Waterford’s Stephen Bennett scored O-16 for the Déise in their NHL win over Offaly on Sunday. Photos: Inpho.
NHL Division 1B: Waterford v Offaly: Reaction – Stephen Bennett & DJ Foran
It’s only January but Stephen Bennett has already raked in 2-41 from three starts.
The man of the match was in demand afterwards. A group of St Pats under 11s presented Colin Dunford with a jersey in front of the Town goal and then flocked to the Waterford number fourteen. The 23 year old was the last man back to the dressing room.
He is clear of the hip issues that have followed him around and feels in good nick right now. “Not too bad thank god probably as good as I’ve been so hopefully it keeps going that way!”
With Pauric Mahony away, the free taking duties fell to the Hibernia student during the Munster League. On Sunday, he converted ten of his twelve dead balls. He miscued a first half 65 and Eoghan Cahill saved a late shot at goal. “Ah sure look I don’t think about them too much. We know that Pauric is probably one of the best in the country at them. We had a few injuries so I was taking them in the practice matches. You’re happy when they’re going over.” He feels more involved when he’s on the frees. “I suppose you do. You could be out of it for five or ten minutes in a match. When you’re taking the frees, you’ll always have a chance or two.”
The second half was more satisfying after wasting a glut of gilt-edged goal chances into the Killinan End. “In the first half a few of them were fairly bad, we wouldn’t be happy with them. I think all of the full forward line had a few chances. They’ll go in another day hopefully. It’s nice to be making the chances anyway.”
Bennett spent five seasons under Derek McGrath’s regime. Does he notice anything new about Paraic Fanning’s set-up? “I don’t know what’s different, a lot of things are still the same. It’s all down to work rate and getting the fitness up. The drills are just a bit different with the new management and new selectors.” The familiarity of Pa Kearney helps. “I had him with Ballysaggart last year and he’s very good. Pa is brilliant with the hurling so it’s nice to have him on board.”
Bennett has three wins in mind before visiting Parnell Park at the end of February. “Hopefully we’ll go into the Dublin game with six points and get to a quarter final first of all.”
Another All Ireland minor and under 21 winner DJ Foran also seized his opportunity on Sunday. He took his goal with aplomb just 90 seconds into the second half, his first league strike for Waterford. “We spoke about it at half time. Once you’re creating chances, it’s a good thing. They’ll eventually come. We said ‘don’t push it in the second half, take our points and we’ll eventually get in on goal’. Thankfully we took them in the second half. We didn’t get them all but took enough to win the game.”
He chased back into his own half as well. It’s part of the job description. “Any team worth their salt now, the half forwards are an integral part of the shape. You have to work back, you have to support your defenders but you have to be fit enough to get back up the field for scoring opportunities. When you’re working back, as you come forward then you get in a position where your man doesn’t know where you are. A few of us got scores when we arrived late to the attack. We’re no different to any team. Every team in the country is doing it now.”
This was only a fourth league start for the big Portlaw man. He knows that he must maximise every chance to impress. “Paraic has made no illusions about it: once you’re playing and playing well, you’ll continue playing. You look at the calibre of players we had on the bench who didn’t get on the pitch today and players who are injured too. Paraic is going to give us all a chance. When you get your chance at senior inter county level, you have to take it. There’s more than enough fellas to take the jersey off you.”
Waterford’s DJ Foran scoring one of his three points against Offaly on Sunday.