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'That was one of the biggest bridges I had to cross in my own mind' - Tipp native takes over Waterford

Liam Cahill on his new role as Waterford senior manager.

Liam Cahill has taken charge of the Waterford senior hurling side.
Liam Cahill has taken charge of the Waterford senior hurling side.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

LIAM CAHILL ADMITS that the prospect of facing his native Tipperary was a major issue he had to consider before taking on the role as new Waterford senior hurling boss.

Cahill has managed Tipperary underage sides to six major honours (3 All-Ireland titles and 3 Munster crowns) since 2015 and after being ratified last night by the Waterford county board for the position, he will now be going up against some of those successful players at Munster senior level.

A former Premier senior attacker, Cahill was approached by Waterford in the wake of steering Tipperary to U20 glory in August.

“To be honest that was one of the biggest bridges I had to cross in my own mind. To make sure at the end of the day that I was going to be okay with that. It’s a big, big decision for me because you’re immersed in underage hurling and in Tipperary hurling all your life.

“Then you turn around and say how are you going to take down your own troops if the opportunity arises. For me I suppose I would feel a lot of the younger guys that I would have had on my term as underage manager, maybe would not be fully ready to step up yet.

“Whilst there will be quite a number of them making the squad and coming at various stages next year for Tipp, there’s still not going to be a high majority of them there. If you’re plotting to take down Tipperary, you’re not plotting to take down the guys that you’ve worked really closely with over the last 12 months or two years. That makes it a small bit easier but it’s still a hard ask and it’s something that did bother me and something I did find difficult to get my head around.

“A couple of weeks after the All-Ireland, a member of the selection committee in Waterford contacted me. After that it was a case of getting my head around if it was something that I would see myself doing.

“When I thought about it at length and about the possibilities of what could be achieved in the position and the kind of players that are at your disposal, probably attracted me a lot to it. It excited me really when I sat down and thought about it.”

Cahill’s departure as the county’s U20 boss was confirmed last week and he believes the timing was right to move on from underage sides.

liam-cahill-celebrates-a-late-goal Liam Cahill celebrating after Tipperary hit the net during their All-Ireland final win over Cork. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

After his series of victories with underage sides, Cahill has been touted as a future Tipperary senior boss and was a contender for the position twelve months ago when Liam Sheedy was appointed.

Sheedy steered Tipperary to an All-Ireland triumph in August against Kilkenny and Cahill felt he had to seize the opportunity that presented itself now rather than wait for a position that could arise in the future.

“When you’re at the level that we were at underage, where do you go after that? Would the senior opportunity come up? Nobody knows what’s around the corner for any of us. The current Tipp manager is in the role for three years.

“Do myself and Mikey (Bevans) sit on our hands and do nothing? When I really thought about it, I think this position is coming at a really good time for me and a really good time for Waterford. I’m ambitious, I’m really looking forward to the task at hand and I’m prepared to give my all for the two-year term I’ve been appointed for.

“There’s a fine (Tipperary) panel of players there for U20 next year as well. It was a big decision because potentially they have a great chance of achieving success. But for me personally when you’re at a level and you’re trying to challenge yourself that bit more and try to get to a level where you feel you can excel a bit better, I just felt my progression would be static if I was to go back again with the U20 setup. Realistically I suppose if the Waterford position hadn’t become available, I would have more than likely stepped away from the U20 role anyway.

“I’m very fortunate as well that my employer Top Oil were very supportive when I approached them about the possibility of taking on the Waterford senior hurling role. I’m the retail manager for the south-east and a good bit of my work is in Waterford on a weekly basis so thankfully from that perspective it marries well with the role. It is going to take a lot of time, it’s going to take a lot of effort and I’m lucky the company have backed me in that respect.”

The availability of Mikey Bevans, who has coached the Tipperary underage sides of late, to fill a similar role with Waterford was a crucial factor in Cahill coming on board. He is planning on drafting in two Waterford natives to selector positions in the coming weeks.

liam-cahill-celebrates-after-the-game-with-his-team Liam Cahill (centre) with coach Mikey Bevans (right) Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“If Mikey Bevans wasn’t available or it wasn’t something that appealed to him, I more than likely would have had a couple of other questions to answer in my head. It just made the decision a bit easier when Mikey was up for the battle.

“Mikey was in college in WIT himself, won Fitzgibbon Cup medals. He knows the passion that’s down there for Waterford hurling. It’s an opportunity for him as well to really step up and deal with really good adult players and see can he get a tune out of them as well.

“I’m very conscious that this is going to be Waterford driven. I’m going to work with two selectors, two people that will have a good knowledge of Waterford hurling and that will be well respected within the county. There’s plenty of them guys out there, that are willing to put their shoulder to the wheel. I have spoken to a number of people already and it’s something I’m not going to rush into.

“I’m going to make sure that I’ve my research done well and that the people are coming on board are what’s required and fit the same mindset and mantra as ourselves. We want to create a really competitive environment for this group of players to be the best they can be.”

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After two hugely disappointing seasons where Waterford have failed to win a game in the Munster round-robin series, Cahill is confident there is still major talent to work with in the county.

waterford-team-stand-for-the-national-anthem The Waterford hurlers will be aiming for improvement in 2020. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“Waterford were All-Ireland U21 champions in 2016 and three years previously they were minor champions and obviously in the senior All-Ireland in 2017, so these players are coming to a stage where they have to step up.

“They’ve had success, they know what it’s like to compete at the highest level. For me Waterford have always had the main ingredients down the years of having really good players. I’m just hoping we can find additional players to strengthen the panel and also get the maximum out of players that are already at our disposal.” 

Cahill is looking forward to taking in Sunday week’s Waterford senior hurling decider and is hoping to harness support in the county for the 2020 campaign.

“I hope to start back in early November the same as everybody else. The county championship is down to the final stages there on the 13th, that’ll be a competitive final. I think De La Salle have a really good chance. I know Ballygunner would be seen as hot favourites and they do play a lovely brand of hurling, I watched them closely on Sunday and they were awesome in their movement up front. But De La Salle have a lot of fine players as well. It augurs for a really good county final. 

“I can’t wait to get involved, I’m really looking forward to it. There’s a good level of optimism in Waterford, I know the Waterford supporters will come in behind this team once they’re showing the right stuff between the lines. That I’m absolutely convinced of. The Waterford supporters down the years have been absolutely brilliant.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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