All-Ireland SHC Qualifiers: Waterford v Offaly: Dan Shanahan
Déise selector Dan Shanahan expects a big jump in performance and work rate for Saturday’s All Ireland qualifier trip to O’Connor Park.
After a deflating Munster semi final, players and management thrashed it out and got back to the grind. “We had a meeting in the Horse & Jockey straight away after the match,” Shanahan recalled. “Looking out on the boys’ faces, they knew that they didn’t perform. We didn’t have to say much in terms of motivation going into the following Tuesday night. They know that they didn’t perform and Cork did on the day. They’ve learnt from it and hopefully they’ll drive on next Saturday.”
The post-match appraisal wasn’t a drawn-out affair as they vowed to move on to the next challenge immediately. “We usually just park defeats and have a small bit of a chat. If it’s a victory, we park that straight away as well. We had a few words, nothing serious for about half an hour after the meal. We were looking forward to the draw then; we don’t want to be there but we’re there now and that’s the way it is.”
Shanahan sat through the repeat of the Cork match and deduced that they fell short of their customary high standards. “We just didn’t work hard enough. A lot of things went wrong on the day, little passes went astray which maybe wasn’t happening last year. Our lads know that and we know that as a management team too. We have to up the ante for next Saturday and from now on, whatever remains in the championship for Waterford.”
A rusty Waterford shot five wides inside the opening quarter and couldn’t capitalise on Kevin Moran’s promising line break either. Those seventy minutes will sharpen the team for their first backdoor examination. “I think the Tipperary game stood to Cork and this game will stand to us. The lads needed the game. They’ve learned from that defeat and they’re fully focussed for next Saturday night.”
The Déise avoided daunting away days at both Nowlan Park and Parnell Park but Shanahan still deems Offaly as awkward opposition. “They’re all tough draws, you’re playing knockout championship now. We prepared for all scenarios to be honest; Derek has a lot of homework done on all the teams. I would rather a home venue so it’s a tricky draw. They have Kevin Ryan who has a massive knowledge of Waterford hurling and Paul Flynn is in the background with him too. They know a lot about the Waterford set-up and the Waterford players. We have to perform and if we don’t perform, we’ll be out of the championship.”
It’s only the fourth championship meeting between these counties. Waterford took the spoils in 2005, 2008 and 2013. On their last league visit to Tullamore back in March 2015, the away team came from seven points behind with Shane Bennett and Michael Walsh among the goals. They met most recently for a pre-championship warm-up game. “We played them up in Ballysaggart only a month ago and little did we think that we’d draw Offaly in the championship. That’s the way it is and hopefully we’ll get the result that we need. The pressure is on to perform. We struggled up there a couple of years ago to beat them, when Michael Ryan was in charge, so we have to up the ante.”
Stephen Bennett fired an eleven-minute hat trick during that comprehensive win on his own patch but the Offaly backs won’t have to worry about the potent corner forward on this occasion. The 21 year old was slapped with a one match suspension for grabbing the face mask of Cork full back Damien Cahalane early in the second half. “I heard Jim Gavin on the radio this morning talking about the CCCC and I don’t know if Stephen would have been penalised if it wasn’t highlighted on the Sunday Game to be honest with you. We’ll take it on the chin. Some other lad will come in and do the job and hopefully we’ll have Stephen back for the next day.”
It comes as a setback for the minor and under 21 All Ireland medallist after starting the last five competitive games in league and championship. Shanahan claimed that some interference prior to that incident wasn’t picked up on. “No one wants to get suspended. There was an issue with Stephen that wasn’t seen by the officials as well, something happened to Stephen and there was nothing about it. He took it on the chin. He’s been good in training and hopefully the lads will drive it on for Saturday night.”
On the bright side, the addition of former All Stars Eoin Murphy and Fergal Hartley to the backroom team has eased the workload on Shanahan and company ahead of this win or bust encounter. “Since we came back from the Cork game on the Tuesday night, it’s been outstanding. Eoin Murphy has brought a different voice to training rather than myself and Derek all the time. Eoin’s knowledge of the game is unbelievable and the lads really appreciate that. Fergal has been watching training as well so it’s all good.”
Another qualifier triumph over the Faithful would lighten the mood even more.