Waterford manager Derek McGrath has confirmed that attacker Shane Bennett is taking a break from inter-county hurling, though he hopes the Ballysaggart man may return to the panel next spring, writes Michael Moynihan.
“Shane Bennett is taking a bit of a break,” said McGrath.
“He’s been on the road for the last three years, so we’re just giving him a bit of time, more than anything else.
“We didn’t meet, we spoke over the phone, but he’s having a small bit of a break and we’re hoping he’ll come back in the spring.
“As I’ve said, a lot of these guys — Patrick (Curran), Stephen (Bennett), Shane (Bennett), Tom (Devine), Tadhg (de Burca) — they were brought into the senior set-up straight from minor, and they’ve been on a three-year relentless drive since for the Holy Grail.
“People don’t stand back and see that.
“I wouldn’t say they’re cheesed off but it’s important to stand back and give them the space necessary. We’d be aware of that with the panel. It’s what happened last year with Tom (Devine), he wanted to go travelling, so we can’t be hypocritical in how we approach things.
"If fellas want a break we have to absolutely go along with that because that’s what’s good for the young fella at the time and someone else might benefit from it in the longer term. That’s okay with us.”
McGrath added that All-Star Jamie Barron has a torn quad “and that might take a bit of time” to heal. He also confirmed Waterford’s non-participation in the pre-season Munster senior hurling league.
“We won’t play in that. The provisional fixtures start on December 30 and we’re not back from the team holiday until January 6 or so, we’re not fixing challenge games or anything.”
With Waterford contesting this year’s All-Ireland, McGrath agreed there was a challenge in terms of judging when to restart full training.
“It is, in that you’re not sure when you should go back, or whether you should trust the idea of not going back collectively until after Christmas. What was tried and tested the last couple of years, what we did... fellas trained very hard in the winter for the last couple of years, so we’re mixing and matching.
“That said, we’re finding it hard to get fellas together because Ballygunner went so far in the Munster club, so it’d be unwise to ask them back in straight away, for instance. Like everyone, we’re doing a bit in the gym and so on, but you’d hope momentum from getting to the All-Ireland would get you someway into the league, but the other side is you’re worried you don’t have enough done ahead of the league when other teams are clearly focused on that competition.
“You don’t want to get carried away with ‘looking beyond the league’, but there’s definitely a new dynamic with the new championship format. That’s not to say we won’t be trying 100% in the league, because we will, but we’ll also be trying to unearth a few lads a bit earlier rather than what we did the last couple of years — when we were qualified we’d put a team out in the last round of the league, to give fellas a game. I think this time we might go 10 or 11 (regulars) plus four (new players), to give lads who haven’t had a game a runout. But that might change.”
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