Dessie Hutchinson keen to repay Liam Cahill’s faith in Waterford

Ballygunner star believes Déise can reach another level and end long All-Ireland wait

As the dust settled on the hurling year the consensus was that, despite a poor start to the championship, Waterford had ended up in the same position as 2020 – second best team in the country.

They mightn't have reached the All-Ireland final – simply because they played Limerick in the semi-final – but if the view needed corroboration it came with Liam Cahill's decision to stay on as manager even though his own county, Tipperary, were interested in appointing him.

Predictably, this has gone down well in the Waterford dressingroom, according to Dessie Hutchinson, who at the weekend was Ballygunner's chief instrument of destruction in the county final against Roanmore.

“Yeah, as players we were worried for a while whether he would go or not but it shows the confidence he has in us and we need to repay him for that faith and really work hard for him this coming season.

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“It’s been two good years but, as I said, we didn’t achieve what we wanted to achieve. Liam’s done a brilliant job with us but there’s definitely more in us with Waterford. We need to win an All-Ireland or need to win a trophy so that’s the aim.”

Hutchinson’s rise has coincided with the county’s re-emergence at the top level. His back story is well known: a promising underage soccer player, capped for Ireland at under-19, his move cross-channel to Brighton, he has freely acknowledged in interviews, promised more than it delivered and he made the big decision to come home after bad luck with injuries and despite at times encouraging progress.

Inspired by the prospect of playing with his brothers, Wayne and JJ, at Ballygunner – for whom he had made the off off-grid appearance on holidays unbeknownst to Brighton – he took up hurling and his goalscoring immediately caught the eye in the 2019 championship.

A step up to county followed in Cahill’s first year, culminating in an All-Ireland final and an All Star nomination in 2020, followed by another decent season this summer. All in all it has vindicated the decision to turn his back on a professional sporting career.

“It has. When you come into a club like Ballygunner with their standard of players, you’re always going to improve. With Waterford it’s been two good years but we didn’t achieve what we wanted to do and that’s a driving force in itself to make sure that we’re performing at club level and bringing it into the county but we’re just going to enjoy the county final and worry about other things later on in the year.”

Great run

The display on Sunday earned him the Man of the Match award in recognition of 1-9 scored from play – from 10 shots. For someone who specialised in goals when he first re-entered the world of hurling, Hutchinson has expanded his repertoire to include a formidable points’ capability, including on Sunday a magnificent strike from centrefield.

The goal came early and more or less told Roanmore that this was not to be their day. Hutchinson provided the assassin's touch after a great run by young defender Tadhg Foley and although facing the wind, Ballygunner made hay in the first quarter by which stage Hutchinson had 1-4 in his pocket.

Before the intercounty season resumes, he and Ballygunner will have another cut at the Munster championship, which they won in 2018, surprisingly lost a year later and then 12 months ago, the pandemic pulled the plug on the provincial and All-Ireland club schedules.

That 2019 defeat he sees as a valuable lesson.

“It’s probably made us stronger more than anything. We know we can’t have that happen again and that’s not taking anything away from Borris-Ileigh because they were the better team on the day. We know though that there are bigger and better performances in us so hopefully we’ll realise that.”

His club manager Darragh O'Sullivan reflected after the final on the current form of his chief marksman.

“I can’t wait to watch it [the final] back to see his performance – some of the scores he got were phenomenal, out of the top drawer. The scary thing about him is that I think he’s still improving.”