Dessie Hutchinson: Embracing pressure, being man-marked and studying other forwards

We caught up with the high-flying Waterford and Ballygunner marksman.

Waterford’s Dessie Hutchinson.
Waterford’s Dessie Hutchinson.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

DESSIE HUTCHINSON RECKONS it took him until midway through 2021 before he felt established as an inter-county hurler. 

Since parking his soccer career, he became the main man in the Ballygunner attack before commanding a place in Liam Cahill’s starting XV with Waterford. 

Hutchinson has noticed over the past couple of years how opposing teams are setting up to prevent him from causing damage, something which became more pronounced since he returned after Ballygunner’s All-Ireland club win in February.

“I had two reasonably good years (with Waterford),” says the AIB Club Hurler of the Year.

“You always want to kick on that extra bit. We’ve been hit with two big defeats in the last couple of years so you really want to start putting things right, especially now.

“I feel I am a more established inter-county player with a bigger role within the Waterford team,” he says. “Maybe halfway through last season you start to feel it.

“It’s important that players step up to their ability.

“When you have a club championship like we did, we know there is going to be a bit more focus on you,” he continues.

“When you are going out playing the top teams and are being man-marked, that’s when you realise you need to step up here because other teams are watching the way you are playing and are trying to stop you in a certain way.

“I suppose it’s been coming over time and after the win with Ballygunner that’s gone up a little bit too.

“When there is pressure on you it is only a good thing. You must be doing something well if there is that element of pressure on you. I like having it on me because it means I’m doing something well at the moment.

“And that’s really important. It’s pressure from other people but it’s not from what’s inside the group so we just go in and we train and we try to stick to what we want to do.”

Hutchinson says the biggest adjustments to the elite level of the game are both mental and physical.

“You need to be more intelligent. You don’t have the time and space that you would at club level. Even league games to championship, they take a life of their own. So you need to be a lot cuter in the way you play and you need to find space.

“Even if you look like you are doing nothing, you might be just creating space yourself for a moment, you know that just might come. Just little things like that.

“And obviously the physical side of the game too, getting tackles in and being able to take contact and not losing possession of the ball. All those things are massive, especially in the inter-county game.

Screenshot 2022-05-10 at 21.19.46 Hutchinson is presented with his AIB GAA Club Hurler of the Year award. Source: Inpho

“I’ve been trying to focus hard on gym work to get me up to a level that you are able to compete with the best players. Soccer is pretty much a non contact sport nowadays where as you are going out into the middle of Thurles, Croke Park, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, the level of hits that are going in are incredible. You need to prepare your body for that.” 

The Ballygunner contingent returned to county training a week after their historic Croke Park victory and arrived into a Waterford team already with momentum. They hammered Cork in the league final and currently sit third in Munster with a showdown against the Rebels on the horizon this weekend.

“It was good to get back in because there is huge competition within our squad at the moment. You don’t want to be away too long because you find yourself sitting in the stands otherwise.

“It was probably for the best with the amount of celebrating that was going on. The body would have taken a long time to recover otherwise. Great to get in with the lads and prepare for a big year ahead. We’re nearly halfway through that already, time is going quick. Stay on the horse and keep going.”

Hutchinson has continued his fine form from the club campaign. He fired over five points from play against Limerick despite the close attentions of Sean Finn, widely regarded as the best corner-back in hurling.

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“I just feel confident,” says Hutchinson. “It’s easy when you are in a winning team to feel confident. With the club championship that I had it was brilliant and to carry that into the club championship, it was important for me and it is a big year for us in Waterford.

“I’ll always be learning, especially as an inside forward, playing inter-county it is really tough. You are looking at new things all the time and you are looking at other players too.

“What do they do and how do they find their space. So you are always learning and always being coached to learn. I’m not the finished article or anything like that. I know I have loads to do still.”

Winning an All-Ireland club title in February meant giving up a professional soccer career was “definitely all worth it” but there were other reasons behind his decision too. 

He hasn’t “kicked a ball” since leaving Waterford FC and is currently studying to be a secondary school teacher in Mary I.

“To be honest there was no pressure on my decision,” he admits.

“It was something I just came to terms with myself and I haven’t looked back since. Obviously you miss little bits of the lifestyle you used to have when you win an All-Ireland it is definitely all worth it.

“You are going through transitions in your life as well, whether it is work or college so they were probably the biggest things when it came into my mind to switch over. In terms of hurling, love it.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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