Tuesday, February 09, 2016


Dan Shanahan 12/7/2015

Dan Shanahan pinpoints survival in Division 1A as the main objective for Waterford over the spring period. A punishing schedule of five games in the space of six weeks will decide their fate. Following a short stay in the second tier, it is imperative that the league champions consolidate their place among the super six according to the Déise selector.
“Our first priority is safety. To stay up in this division would be massive for Waterford. You saw last year that Kilkenny struggled to stay up and they won’t want to repeat that. It’s our aim to stay up. If we get one or two results, we can push on from that. There’s good teams in 1B as well with Limerick, Wexford, Clare and Laois but if you asked those teams they would rather play Kilkenny, Galway, Dublin, Cork and Tipperary. That’s a big bonus we have for this year. It will really test us for later on in the year. We have added a few lads to our panel and we hope to take a look at them during the league. Our priority in the league is safety because if you look at the other teams, they are probably ahead of us already. To remain in Division 1A is very important.”
Waterford achieved a rare feat by winning outright honours from Division 1B, the first county to do so since Offaly in 1991. That eight game unbeaten sequence and subsequent appearances in the Munster final and All Ireland semi final means that they can no longer hide in the long grass. The holders are rated fourth with the bookmakers for this year’s competition. “I think the surprise factor is gone,” Shanahan claims. “The teams are going to respect us now after winning the league last year. We want to win every game and we are no different to any other team. We want to qualify for the knockout stages of 1A and that would bring us into the summer nicely for the Clare game, which is the game we are really looking forward to.”
With the opposition on high alert, how will Waterford evolve and stay one step ahead? Despite the heightened expectations, Shanahan signals that they will stick largely to the tried and trusted formula. “Teams might cotton on to us a bit this year but we’re not going to change much; I don’t think we have to change much to be honest with you. We want to keep doing what we did last year. It might not be pretty at times but we were getting results and that’s the main thing. It’s all about getting two points on the board on Sunday. Sometimes home games can be more of a hindrance with the pressure from your own supporters and maybe you are better off playing away from home. We want to be playing Kilkenny, it’s why we won 1B last year to get up to this level and winning the league was a bonus.”
Management chose their 33 man panel following the Munster Senior League win over Kerry and Shanahan indicates that a couple of the recent additions in attack are forcing their way into the reckoning. “A lot of lads had a good pre-season. Colm Roche and Tommy Ryan are two fellas that are going very well in training at the moment. We are looking to see can we add a bit of firepower, create another goal chance and work harder in the forwards. These lads bring great competition to the forwards. It’s vital that you have 32 players fighting for the one cause and putting pressure on the first fifteen.”
He also believes that they have improved their physical conditioning during pre-season. “When we started last year, Fergal O’Brien was just in as physical trainer and Gary Walsh as the strength and conditioning coach. This year, the lads knew that the foundation work was in place so they have gone on from that. Personally, I think they are up from last year based on the fact that they knew the lads from the previous year. The lads are in great shape physically and mentally at the moment.”
Fitzgibbon Cup commitments mean that the entire squad will only merge this week to sharpen the focus for Kilkenny. “We won’t see them until the week of the match which is only fair. We know that they are doing a lot of training anyway so we are happy enough. It means that you can do a bit more work with the other lads given the smaller numbers so it’s working out well at the moment.”
Derek McGrath reviewed the All Ireland semi final tape sixteen times over the winter. Shanahan also scribbled down notes on how they can come up to Kilkenny’s level. “We learned a lot from it. It just goes to show why they are the best team in the country. Their aggression, physique and hurling is unbelievable and it will be the same next Sunday. We have to match that if we any chance of beating Kilkenny. We’re not going to change too much and Kilkenny have been playing the same way under Brian Cody for the last ten or eleven years. Once we get a performance from our lads, that’s all we’re looking for.”
Dan played on the last Waterford team to triumph over the Cats in a heated encounter at Walsh Park seven years ago. The visit of the All Ireland champions offers an early barometer of where they stand in the wider scheme of things. “If you want to beat Kilkenny, you have to match them for everything. You want to play the best and you can judge yourself then. If we can perform well against Kilkenny in the opening league game, it gives the lads a bit of confidence going into the Cork game the week after.”

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By Tomás McCarthy
Contact Newsdesk: 051 874951

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