Liam Cahill will begin his second National Hurling League campaign as Déise boss on Sunday against Cork at Pairc Uí Chaoimh. Photos: Inpho.
NHL Preview: Inside the Waterford camp: Liam Cahill
The Waterford hurlers have used lockdown to add more power and more muscle according to Liam Cahill in a bid to go all the way this year.
During his post-match interview after the All-Ireland final last December, the Déise boss highlighted the difference in physicality between themselves and Limerick. As soon as the curtain fell on 2020, Cahill and company went about addressing that.
“We reflected immediately after the All-Ireland as to where we needed to improve and what we had to do. I’ve said it already, as a team, as a management team and everyone together, how we can raise the bar a little bit higher because ultimately, we fell short last year and we have to try and make up that ground to make sure we can go a step further this year. That was the initial process after the All-Ireland and then we tailored fitness and training regimes for the individuals, you have different sizes and make-ups of guys here on this team. During lockdown, it gave these players a great opportunity to address little areas of the physical aspect that they needed to improve on. It was a help as well if you were a player that was trying to build power and muscle or trying to put on weight to be physically stronger; it was that little bit easier during lockdown when you weren’t actually having to come and perform on a training field with me every night. Hopefully, that will pay dividends now as we get back out onto the field and try and get our hurling right.”
‘KEEPS US ALL HONEST’
The S&C team tracked that heavy lifting since the New Year. “We have a great support team here with Tommy Ryan our strength and conditioning coach. Every player was assessed before official lockdown came in after Christmas. There’s ways of monitoring that, Tommy has the expertise in relation to monitoring numbers as to how they’re lifting, weights they were able to lift and how they were progressing through the S&C programme. The whole conditioning side of it during lockdown was just around accountability with players sending in their workloads on a weekly basis. We can see the natural progression then as the strength and conditioning programme kicks in. It keeps us all honest and makes sure that we’re adhering to what has to be done.”
Liam Cahill and Kieran Kingston will cross swords once again on Sunday in the NHL opener. Waterford won both the NHL and Championship meetings between the counties last season.
A CHANGE OF VENUE
The lush green grass of Fraher Field awaited the players on their return to collective training on April 19. The squad have relocated to the Dungarvan venue for the year ahead. “I’m always conscious of players travelling and we have a good few players down here in the west of the county and it’s nice to change it up. With Covid, it’s ideal for us to be able to come into a real open environment where activity isn’t as it would be in the likes of Carriganore and WIT. It makes it a lot safer from that point of view in my opinion. We can close the gates here and train away behind the scenes. It’s a great facility as well, a top class field, it’s working very well to date.”
The Tipperary native trialled 31 players during the last year’s league and newcomers Jack Fagan, Dessie Hutchinson, Neil Montgomery and Iarlaith Daly all emerged with credit ahead of the championship. Cahill will use the 2021 competition as a team building exercise for the Munster quarter final against Clare at the end of June while still trying to pick up as many points as possible. “A good league would be to win all our matches. People would say that the prestige of the league isn’t as good as it should be this year because of no real final, whoever tops the group wins the league. It’s still one of our national competitions and our objective always is to win every match we play. It’s not going to be the be all and end all but it’s definitely going to be a great opportunity for us to find the balance of our team for the first round of the championship, that’s the whole objective. We’ll be looking to unearth a couple of new options as well and give players, both new and not so new, a fair chance to put their hand up to a make a starting fifteen and a 26 man panel for the first round of the championship.”
Billy Nolan and Shaun O’Brien will be vying for the number one shirt vacated by Waterford’s only All Star goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe. Cahill confirmed that both players will see game time during the league. “Absolutely. They’ve been brilliant understudies to Stephen. They did get a few matches in the league last year as well but it’s a real opportunity for both of them now, there’s real light at the end of the tunnel to say ‘well, there’s a real chance here.’ Being a sub goalie is not an easy place to be. It surely will give both Billy and Shaun real energy to know that if they perform during the league that there’s a real opportunity of them playing championship now that Stephen has stepped away for the year. It will be an interesting league campaign from that point of view.”
‘AN AMAZING MAN’
At the other end of the scale, 34 year old Kevin Moran is well established in the Déise set-up at this stage. He has been around since 2006. Cahill is the sixth manager he has worked under and the current Waterford bainisteoir is blown away by his attitude on and off the field. “I call him a freak hurler in the current era; he’s an amazing man. He absolutely loves training and arrives here in splendid condition. When you’re looking for the traits of a proper inter county hurler, that’s what Kevin Moran is. To be at the level he’s been at for so long and to come here every night to training, he’s even coming out in better shape this year than he has been in previous years. It’s a testament to the man for the quality and the mental reserves he has in him to keep performing at this level year in, year out.”
‘DOUBLE WHAMMY FOR DEFENDERS’
Waterford manager Liam Cahill is worried that the new sanctions for cynical play in hurling could be too severe. A penalty, a yellow card and a ten-minute sin bin will be issued by the referee if an attacking player with a goal scoring opportunity is pulled down, tripped or struck with a hurley in a careless manner inside the 20 metre line or the semi-circle arc. Cahill called for this issue to be addressed after the All-Ireland final loss to Limerick but isn’t convinced just yet that a penalty and a sin bin is the solution.
“Throughout the championship last year, there were a number of incidents where the forward got inside the back with a goal scoring opportunity or where there was a chance to draw a defender to create a goal chance. I think it had to be addressed. Whether or not it’s going to be addressed through this current format, I don’t know, maybe it is a little bit strict for the player in question when the culprit is sent to the sin bin, maybe that’s something that will have to be revisited. It seems a little bit severe that there’s a penalty awarded plus the player ends up in the sin bin as well; it’s a double whammy. It should contribute to more attacking play, more goal scoring opportunities and more goals in matches hopefully.”
The Déise management team haven’t consulted with any referees about the trial rules ahead of the NHL. “We’re going to use the league for that and see how it goes. We spoke a little bit about it here as a team and as a unit. From a defenders’ point of view, we have to really smarten up in that area to make sure that we don’t fall foul of the new rule.”
Déise boss, Liam Cahill, fears that authorities might have gone too far with the new Sin Bin rules.