Waterford have to move on from final disappointment admits Stephen Bennett
THE wounds are still raw little over a month after their All-Ireland final heartache but, as the dust begins to settle, Stephen Bennett knows Waterford aren’t too far away.
The momentum that carried them through an unforgettable second half of their semi-final triumph over Kilkenny had faded by the time they took the field against a young, hungry Limerick side hell-bent on making up for their own disappointment in the previous campaign.
“Ah, we were very disappointed - we still are,” said the 25-year-old Ballysaggart clubman, who picked up the PwC GAA/GPA Hurler of the Month semi-final award for his exploits against the Cats.
“You’d forget about it and then you’d get a reminder and you’d be thick about it again. Look there’s nothing you can do, there were a few positives, fellas who made their debut seasons and had a big impact.
“Some of us are there for a few years, some lads are only starting and if we can get them to keep improving we can look forward to next year and try and win something really.
“In fairness to Limerick they were very good, they went the season unbeaten so they obviously deserved to win it. It was a grand year but it was disappointing because we lost a Munster final and the All Ireland final as well.
“So we are just looking forward to the year ahead.”
The spectre of the Treatymen looms large though for all the chasing pack. That’s two All-Ireland titles in three years, and already talk of a potential dynasty is being discussed in hurling circles as John Kiely’s side bid to hammer home their dominance.
Like the successful Dublin footballers, Bennett believes it is the strength of the Limerick bench that makes a huge difference when games are in the melting pot – but he doesn’t fear that the gap between them and the rest is widening.
“I don't know about all other counties because if you look at Galway, Galway nearly beat them. They are that bit ahead of most teams, at the moment - they have a strong bench.
“The bench they bring on actually raises the levels again. You'll always see them coming on and scoring a point, two points, or a goal. They know how they are playing too, they have a good system in place, with the half-forwards coming out. They don't panic.
“Other teams maybe get the ball and they are panicking and trying to work it out, they're just a little bit more composed at the moment than a lot of teams, in fairness to them. They'll hold the ball in the backline, pass it around, they'll wait for space and then sure the ball that the forwards get in is top class.
“They are that bit ahead of everyone so it is up to everyone to catch them up to them.”
One man who will be back to aid the Deise cause is Bennett’s younger brother Shane.
The 2016 Young Hurler of the Year nominee opted off Liam Cahill’s panel last year but will be back in the mix once the inter-county action resumes.
“Whenever the team is allowed to meet up, Shane is after making himself available so he'll be back in.
“In fairness to him, he'd be quiet enough, he wouldn't really be saying a whole pile about it. He was working up in Carlingford for around six months. It was tough for him, he wasn't going to be able to drive down from Louth for training. He is based in Waterford and at home now for a while.
“I’m happy he has decided to go back, He has a bit of work to do to get back up to it.”