Waterford’s Maurice Shanahan says belief will not be an issue for their All-Ireland semi-final date against Kilkenny.
Not since 1959 have Waterford scored a championship win over their illustrious neighbours and while they forced extra-time in their most recent championship meeting back in 2013, the following spring’s league clash suggested quite a considerable gap still remains between the two counties – Brian Cody’s men scoring a 4-22 to 0-14 win.
Derek McGrath was but a few months into the job on the afternoon of the Nowlan Park massacre, but Shanahan insists Waterford are “a new team” now and when asked if the Déise truly believe they can claim the scalp of Kilkenny on August 9, he replied: “Definitely.”
“This Waterford team definitely believes. But Kilkenny are there. They’re the best team around. Tipperary aren’t far off them, but Kilkenny have the All-Ireland and it’s up to us to get up there.
“We will believe. Whether that’s good enough on the day, we’ll see, but we’ll give them one hell of a battle.
“Dublin gave us one hell of a battle, but we believe in ourselves and that’s the main thing. The management team and the players all believe. The management believe in us so much and we’re returning the favour.
“Derek is us, you know? He comes up with the tactics and we buy into it. He’s the man behind us.” Waterford adopted a slightly more conventional approach for Sunday’s quarter-final contest by comparison with the Munster final; a defeat, Shanahan added, that was particularly hard to return from.
“We tweaked things a small bit, but we had a lot of wides against Tipp. Tipperary are a great team, one of the best around. They and Kilkenny are above everyone else and it’s up to us to get up to that level. We’re close and we need to drive it on for the next two weeks.”
The 25-year-old continued: “Yeah, it was hard to get over the Tipperary defeat because our U21s went out on the Wednesday night and lost as well. That was a setback because they had a good team.
“We got together on the Thursday afterwards and we said we weren’t going to slip up now and get knocked out of this championship early. Championship hurling is about Munster titles and All-Ireland titles.
“Now we’re in an All-Ireland semi-final, but, by God, we’re going to be in for one hell of a battle in a fortnight.”
Indeed, the clash with the reigning All-Ireland champions will mark the senior Croke Park debut for a number of this Waterford team. Crucial, says Shanahan, is that level-heads are maintained.
“We will relish playing there. It’s new for most of us given a lot of this team hasn’t played there.”
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