Waterford got their first points of the Allianz Hurling League Division 1A last weekend against Kilkenny, but selector Dan Shanahan says Tipperary will be “a huge test” for them tomorrow in Walsh Park.
The one-point win over Kilkenny in Nowlan Park was the ideal league opener, said Shanahan: “It was a great battle, a great game to win, just what you want from your first league game. It sets the standard straight away and the players get back into it immediately. The way the game was going it looked like it might end in a draw, or Kilkenny might just slip it, but to hold out was great.”
The Lismore man said Waterford aren’t getting carried away by the win. “It’s great to get a win, and with the derby aspect obviously people enjoy the slagging and so on, but for us it’s just a win.
“We’re trying to get that mindset into the players, to go from game to game with the right attitude rather than getting hung up on beating Kilkenny in a league game. It’s a long time since we’d beaten them in Nowlan Park, there was a lot made of that after the match, but it has no bearing at all on these lads. They’re focused on the next game again in the league.”
Tomorrow the All-Ireland champions come to town with another searching examination in store. “That’s what’s so great about the league, the games come at you week on week,” said Shanahan.
“If you win one then you can build on that momentum. If you lose, then you only have to wait the week until you get another chance to get back on the horse.
“Tipperary will be a huge test for our lads, but that’s what you want — a chance to measure yourself against the teams and the players that set the standard. Tipp were very worthy All-Ireland champions last year, they deserved all that they won — but this is a new year, a new page, and they’ll know well that every team will be out to make a name for themselves against the All-Ireland champions.”
Shanahan rubbished suggestions Tipperary might be easing themselves back into competitive action after a winter of celebrations. “You only had to watch how they played last weekend to see that they’re keen to keep winning. It would be easy for any team after winning an All-Ireland to let themselves go a bit and take a few games to get back into it, particularly when Tipp didn’t play in the Munster senior hurling league last month.
“But the appetite was plain to see last weekend in Croke Park against Dublin, at times they were fantastic.
“Once they settled in and got going, Dublin were struggling to keep up with them, and what would strike you was that some of the players who weren’t playing last year were the lads catching your eye. Someone like Aidan McCormack, for instance, was obviously trying to win a place on the championship team. That’s a tall order when that championship team has won the All-Ireland, but he put in a great shift there last Sunday.
“And that’s something (Tipp boss) Michael Ryan will be delighted with. Any management team would be delighted with their starters being put under pressure by new players on the panel. You need that, because the league is so tight. If you lose one game then you’re under pressure straight away, particularly if it’s a game in the first couple of rounds. Tipp will be keen to keep winning tomorrow, and we’ll be keen to do the same.”
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