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Thursday 29 September 2016

O'Keeffe: It can be dangerous for players to be listening to popular outside opinion

Waterford's Stephen O'Keeffe
Waterford's Stephen O'Keeffe

The thing about success is that it comes replete with pressures for even greater achievement but for Waterford hurling, it makes a refreshing change to be attempting to play up to local expectation.

"I suppose there's much more positivity around," explains their 'keeper, Stephen O'Keeffe.

"Hurling chat seems to come up on the agenda a lot more often. That's always a positive.

"You need all the support you can get really, it does make a huge difference playing matches, when you get a score and you hear the crowd.It does give you a bit of a lift," he admits, "so it's important to have the support behind you."

To win a League title from Division 1B - as they did last year - was a feat in itself.

To be marginally inferior to only Kilkenny and Tipperary - as they were last summer - suggested that such a young side has much, much more to give.

Negative

"In fairness our younger lads are very good at blocking out the outside expectation," O'Keeffe explains.

"It can be a very dangerous thing listening to popular opinion, outside. It can either be too negative or too positive, it's rarely on the money about what your abilities are.

"You just put the head down and take every game at a time."

Derek McGrath himself expressed his fears that Waterford might struggle to attain the same levels using the same methods this season but after just three games of the league, they were home and hosed in a league quarter-final.

Included in which was that impressive, defense-inspired win over Kilkenny - Sunday's opponents in the league semis - on the competition's opening afternoon.

"It's a fair statement to say Kilkenny didn't have a huge amount of training behind them," said O'Keeffe, offering mitigation to the All-Ireland champions.

"But still to get the win down in Walsh Park gives the team massive confidence, some of the younger lads really growing up weren't seeing too many victories.

"Obviously it all plays in and it kicked us on for thankfully we won our next two games too.

"It was in no small part to that win.

"We went into the game (last year's All-Ireland semi) confident and I think you have to take into account that a lot of the lads were quite young and they have another year now.

"Maybe it's a bit of experience; it all comes together. Hopefully," he adds. "we'll give it a better run this year."

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