'Donegal' label doesn't bother Déise , reveals Noel Connors
NOEL CONNORS finds himself chuckling at the comparison that Waterford are the new 'Donegal' of inter-county hurling - men behind the ball, packing their defence, frustrating the opposition.
"It's funny enough because I was doing an interview yesterday and I wasn't aware of it," the Déise corner-back remarked, speaking ahead of Sunday's Allianz League semi-final against Tipperary in Nowlan Park. "I was just told it was the Donegal way of playing hurling, which I was kind of laughing to myself.
"It's the first time I really came across it. Obviously I knew there was players coming back the field and all that kind of stuff.
"It's not the fact that we go out with the intention of being extremely defensive or anything like that. We go out with the want to get on the ball and really work hard - so if that takes a corner-forward at times coming out to half-back and trying to get a block, if it takes a half-forward going into the half-back line and winning a ball, that's what you have to do to win.
"Eoin Larkin is a prime example of an individual that's doing it for years."
It's not the first time that Waterford's style of play has come under criticism - Davy Fitzgerald shipped some flak as well during his Déise days.
"There's probably a lot of criticism when things change," Connors suggested.
"You have to do what you have to do to win and, if your work-rate is not there, you're definitely not going to compete.
"That's one thing Derek (McGrath) has instilled in us - if your work-rate is there, if you can get in hooks and blocks and if you can tackle extremely hard, that's going to be half the battle."
Waterford have won more than was expected at the start of the year, eclipsing Limerick and Wexford in the 1B pecking order to seal top-flight promotion - and then toppling Galway in their quarter-final.
It all follows a difficult 2014 baptism for Derek McGrath and his inexperienced team. A necessary learning curve?
"Absolutely," Connors agreed. "It's a cycle. I suppose it's like the economy, it's a cycle that you have to go through ... the amount of people that were after retiring, even in the last four to five years you would have had a whole clearout, the likes of Tony (Browne), Ken (McGrath), Eoin Kelly, (John) Mullane. You had that generation; all of a sudden there was a new generation born."
He expanded: "Derek's first year was just as challenging for him as it was for us, and he learned quite a lot over the 12 months. We did too in that we were probably quite young and naive at the time.
"However, that was going to come together over the winter and lads knuckled down ... and when everyone is singing off the same hymn sheet, it makes things a lot easier."
Connors reported a "clean bill of health" for Sunday, describing Michael 'Brick' Walsh's rib injury as merely a case of bruising predating the Galway quarter-final.