Noel Connors eager to renew battle with Kilkenny

Waterford defender believes his side can rise to the required level once again in replay

Waterford’s Noel Connors shakes hands with Walter Walsh: “I think we’ve been a team that has been maybe tarnished with a brush for the Munster final.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Waterford’s Noel Connors shakes hands with Walter Walsh: “I think we’ve been a team that has been maybe tarnished with a brush for the Munster final.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Kilkenny can never be accused of courting publicity. Not that Waterford do either but following Sunday’s thrilling All-Ireland semi-final draw, every hurler you would want to natter away with paused before climbing on the team bus for their contemplative journey home.

Kilkenny players not so much. There was a smattering or words from Eoin Larkin. TJ Reid dipped the head and declined anything but a pleasantry.

That has long been the Kilkenny way. Certainly since November 16th 1998. Brian Cody did sit among us in grand form, even checking his own repetitive manner: “It was a savage game. I know I always say that but it was, savage.”

And that was all they were saying about it.

The contrast has been stark. The always approachable Derek McGrath popped up on TV3 the other night. Dan Shanahan did radio.

And Noel Connors spent some time talking about Saturday evening in Thurles. If Kilkenny do eventually prevail the accepted fact that Waterford took a backward step in those frantic last few plays will haunt them deep into winter.

Collective showing

At least their performance, the entire collective showing, including the last few moments have temporarily banished the ghosts of the Munster final against Tipperary.

“Certainly I think we’ve been a team that has been maybe tarnished with a brush for the Munster final. It’s a game that we look back on with obviously dread and everything else but it was probably our worst performance in maybe two and a half, even three years,” said Connors.

“People are still looking at the Munster final defeat to Tipperary as what Waterford are about but you forget about great games against the likes of Wexford, Limerick in the league semi-final and three great Clare games we’ve played already this year. And you even look back to last year’s league final, last year’s league semi-final against Tipperary again.

“Maybe it’s a wrong representation of what we are as a group of players but certainly this [performance] is the level that Derek (McGrath) has got us to in the last three years since he’s got involved.

“Yeah, look, you have to get up to another percentage, each person, to reach this level. If you want to be contesting against the likes of Kilkenny, Tipperary and Galway you have to be up at this level.”

We finish with an interesting query about how to beat Kilkenny: do you need to build up a seven or eight-point lead, do you need to bury them, as limping over the line by a point or two never seems to happen against a Cody team?

“I don’t know is it tradition or is it just the mentality of Kilkenny. But it’s a mentality that champions have.

“In fairness to them they’ve been a phenomenal side and still are, probably the best team ever to grace a hurling field. You have to respect that but also go out with the best of intentions to try to win the game. Obviously you can’t respect it too much where your own game is burdened and you’re looking too much at what they have.

“I think a lot of the game we played today was kind of on our terms – where we wanted to go out and play hurling to our strengths.

“I don’t think it’s something we’re going to reflect on too much....But it’s very much about going out and playing with a freedom and the abandonment that Derek has been talking about in the last couple of weeks.”

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