Waterford defender Darragh Fives insists the county’s hurlers are not under extra pressure in 2014.
In August, Michael Ryan stepped down as the Déise manager, revealing that the majority of the squad were against him continuing.
With Derek McGrath having taken over from Ryan, Fives does not believe that the spotlight is now on the players to back up their stance.
“We’re just focused on what’s ahead. We had a good few years with him (Ryan) and we didn’t achieve. We’re just hoping to drive on now under the new manager. We’re back a short while and things have been going well.”
Waterford exited this year’s championship after an extra-time defeat to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland qualifiers.
“We’d have to look at it as a bad year,” he admitted. “Nobody wants to be getting beaten in June or July. We were disappointed but we did take positives from running Kilkenny so close.
“They had it over us in the last few years so we knew that if we were getting closer to them, then we were going in the right direction. The challenge now is to take it on another step or two in 2014.”
Cork on May 25 provide the opposition for Waterford’s Munster SHC opener, and Fives believes the 2014 championship is one of the most open of recent times.
Should they not enjoy a sustained provincial run, however, Fives says Waterford will take heart from Clare and Cork’s route to Croke Park in 2013.
“The Munster championship is very open and I think that any team could beat any other one on its day. It gives every team the belief that they can win it, so it makes it very exciting.
“We’d obviously be targeting trying to get to a Munster final and then looking to win it, but if you don’t, in retrospect it mightn’t be a bad thing to get a few extra games on board. This year it was Cork and Clare in the All-Ireland final after coming through the qualifiers so having those extra matches probably helped that way.”
Fives was speaking at the presentation of Fitzgibbon Cup medals to the victorious UCC team, an event where the college also announced a link-up with mental-illness organisation Aware.
UCC are aiming for a third Fitzgibbon title in a row in 2014, but Fives accepts the additional pressure that comes with being champions.
“It’s never going to be easy,” he said. “Every time you win it, you’re put up on a pedestal and people want to knock you off it. You have to go out and work even harder then the next year, so next year will probably be more difficult. But playing for UCC has brought me on hugely. You’re playing what’s not far off top-class hurling because the teams you’re up against are so good.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved