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'We Tend To Feel A Bit Sorry For Ourselves In Waterford'

'We Tend To Feel A Bit Sorry For Ourselves In Waterford'
By PJ Browne Updated

While sitting around a table in the Croke Park Cusack Suite for Monday's Tailteann Cup launch, Waterford footballer Conor Murray listened to players from Leinster counties with bemusement. They were grumbling about having to play games at Croke Park, and presumably how it makes them easier cannon fodder for the Dubs.

"You'd hear a few of the Leinster lads giving out there about playing up here. Jesus, I'd give my right arm to play a game here!" says Murray, who in an eight-year inter-county career with the Deise footballers has never played at Croke Park.

Murray has only seen a Waterford football team play once at Croke Park, the 2010 National League Division 4 final which they lost to Limerick. He hopes the Tailteann Cup, inter-county football's new second tier championship, will provide them with another chance to do so. Waterford play Wicklow in the preliminary round of the southern section this weekend. It is a competition Murray would love to have seen introduced years ago.

'Every year Waterford are back to square one'

"You're guaranteed to be playing someone at your level," he says.

"When you go into a qualifier draw you could get anyone. You could get a Division 2 team and you're really up against it and it's hard to get lads to buy in.

"It's the big problem we've had the last few years, player turnover. It's been really hard to keep the same squad together. Every year you're back to square one. It's not just us either, it's the same in a lot of other counties in Division 3 or 4.

"You only need to look at Limerick. They've had the same panel of players there the last six years. Almost every single one of their starters have been there five or six years and now they're Division Two. You can't make progress if you don't have the same players there year in year out.

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"Of course everyone would love to win a Sam Maguire and All-Ireland but that's not realistic for most teams in Ireland. So a competition like this is a step in the right direction.

"We've had a huge number of players making debuts this year so it's good to get them up and running. It's just really important that we get the lads to stick at it because it's easy to walk away now. You're coming into the summer and some lads might be tempted to head off and play football in America or whatever or head off on holidays. Hopefully the Tailteann Cup will make it a bit easier to get lads to stick around and buy into it."

Conor Murray of Waterford during the Tailteann Cup launch at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Murray joined the Waterford senior panel straight out of minor. "I've a fair few miles on the clock," he says.

"I suppose it's the best level of football that I can play at given where I'm from. That's what keeps me at it, just trying to be the best I can. That's what keeps the other lads who've been there. There's four or five of us who've been there the last seven or eight years. If you don't have that attitude you won't stick at it. If you're there looking to win something you're in the wrong business.

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"When you do have your good days it is worth it. I've only won one Championship game in six or seven years against Wexford three or four years ago and it was brilliant. Even League games that you win, it just gives you a boost and makes it that bit easier."

Ephie Fitzgerald, the former Nemo Rangers and Cork ladies football manager, was appointed Waterford manager in October. Murray says he's trying to change attitudes in the panel.

"When Ephie came in at the start of the year, himself and Peter [Leahy] put a big emphasis on the fact that this isn't a one-year job, it's a two or three year process," he says.

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"So if it doesn't work out next week against Wicklow, that's fine, we'll go again and we'll start straight away building for next year. It's a two or three year process and this is part of the journey. Hopefully we can put in a good performance.

"We tend to feel a bit sorry for ourselves in Waterford. That's something he's trying to get rid of. He's trying to get rid of that loser's mentality. When things start to go wrong, we tend to give up and revert to type.

"He's trying to get a bit of a steely edge into us. I suppose a bit of his Cork arrogance. He's trying to pass a bit of that onto us. That will stand us in good stead if he can get that into us."

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See Also: 'It Came At An Awkward Time. I Didn't Think It Would Be So Bad'

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