Stephen Bennett has admitted that Waterford manager Davy Fitzgerald has been quite different from what he was expecting.
Fitzgerald has taken charge of Waterford for a second stint, having first managed the county’s senior hurlers back in 2008, although this time he does so with a considerable reputation proceeding him.
Often visibly passionate while on the sidelines, Fitzgerald certainly isn’t afraid to show his emotions and clearly becomes very invested in whichever job he decides to take on.
Speaking at the launch of the Allianz Leagues, Bennett admitted he was surprised at just how calm Fitzgerald has been in his brief time back in Waterford colours so far.
Stephen Bennett on Davy Fitzgerald.
“From what you see on the telly and what you think, there’s no shouting or roaring, there’s nothing like that. I can’t get over how calm he is and how much he talks to you,” Bennett said.
“He’ll tell you what he thinks. He’ll tell you if you were a three out of ten in a match, he’ll tell you if you were brilliant. I actually think players respect that more than to be told, ‘You were fine, you’re going well,’ then you’re not playing.
“He really is straight to the point. He’s bringing in a few new things and we’re just enjoying it. Fellas seem to be getting on more and seem to be enjoying coming into training and laughing.
“Even though training’s hard, it’s always hard this time of year. So far he’s been brilliant.”
Becoming one of the older faces in Waterford’s squad.
Bennett is only 27 years old, although he has been involved in the Waterford set-up for a long time having made his inter-county debut back in 2014.
Along with the change of management there has been an influx of younger players into the Waterford panel, and Bennett has suddenly found himself as one of the elder statesmen.
“We have a whole new backroom team, new strength and conditioning, new physios, new everything. You’re getting to know new people as well, from Clare, Dublin, Wexford, Cork,” Bennett explained.
“There’s a good few new young fellas as well. I always thought I was the younger fella on the team and then I realised 29 is the oldest on the team now.
“There is a lad inside with us and he was born in 2004. This is my 10th year playing and I’m 27. It’s after flipping now. We’re one of the older lads in the team.
“I think you see young lads, say they are flying with the club, and you expect them to come straight in do that at senior level. It just doesn’t work like that. Bar one or two exceptional young people.
“I went at it at 18 and it takes four or five years to really make it. You can’t expect loads of the 18, 19 year olds, just kind of get them in, show them what the training is like at this level.
“Whatever level you play with with you club, it’s a huge step-up. Whether they play this year or next year, it doesn’t really matter, it’s just getting them in and getting them used to it, so when they are 21, 22, they are really able for it. ”
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Stephen Bennett is unconcerned by the loss of Walsh Park.
Waterford won’t be playing any of their games in the Allianz League or Munster Championship in their usual home of Walsh Park this year, as the stadium is being redeveloped over the next six months.
Whether Waterford play in Fraher Field in Dungarvan or elsewhere isn’t of any concern for Bennett however, while stressing that Walsh Park is in need of redevelopment to catch up with other county’s stadiums.
“I think if we lose it’ll be easy to say, ‘They’ve no home or nothing.’ I think it’s just a pitch, I don’t mind,” Bennett commented.
“We’re used to playing in Thurles. I think we have three games in Thurles, I’m not sure is that definite yet. But I personally wouldn’t mind it, I can’t speak for everyone to say if home advantage matters.
“We lost to Cork at home last year, we’ve beaten teams in Thurles, I really don’t mind. The crowd are still going to go, you’ll probably get more supporters into Thurles.
“I think it’s brilliant that they’re actually doing something with Walsh Park. I know they’re giving out about times and to miss this and miss that, but comparing to other counties we’re really behind in that regard.
“I think to have a big, unreal, new stadium would be beneficial. I don’t mind at all, I don’t care where we play to be honest.”
Pictured are players from last year’s Allianz Leagues Division 1/1A finals, Mayo footballer Padraig O’Hora, Cork hurler Patrick Horgan, Waterford hurler Stephen Bennett and Kerry footballer Paul Geaney at the launch of the Allianz Leagues, which return this weekend. The beginning of the Allianz Leagues represents the dawning of new possibilities for the season ahead, showcasing not only the rivalries between teams, but often the opportunity for players themselves to claim their spot in the county panel.
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