Hurling and camogie

Cahill's direct approach 'brilliant' for Waterford: Bennett

Waterford hurler Stephen Bennett pictured at Ballysaggart GAA Club to launch the Bord Gáis Energy Christmas Jumper campaign. Bord Gáis Energy will shortly be making 500 special county-themed Christmas jumpers available for sale – with all proceeds going to homeless charity Focus Ireland aiming to raise €20,000 to help fight homelessness in the run-up to Christmas. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

THE direct approach of new manager Liam Cahill has been “brilliant” for Waterford, says star forward Stephen Bennett.

The five-year reign of Derek McGrath saw the Déise reach an All-Ireland final and three consecutive semi-finals, albeit with no Munster title, and the team's style of play was the subject of constant questioning.

Even in the absence of the injured Pauric Mahony, it has looked a completely different Waterford side this year.

The 3-27 they posted against Clare last weekend was their biggest tally in a significant championship game of the last 20 years.

They've only bettered it in facile qualifier wins over Offaly (2017) and Antrim (2008) but with the fresh influences of Dessie Hutchinson and Meath native Jack Fagan, Bennett believes that Cahill's approach has brought the best out of their attacking resources.

“What I like about him is he just wants to go attacking, every time we get the ball, whether it's the corner-back or the corner-forward or midfielder, they're just told ‘go, run straight'.

“You could get the ball in training at the start of the year, you beat your man and give it and you think you've done great, next thing you're looking over to the sideline and they're giving out to you because you didn't go directly at the goal.

“It's a new thing for us, it's brilliant.

“If you hit the ball to their feet, they'll crack up and kill you, but if you hit it so hard that it flies past them, they actually don't care.

“They talk about honest mistakes, they won't care if you're making honest mistakes. It keeps everyone accountable, they're attacking it more and going for the ball 100 per cent.

“The training side of it, they're top class with players.”

Waterford have quietly crept up on the rails after a hugely disappointing couple of seasons, exiting early after finishing bottom of the Munster round robin series in both 2018 and 2019.

They stayed in this year's provincial final against Limerick until the second water break, after which they failed to come out. Bennett admits that they perhaps lacked the conviction to win it.

“I suppose if you look at the Limerick game, we probably didn't believe we were going to win the game by the end of it.

“Liam told us all week we were going to be in it, we were going to be level with them with 15 minutes to go and we'd win the game.

“Next thing it was 18-18 at the water break and the next five minute period, too many of us didn't show up, we left Limerick get their couple of points and get on top, then we were chasing for the last five minutes.

“We have a long way to go to be consistently performing and believing we are good enough to beat these teams. We have a lot to work on, definitely.”

Their build-up to their clash with Kilkenny on Saturday has a lot of the same characteristics as their 2017 meeting, except this time Waterford come with that victory beneath them.

The extra-time win was the first time they'd beaten the Cats in championship hurling since 1959, and shook a huge monkey off the back.

“I dunno would you say the fear factor has gone. I dunno if you can fear any team or you'll just get ate alive,” said Bennett.

“We lost to them in a couple of All-Ireland semi-finals, my first couple of years we lost to them in two semi-finals.

“We've only beaten them once in 2017, it was a great game, and the likes of Jamie Barron stood up, I remember did he get a goal at the end of it?

“Kilkenny beat Galway again the other day, it shows they have the players that can be dangerous and kill you off in a minute or two. We need to be up to 110 per cent just to compete with them.”

While there has been plenty of credit given over the last few weeks at the season they've had, the Ballysaggart forward says the progress will mean very little if they don't fend off Brian Cody's men again this weekend.

“Yeah, I think that. I suppose if we go and lose on Saturday - do you know, we obviously won a few games. It's better than the last few years.

“We are playing to win.

“We lost the Munster final. So, as Liam was saying, ‘there is one cup left'.

“Sure, if we don't get to the final, we have no chance of winning that.

“All in all, we didn't win a League. We didn't win a Munster.

“We didn't win an All-Ireland, so what are you playing for if you aren't going to win one of them like?”

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Hurling and camogie