Waterford midfielder Colin Dunford says the doubters drove the Déise on last year and he has promised they will dig deep to go one step further in 2018.
Dunford, 23, was a second-half substitute as his side lost the All-Ireland final 0-26 to 2-17 against Galway at Croke Park on September 3.
However, Waterford had been knocked since they were dumped out of the hurling league by Galway at the quarter-final stage. Cork defeated them in the Munster semi-final and manager Derek McGrath’s sweeper tactics were heavily criticised, even though they went on to gain revenge against the Rebels in the last four.
Waterford begin their NHL Division 1A campaign when they host Wexford at Walsh Park on Sunday and Dunford hopes for another massive year for the county.
“It was the first time for our team as a whole to get to an All-Ireland final and it was a big occasion. Things didn’t go as planned, but hopefully we can get back there. It’s going to be tough, but to get back is the thing,” said Dunford.
“You are training since October and November and to go out and play like we did against Cork in Munster didn’t show a true reflection of our team.
“Then, for people to be kicking you after having two successful enough years getting to two semi-finals, it drove us to get that extra bit of motivation.
“People were saying we weren’t good enough and we weren’t All-Ireland contenders. We didn’t win in the end, but to get there was a massive thing for us, as a group.
“Derek has done a lot for us, between the lads in Harty Cup in De La Salle and then with Waterford. He brought a lot of us into the senior panel. He is after teaching us a lot and there’s a great drive with Derek and the team.
“We want to get a good league in this year, win as many matches as we can and get a good run into the championship. I know it’s a different format for the championship, but we will give it a go and see what happens.”
The Colligan clubman scored two points for IT Carlow as they shocked reigning champions Mary Immaculate College in the opening round of the Fitzgibbon Cup on Sunday, avenging last year’s final defeat.
“It’s going to be a busy few weeks. IT Carlow are playing on Thursday and then the national league on Sunday, and we have a game with IT Carlow the following Wednesday again.
“You are kept going, but there is a good relationship between the managers. They are in contact, so we are not being pushed and pulled everywhere.”
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