Missing All-Ireland final will be ‘tough’, says Waterford’s Pauric Mahony

Top scorer deals with disappointment as county prepares for third final in 12 years

It always appears a particular torment. A first-choice player in the build-up to an All-Ireland final but recovering from long-term injury and long reconciled to the fact that he won’t be playing.

In the cold and dark of the Waterford hurlers' media night at Fraher Field, Dungarvan, Pauric Mahony is that guy.

It was a challenge match with Wexford in October that did the damage, which Tadhg O’Sullivan, orthopaedic consultant and a family friend arranged to have assessed and despite initial ambiguity, a scan confirmed the dreaded cruciate news.

So when the Waterford team that he has led and top-scored for during a 10-year intercounty career shook off the lethargy of two years without a single championship win and with such conviction that they reached a second All-Ireland final in four years, Mahony was faced with a big-match build-up that he wasn’t really building up to.


“It will be tough, it will be tough of course but I suppose that’s part of the game. For example, we’ve the likes of Darragh Fives who is injured too and he’s had a lot more back luck than me over the years.

Bad injuries

“Whereas I might have had one or two bad injuries where I had to go under the knife he has constantly had muscle injuries and he was there the Tuesday night before the Cork game absolutely flying probably playing the best hurling he has played and next minute he went down and his year was over.”

It was the second season ending injury to have disrupted Mahony’s career after a broken tibia in 2015 just a week after helping the county to a league title, derailed that year’s championship.

New manager Liam Cahill identified him as someone who might like to remain part of the panel and contribute off-field.

“Liam was speaking to me pretty quickly after it and was keen for me to hang around, and I suppose at the start I was kind of feeling like a bit of a waster, but then eventually you can start picking up the balls or bringing water out to the lads; you can do something and you feel like you’re offering something.”

The whole setback was especially disappointing because of the year that everyone has had to endure.

From lockdown in March at the very point that Waterford had qualified for the league knockout stages, through the months of uncertainty to the sheer relief of a return to play in July, he experienced the emotional ebb and flow of not knowing whether there would be a season.

There was and at club level it culminated in the now almost perennial county title for Ballygunner, which had him gnawing at the bit for the intercounty championship to start, making its termination all the harder to bear.

“Yeah, it kind of was. The way the club finished, you’re hungry and mad for more action because it was run off over a short window and we spent three or four months on our own, just training away, training on any piece of grass you could find trying to keep the fitness levels up.

“Then obviously we got back and everyone was absolutely buzzing for the club championships to be played, never mind intercounty, and then when the green light was given for intercounty I think everyone was excited, right across Ireland, because it’s an outlet for everyone here now as we’ve seen.”


Protocols to deal with the pandemic have created the strangest of all championships. Not alone is it being played later in the year than any All-Irelands for about 100 years but even the biggest stadiums must remain largely empty with no supporters.

The abnormality has, however, eased the pressures on players, particularly in a county like Waterford, which is sufficiently unfamiliar with All-Ireland finals - two, 2008 and 2017 in 57 years - for the public mood to escalate.

Mahony particularly notes one element of the big day that players will be glad to avoid, particularly given that his brother Philip retired after last season.

“The ticket side of things will help anyway - an absolute nightmare. I was only thinking to myself that if we got there this year and with Philip gone off the panel the allocation to our family was going to be halved.

“Look it probably does help. I’m sure you were in Croke Park last week there was an eerie feeling there. It brings it back to game on game and treating it whether it’s a final, semi-final, the first round of the league or a challenge match by having to go out with the same attitude and bring your game every time you go there. That’s how we have tried to approach it and it has worked to date.”

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times