Mahony wants Waterford hurlers to repay Cahill's loyalty
By John Harrington
Pauric Mahony says the Waterford hurlers will have to justify Liam Cahill’s faith in them with some big performances in 2022.
Cahill had the option of succeeding Liam Sheedy as manager of his native Tipperary, but chose instead to remain in his role as Waterford manager out of a sense of loyalty to the players he had managed for the previous two seasons.
“Yeah, obviously Liam showed huge trust with the current Waterford team that's there,” says Mahony.
“It's over to the players now to respond to that in the right manner and show Liam that he's made the right decision because I'm sure it was a very difficult call to make.
“Maybe he feels like he has unfinished business with this Waterford team and it's exciting to be involved in the set-up for 2022.
“While there was no silverware on the table at the end of the last couple of campaigns, there was progression. Plenty of positives and plenty of room for improvement too, which is vitally important.
"It’s exciting and there’s a good buzz around the team at the moment. It’s a relatively young team but lads have two or three years of playing in big games under their belts so I’d like to think we can take another step forward in 2022.”
Because of the peculiarities of a playing calendar altered by the Covid-19 pandemic in the last two years, Mahony is in the unusual position of having played two seasons of club hurling but no inter-county hurling because of ruptured cruciate sustained in October 2020.
Missing out on the run to the 2020 All-Ireland SHC Final was a particularly bitter pill to swallow for the Ballygunner man.
“It has been difficult. Because initially when the injury happened I missed the run to the All-Ireland Final against Limerick. Obviously that was very raw at the time because the injury happened just before the Championship season started and I was very much caught up in the emotion of it.
“The following year then you feel yourself you're away from the set-up and you're more like a fan watching the game and you become a supporter, as such, and your mindset changes. I would say that last year was a little bit easier because you had more time to prepare for going to games and watching games.”
The disappointment of missing out on two inter-county campaigns with Waterford has been assuaged somewhat by the continued success he’s had with Ballygunner, winning county titles in 2020 and 2021 that extended their winning sequence to eight in a row.
Their dominance in Waterford hasn’t quite translated to the provincial scene, though. Five Munster campaigns have yielded just one provincial title, with three more Finals lost.
As they prepare for another AIB Munster SHC Final on Sunday against Kilmallock, is it fair to say that if this gifted generation of Ballygunner hurlers don’t bring more provincial glory to the club then they’ll have underachieved?
“Obviously from an individual perspective you'd always be saying there's more there,” says Mahony.
“But as a collective, a lot of the current crop of Ballygunner players weren't involved in previous teams or they weren't involved a couple of years ago or five years ago or whenever we played in our first Munster Final.
“They don't care what's happened in the past, nor should they. They're coming in with a new energy to the set-up, new motivation, new levels of enthusiasm to training.
“That's getting more out of the more experienced players now and fellas are looking ahead moreso than looking back.
“We’re looking forward to this Sunday now and trying to get ourselves into a position where we’re ticking all the boxes and ready to perform.
“I think we're very evenly matched teams. If you look at the two teams on paper, very very similar teams. Inter-county players on most lines, both past and present.
“So, yeah, it's really set up nicely for a cracking game on Sunday.”