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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Déise must modify tactics to sweep all before them this season, says Connors

At the launch of the Club Leadership Development Programme were Paddy Flood, Chairman of the National Officer Development Programme, Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Aogán Ó Fearghail and Waterford hurler Noel Connors Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
At the launch of the Club Leadership Development Programme were Paddy Flood, Chairman of the National Officer Development Programme, Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Aogán Ó Fearghail and Waterford hurler Noel Connors Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Evolve or die - that's the motif of Noel Connors, who expects Waterford hurlers to tinker with the defensive approach that delivered shock league glory and an All-Ireland semi-final place in 2015.

At times last season, the Déise drew unflattering comparison with Donegal footballers under Jim McGuinness ... Connors reckons some of the criticism was overplayed, but he still expects a strategic shift when the Deise launch their NHL defence at home to All-Ireland champions Kilkenny next month.

"Last year we were kind of an unknown identity, where maybe we were taken for granted at times," the two-time All Star corner-back surmised, speaking at yesterday's Croke Park launch of the GAA's club leadership development programme.

Counteract

"It was evident as you went on in the championship; more people were trying to counteract what we were doing.

"Look, we'll have to change," he added. "If we don't change, we might struggle for the vast majority of games. It's like that whole notion, change is inevitable - if you don't change you're lost, and that's probably a whole business terminology but it's very applicable to sport.

"But Derek (McGrath) being the person that never stops thinking, I'm sure that he has a couple of plans ... or maybe a few new ideas on how to take a few steps forward and get to the All-Ireland final, or even win it. That's the overall aspiration when you go in and you're putting your life on the line."

Which brings us neatly back to Donegal. McGuinness modified his tactical approach in year two, a less defensive set-up delivering a higher scoring average, and that helped propel them to the Sam Maguire summit.

This is actually year three of the McGrath era in Waterford but, given the manifold teething problems of his maiden campaign, it has the feel of a second season.

On the Donegal comparison, Connors mused: "We probably got a lot of criticism at the start of the year but, as time progressed on to championship, I don't think there was that much of a story. For years there had been people playing sweepers. The likes of Eoin Larkin for the last 10 years has been going back and playing nearly in the (Kilkenny) half-back line, picking up ball and bringing it forward.

"It's just because we came from being a team relegated out of 1A that struggled in a lot of championship games to a team that won the league and were in a Munster final and All-Ireland semi-final.

"So of course there were going to be some questions around why that was after happening, and probably a lot of criticism over the sweeper system. But that was probably there for years."

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