Bennett boys back for Waterford
By Cian O’Connell
With 2019 fast approaching Stephen Bennett is simply grateful to be preparing for a new campaign with Waterford.
Having endured four hip operations before turning 21 Bennett is ready, willing, and able to deliver for new manager Pauric Fanning.
Derek McGrath’s sterling work brought Waterford to within a whisker of All Ireland glory, but the subsequent 2018 journey was packed with pain and disappointing defeats.
“There is only one way really,” Bennett responds when asked for his assessment. “It was disappointing. I suppose to be relegated from the League and then not getting out of the group, finishing last.
“I suppose it is just exciting now to get it right for this year, and to hopefully go on a good run in the League, to qualify in the Championship.”
Studying to become a primary teacher with Hibernia College meant Bennett was unable to join his brothers in America for the summer. Watching a gripping Championship unfold wasn’t easy for Waterford, who had been so central to the action in recent campaigns.
“Yeah, of course, the fact that I was at home with none of the lads at home and the fact that they were such good matches,” Bennett states about the frustrating stint monitoring other counties.
“You wanted to be a part of it. We were finished in June, I think we were finished earlier this year than we actually started our first match the year before.
“It was a big shock to be off for the whole summer. It was nice to be back with the club too, the first time in seven years where we got a good amount of training with the club so it was nice to be back there.”
After the sabbatical Waterford are ready for road again, though, with Bennett optimistic about the new management team comprising of Pauric Fanning, James Murray, and Pa Kearney. A sense of freshness and hope exists.
“I think so, Pa Kearney and James, I actually had Pa Kearney with Ballysaggart, my club, this year, and he was a very good coach,” Bennett remarks.
“You have James Murray and Pauric so it is all new training with a few new lads in so there is freshness, but we haven't played in six months so everyone is itching to get back started again.”
Having that enthusiasm is helpful ahead of the upcoming Co-op Superstores Munster Hurling League. “I suppose so, the last few years you are playing the whole time, then your club is going on later, the further we got with Waterford,” Bennett adds.
“You are then back into your colleges and starting again. It was nice this time that you had six months where you could just focus on the club, there is a lot less pressure, it was nice to have the break really.
“I would say maybe 10 of the lads went off travelling to America, they had an unreal summer. Other fellas went back playing with the clubs, taking time out so everyone is excited coming back in trying to make the team. You have the few newer lads coming in trying to impress which will add to it.”
Kieran and Shane Bennett will also return to the Waterford colours alongside brother Stephen in 2019. “Both of them went to America for the summer, they took the year off,” Bennett comments. “They are back now, Shane is injured at the moment with his ankle, but he will be back. Kieran is back training.”
The time away served Shane, who had been such a prominent figure for the Deise since his underage days, well according to his sibling.
“That is half the reason, he had three years minor, three years Under 21 and was on the senior team when he was 18,” Bennett replies about the busy scheduled. He is looking forward to it again, he took the year off so he is happy out again.
“He is back working, playing a bit of soccer, so he is happy out. It is nice to be back fighting for positions again. For the three of us it is nice to be driving to trainings and stuff.”
Another journey beckons with the three Bennett boys eager to drive Waterford to glory once more.