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Defeat to Kilkenny in All-Ireland semi-final can drive us on in league says Waterford star Philip Mahony

Injury keeps Waterford hurler Philip Mahony out of Sunday's National League clash with Kilkenny. Picture by Sportsfile

THE pain may have subsided, but the memories of last summer’s devastating All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Kilkenny will drive Waterford on against the Cats this Sunday, says wing-back Philip Mahony.

Derek McGrath’s men led by three points in the 69th minute of the first game at Croke Park, only for the Cats to battle back and snatch a draw before coming up trumps in the replay at Semple Stadium.

It was a tough one to take for Waterford, and they have the chance to make amends on Sunday.

“You don’t dwell on it, but I suppose it would be eating away at you during the winter at times,” said the Ballygunner ace at Wednesday’s Allianz Leagues launch in Belfast.

“It was tough to take, particularly after going toe-to-toe with Kilkenny in the replay and not getting over the line again made it even worse.

“We definitely did sit back a little bit in the drawn game, and even the second day we got a decent start but what killed us was the period before half-time when Kilkenny took us for three or four points and that gave them a bit of a buffer for the second half.

“Those opportunities, they might not come around again. You have to try and take them while they’re there. We’re back to square one now.”

Nowlan Park hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Deise in years gone by as they haven’t won there since 2004.

But, although injury rules Mahony out of the visit to the home of Kilkenny hurling, he remains confident they can get the win.

Waterford opened last year’s league campaign with a four-point victory over Brian Cody’s men at Walsh Park and a good start is vital again this year according to Mahony.

He continued: “You want to improve with every game and if you don’t believe you’re going to beat them, you’re not going to beat them.

“There are a couple of teams who have gone on to win the All-Ireland in the last few years and what we’ve done hasn’t been good enough so we have to keep getting better.”

The Cats were well beaten by Tipperary in last year’s All-Ireland final, unable to get to grips with the Premier’s high-tempo game as Michael Ryan’s men forced turnover after turnover.

However, Mahony insists they will be back in the mix by the time the Liam MacCarthy Cup is handed out in September.

He said: “Kilkenny won the two previous All-Irelands and people were saying they could potentially win another two or three after that and then one bad defeat…

“Tipp were obviously flying that day but their hunger will be massive this weekend and going into this year.

“I don’t think anybody would be taking them lightly and if they do it’ll be the rock that they perish on.”

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