‘Being a Tipp man and making sure that you were happy in your own skin coming down to Waterford’

IT WILL BE his first as a senior manager but Liam Cahill is well-versed on these All-Ireland hurling final days.

If the current focus is on Waterford’s fortunes, Cahill has accumulated quite an amount of success in the Tipperary hotseat of late. Minor deciders in 2015 and 2016 before U21 (2018) and U20 (2019) appearances.

He steered teams to trophies in three of those encounters, 2015 the exception. Victory next Sunday against Limerick would end Waterford’s agonising 61-year wait for the Liam MacCarthy Cup and also propel Cahill into a select group of heralded managers.

He would join the likes of Cyril Farrell, Mickey Harte and Jack O’Connor if the senior triumph rounds off his recent underage wins.

“All-Ireland finals are finals whether they’re minor, U21, U20, or senior, the same butterflies are in players’ bellies and your own as a manager or as a coach,” remarks Cahill.

“The run-in here is obviously a little bit more higher profile but it’s still an All-Ireland final and thankfully we’ve had the experience of experiencing the run in to these games.

“Occasions like this are great. Once ye guys are in front of me I’m happy because it’s a case that we’re preparing for something big. Hopefully it won’t be the last time you won’t be in front of us for these particular group of players, please God.”

Waterford hurling manager Liam Cahill.

Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

He was not expecting the approach from the south-east in the autumn of 2019 to take the reins of their premier hurling team. The offer required thought and a few issues needed to be ironed out in his mind.

“It wasn’t long after the U20 campaign with Tipperary and I suppose to get the call from Sean Michael O’Regan (Waterford chairman) was flattering to say the least. When I got the call initially, it was really nice to be linked with it or considered.

“Once I parked that and started to really think about it properly, it started getting real and getting exciting. I also had plenty of things that needed to be dealt with in terms of where I was coming from. Being a Tipp man and making sure that you were happy in your own skin coming down to Waterford and manage them.

“I had watched Waterford a lot over the years from afar, from the bank as a supporter, and always liked them and always said they had great players. Even back in my own time, Waterford were always a hard team to beat and always played really attractive hurling. They’re just a county that’s mad passionate about their hurling and for me the more I thought about it the more I got excited and eventually said, look, why not, lets have a go here?”

The chance to move up to test himself in senior environs was something Cahill warmed to, even if it was with a neighbouring county to his native Tipperary.

“It was a real opportunity for me as well at the stage I was at in my management period at that time. It was a no brainer for me to try to step up and see am I capable of stepping up to senior level as well. It was a good fit when eventually everything came together.

“Once you get closure in your own head then, that it’s inevitable that it’s going to happen, you’re going to meet Tipp. I have stated from Day 1 that once I had acceptance in my own head I was 100% committed to putting everything in to making sure that the Waterford senior hurling team was going to be prepared and ready for whatever lies ahead.

“I will stay committed to that as long as I am in the job.”

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Liam Sheedy with Liam Cahill after their league meeting earlier this year.

Source: Tom O’Hanlon/INPHO

His commitment has had an immediate impact, manoeuvring a route for Waterford to the All-Ireland decider. They booked that spot after a sensational second-half showing against Kilkenny, scoring 2-17 and showcasing their supreme fitness levels.

“I think in any sport, fitness is a big element of it,” says Cahill.

“As a player any time I failed, I failed mainly because I wasn’t fit enough. If you’re fit physically it helps mentally as well. It’s a skill as well to make sure from a training perspective, be it a manager or a strength and conditioning coach that you have the savvy and the know-how to tailor that level of work that’s required to make sure that you’re fit.

“There’s fitness and there’s overdoing it as well. Our first objective with this group of players when we met them on Day 1 was to make sure that if we got them fit enough they’d start enjoying their hurling that little bit more.

“Their skill level was really good and we just needed to match that with fitness and athleticism.”

Stephen O’Keeffe and Iarlaith Daly celebrate after Waterford’s win over Kilkenny.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

In 2020 hurling management and preparation are different, there is no escaping the issue of Covid-19.

“You don’t take any pleasure in having to beat that drum every night,” admits Cahill.

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“But the worst thing you could do is automatically presume fellas are doing it. You’re just asking them to make sure that visitors coming to the house to wish you well and stuff like that, that you just be smart and curtail it as best you can.

“We’ve learned to be a lot more vigilant, not just on the field but around managing players. We always have to be conscious that you’re getting the message out there that you’re making the right choices and not putting yourself at risk in relation to Covid-19,

“But they’re all intelligent fellas and they’re all really working hard behind the scenes to make sure they’re doing the right things. I think players are so looking forward to coming to training every night because of the way things are.”

Regardless of the weird circumstances for a final, the magnitude of the prize remains the same.

“We’re delighted to be in an All-Ireland final but we’re not flattered and it’s not something we’re surprised about.

“It was a realistic goal, it was something we thought a lot about and spoke a lot about so we’re here now. We have to grasp it and embrace it when it’s here and kick on.

“We’ll do our utmpost to perform to the best of our ability and if that takes us over the line, happy days. And, if it doesn’t, then fair play to Limerick.”

– Originally published at 06.00

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