Pauric Mahony can’t say the wait was worth it but the satisfied look on his face coming off the field on Sunday said it all.
Thirteen months after his horrific leg break lining out for Ballygunner, the 24-year-old’s first competitive inter-county start was a pivotal one in Waterford’s 2016 season.
Although he saw some league action, they came in cameos and he worried he might not be able to do enough to claim a starting place, particularly when Maurice Shanahan was also trying to regain his position.
Colin Dunford had been named to start but it emerged a couple of hours before throw-in that he would make way for Mahony.
“Only on Friday night when the team was announced did I know I was in,” said Mahony. “I was happy enough with how things were going in training. But it’s not about me getting in either. We’re all working harder as a group and we’re looking forward to preparing for a Munster final in five weeks.
“At times, you thought you mightn’t get back in because the lads were going so well. I owe a lot to Derek (McGrath) and the boys for putting that trust in me and giving me that opportunity. Hopefully, I will improve as the year goes on.”
Shooting six points including four from four in frees, Mahony’s value in both general play and standing over the ball was underlined in Semple Stadium. After Shanahan, Patrick Curran, Stephen Bennett and Austin Gleeson, it’s believed he was to become Waterford’s fifth free-taker this season but he’ll be hard shifted from them now.
“Maurice, Paddy and myself get on really well and it doesn’t matter who is hitting the frees once they’re going over. With the club championship going on in Waterford and other things, I have been practising the frees over the last three or four months. When Derek told me I was taking the frees, it wasn’t much of a big deal, really, because I was putting the work in out on the field.”
After the game McGrath spoke about how Waterford had harnessed the disappointment of losing the Division 1 final replay to Clare.
Because of club action, they also couldn’t afford to dwell on things. Mahony himself had moved on from the loss immediately.
“From my own personal point of view, I had my final exams the following day so I was quickly out of Thurles after the game. I had to switch off and get stuck into the books. Then we had club championship the following weekend and that was my first game back, really, at competitive level so I was very keen to put on a good show. We were all able to move very quickly because of the club championship. After the club rounds, we were straight back into preparing for this game and by that stage we were just focused on that. “
O’Mahony highlighted honesty of effort as Waterford’s biggest call card. “The motto we have is just hard work and once you go out on that field you leave absolutely everything out there so you can hold your head up high coming off the field. We’re very confident with what we have on the bench too. You just need to empty the tank and whatever is in there is in there and you’ll have somebody else who will come on and hopefully finish the job and that was the case on Sunday,”
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