Waterford manager Paraic Fanning and captain Noel Connors during the presentation of the cup to Limerick after Sunday’s NHL Final. Photo: Inpho.
NHL Final: Waterford v Limerick: Reaction: Paraic Fanning
Despite Sunday’s league final setback, there was fighting talk from Paraic Fanning outside the Waterford dressing room. He insisted that his team can recover for the Munster championship and clearly felt that they didn’t receive enough credit for taking out Galway a week earlier.
While they were below their best on this occasion, he struck an upbeat note when asked for his assessment of the campaign as a whole. “We came second! Overall for us, it was a decent league. Nearly all our panel got game time. We got to know each other as well. We’ve learned a fair bit in the last two games. We played Galway twice in three weeks and beat them, they’ve been a very consistent team over last few years. People were saying that we stole the game, Galway didn’t score for 28 minutes in the second half with the wind behind them. To me that shows us in good fettle. That’s dominating the second half. I assess the league as pretty decent overall. Some good young players have got game time and provided us with serious options going into the championship.”
‘THEY USED THE BALL WELL’
He conceded that Limerick’s brand of hurling was difficult to contain. “They used the ball very well. We handled their puckouts pretty well for long periods. We forced them to do what we wanted to do to a large extent. They were very good in the ruck ball and very good in the turnover. They won ball that we might have expected to come out with. They dug them out. They’re very mobile. It’s always the conundrum do you stick or do you go. The danger of going all the way with them is you leave a lot of room in front of your own full back line. It’s probably not much different to a lot of teams, including ourselves, in the way people are trying to do things. They’re well down the road with it and they’re in a good place. They’ve won the National League and the All Ireland but we’ll see them again soon.”
The All Ireland champions are a power packed outfit and Waterford struggled to match them in the physical contests. “We’re a different build,” Fanning admitted. “That’s the type of players we have. They are physically a big unit across the field very much combined with no little class and hurling to go with it. I still think we’re quite powerful as well in a different way. You will see the best of us, I don’t think you saw it today. We’ve had games this year throughout the league and we’ve seen it in training as well what our lads are capable of. Trust me, we’ll be back. We’re looking forward now, we’re disappointed with today. Now we go and get ready for the Munster championship. It’s another big competition. The league is over. We’ll regroup now and we’ll be back.”
While Aaron Gillane, Peter Casey and Graeme Mulcahy wreaked havoc at one end, Waterford didn’t find the same fluency up front in Fanning’s view. “Limerick are the best team we’ve faced this year. They’re the All Ireland champions. They’re very slick in their movement and I think we got to grips with a lot of it at times. We didn’t make enough ball stick up front and we didn’t hold onto enough ball as much as we would have liked. We have decent forwards and we’ll create more chances the next day. We’ll be back again on that score.”
He explained that the introduction of Jack Prendergast for Michael Walsh at half time was a tactical move. “We wanted to change the way we were setting up. There was a tweak we wanted to make at half time. Jack came on the last day at half time and made a big impact. We were expecting the game to open up a little bit and we were trying to open it up ourselves. That was all. Brick had a reasonable first half but we just changed the system a little bit.”
Conor Gleeson, Shane Fives, Darragh Fives, Kieran Bennett and Brian O’Halloran all watched this game from the Hogan Stand. Fanning and his management team will have to decide over the coming weeks whether to throw them straight into the Munster championship or stick with the players that got them to a league final. “Last week, we got Tadhg into the game and it was important to get him the match. Limerick were thinking similar with Declan Hannon today. Unfortunately, they weren’t ready for today. It’s something we’ll have to gauge and judge in training and in the build-up to the Munster championship. We still have a nice bit of time before that, six weeks. I can’t answer that right now, places are up for grabs anyway. We know the quality we have coming back will increase our options. Conor Prunty, who had a good league, got back and got game time into him today That’s a help.”