Noel Connors says Waterford U-21s eager to take on champions Clare
Trip to Ennis holds no fears for Déise young guns, believes senior star
Waterford’s Noel Connors at the launch of the All-Ireland senior championship at Dicksboro GAA club in Kilkenny. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
It may not be ideal timing and yet Noel Connors believes that Waterford’s under-21 hurlers are ideally served by this evening’s Munster semi-final against Clare.
Just three days after losing to Tipperary in the Munster senior final, at least they won’t be left licking their wounds for long.
“After getting a defeat, like we did against Tipperary, the first thing you want to do is go out and play another one,” says Connors, a near veteran of the senior team, and a sort of father figure to the Waterford under-21s, which includes several of the current seniors, including forward Colin Dunford.
“It’s another competitive match for the lads and you want to right a few wrongs. The games can’t come quickly enough. That’s being honest with you. But yeah, every time you get beaten is a horrible feeling . . . particularly in the sense it was a Munster title on the line. We always had the aspirations of winning a Munster title.”
Connors has identified a couple of the wrongs against Tipperary on Sunday, and believes that Waterford’s lack of experience in tight finals like that ultimately cost them: “Like carrying the ball into tackles,” he says, “and maybe in the last few minutes, we were hitting ball into the full-forward line and they had a stone wall put up.
“That’s just inexperience. We probably could have taken our points. And maybe tried to sneak a goal at a different stage rather than pumping the ball in high . . .”
Next up for the Waterford seniors are Dublin, in Thurles, on Sunday week.
“You have to realise that the last competitive game Dublin knocked us down to Division 1B. And that was in Waterford. I suppose they showed pure aggression and pure steel against Limerick.
“That Limerick team were within a score of being in an All-Ireland final and that’s what you benchmark them off. You look at them as a team that’s been put up there and put it up against one of the best teams in the country and come out the better end of it.”
Clare’s senior hopes ended on Saturday but they will have home advantage this evening as they begin the quest for a fourth successive All-Ireland U-21 title. There are only two senior squad members named to start: Shane O’Donnell at right corner forward and Bobby Duggan at wing forward.
CLARE (Under-21 v Waterford): K Hogan; E Quirke, D Fitzgerald, S O’Brien; A McGuane, C Cleary, B O’Gorman; D Conroy, K Hehir; B Duggan, S Gleeson, I Galvin; S O’Donnell, S Ward, R Taylor.