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NATIONAL HURLING LEAGUE 2005: Another crisis season for Decies.. hoodoo you think you're kidding; MURRAY SLAMS SNIPERS.

Byline: PAUL KEANE

WATERFORD ace James Murray has laughed off talk of a hurling hoodoo on the eve of the Decies' latest National League assault.

The Munster champions have become the nearly men of both the league and All- Ireland championships in recent seasons but Murray stands defiant.

The experienced defender has rubbished talk of a hurling hang-up when it comes to claiming the big prizes and reckons they're just as capable of claiming serious honours this year.

Murray's bullish stand comes on the eve of Waterford's league opener against Kilkenny at Walsh Park.

It'll be a repeat of last August's All-Ireland semi- final clash, famously won by Kilkenny at Croke Park.

Months before that Waterford slipped up in the League final too, losing out to Galway at Limerick's Gaelic Grounds - again by five points.

Throw in their 2002 All-Ireland set-back against Clare and the 2003 loss to Wexford and it could be construed as a mental block.

One top Waterford player admitted the Decies were in danger of being lumped into the same bracket as 1990s nearly men of Limerick.

But Murray is having none of that talk and insists that the Munster champions are capable of going all the way to the top like any other year.

"That talk of 'nearly men' is ridiculous stuff if you ask me," said Murray. "If you start thinking like that then you're only adding unnecessary pressure on yourself.

"I don't go in for hoodoos or curses or any of that kind of talk. It's a complete rubbish as far as I'm concerned.

What's more regular wing-back Murray, named to start at corner-back, has made it clear that whatever happens tomorrow will mean nothing in the broader scheme of things this season."

Murray is as straight talking as he is uncompromising in the Waterford rearguard and he'll be looking for another big performance tomorrow.

He's quickly grown into one of the first names on Justin McCarthy's team-sheet though he admits that things are constantly evolving in the panel.

For instance, when the sides met last August neither John Mullane nor Fergal Hartley were available to Waterford for differing reasons.

This time around Mullane starts at corner-forward while former Munster winning captain Hartley is returned to defence in the centre-back position.

Ardmore's Clinton Hennessy is a newcomer in goals following impressive performances in the three pre-season games to date against Limerick, Wexford and Tipperary.

There's even speculation that All-Star Ken McGrath could be moved out of defence and returned to midfield, though he's been named at wing-back.

For Murray's money Jack Kennedy could be the player on the verge of a giant breakthrough this year up front.

"Regardless of who we're playing I think Justin and the management team would be taking the chance to experiment," said Murray.

"Nothing that happens at this time of year is going to have a bearing on what happens in the championship in six months time.

"Right now we're all just blowing off the cob webs and getting to grips with the new season."

CAPTION(S):

STAR TURN: All-Star Ken McGrath could move into defence; KEEPING THE FAITH: James Murray won't listen to any hoodoo talk; CHANGES: Justin McCarthy
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 19, 2005
Words:532
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