s out there. And as a manager you get an idea of the options you might have for the summer.
“The weather is tough, but it gives you a great insight into how lads apply themselves. Someone who can dig in during a league game and get it done may be worth a punt in Thurles during the summer, you can see if they have the grá for what’s required for this level.”
Sometimes the weather strikes back, of course. Waterford were due to play Limerick last Saturday night but storms postponed the game to Sunday. Conditions didn’t improve. A second postponement inside 24 hours.
“We try our best to get on with it, but obviously the postponement last week made that difficult, particularly for the people in the backroom who were trying to organise logistics and so on — there’s so much goes on behind the scenes in terms of providing players with pre-match food, post-match food, gear, and all of that.
“My only little grievance was that it took so long to call the game on the Sunday — we were in transit, heading down to Limerick, and we had looked for an 8 o’clock inspection of the pitch. I don’t know what the difference would have been 8 and 10 o’clock, when the call was made. That’s the only gripe I’d have. In fairness, there’s no-one can control the weather.”
The postponements meant it was back to the training field: “It does give you a chance to put another bit of work into lads.
All managers, though, would probably be of the same opinion — there’s nothing like matches to see where players are at. You can train all you like but matches are the key.
“The fact that we didn’t play last weekend obviously helps with lads who have niggly injuries, it gives them time to recover, but ultimately you don’t know if those niggly injuries will stand up to it until they play matches.”
They were understandably keen to keep their good run going, given they started with a victory over Cork despite shipping two early goals that day.
“It was a good start for us — obviously the beginning of the game wasn’t ideal, you try to plan for every eventuality but getting two sucker punches, two quick goals, wasn’t something that was really covered.
“The workout on the day and the quality of the game so early in the year was encouraging — for both teams, I’d say, but particularly for us. I’d only had seven or eight weeks work done with them, but they showed a real focus and desire to do the best they could. It was a toe in the water to see how things were going, but the early signs were good. If we can maintain that kind of resilience it’ll stand to us in bigger tests during the summer.
“After that game I said that there was a possibility something similar could happen in any of our four championship games this summer, so it was great practice for what’s coming later in the year. Come May you’re probably looking at a packed stadium and better conditions but the principles will be the same ones required to get a result. And the players showed those in their first outing.”
From his perspective senior inter-county is a step up in intensity all round from U21 and U20.
“It’s immensely enjoyable, which is testament to the players, who’ve been really good to work with. But the demands are that bit higher, particularly when it comes to monitoring lads’ injuries, tailoring their preparation and workload along with their age profile — timing heavy tranches of training so they’re not too close to matches and so on.
“But I’m very fortunate to have good people around me in terms of the management team and the coach, Mikey Bevans, who’s a big part of that. So far so good — it is challenging, but it’s also enjoyable.”
And Sunday? Galway will be keen to impress their own new manager, Shane O’Neill.
“It’ll give us a good sense of where we are, and that’s what’s so great about the league.
“You meet different teams — they have different strengths in different areas, they take a different approach positionally, all of that.
“Galway bring a different challenge in that they’re a physical side. They’re a big team but they can also hurt you from distance if you let them; they can pick off scores from long range as well as having forwards like Conor Whelan inside who’ll go for the green flag if they have to.
“They’re a fair outfit, so it’s another game against quality opposition for us.”
And they’ll know a little bit more about themselves again by Sunday.