GLEE ON THE LEE?

Waterford’s Michael Walsh and Wexford’s Paudie Foley tussle for possession during last year’s All-Ireland SHC Quarter-Final in Thurles. See Sport 2-5 for more. 	 | Photo: Noel Browne

Waterford’s Michael Walsh and Wexford’s Paudie Foley tussle for possession during last year’s All-Ireland SHC Quarter-Final in Thurles. See Sport 2-5 for more. | Photo: Noel Browne

Dan Shanahan nailed it: parking the win over Kilkenny and rationalising it within the context of the stage it came at in the Hurling Championship was the right thing to do for Waterford’s players and management.
But the rest of us have probably enjoyed the feeling that little bit longer. And why the hell not? It’s been a cracking week, and to drive down Roanmore Terrace on Wednesday last and see so many houses bedecked in white and blue was genuinely uplifting.
Bizarrely, though, there are more Waterford flags flying on Dillon Bridge in Carrick-on-Suir at present than there are on Rice Bridge, and one wonders, even putting GAA considerations to one side, why our county colours aren’t given more prominence by our local authority in the City, along with Tramore and Dungarvan.
Anyway, let’s save that wider debate for a slightly less hectic week, as thousands of Deise and Wexford fans plot their route to the magnificently rebuilt Páirc Uí Chaoimh for Sunday’s All-Ireland Senior Hurling Quarter-Final (throw-in: 4pm).
Talking of parking things: can we please park the carping about the spin to Cork? We’ve been driving or ‘bus-ing’ it to Leeside for decades for major hurling occasions. This is not remotely a unique experience for most of us, so let’s not consider this journey in Gulag-condemning terms.
Personally, I limit my criticism of journey times between Waterford and Cork to cardiac patients being transferred from UHW.
And, as Under-21 Hurling manager Sean Power told me just moments after last Thursday’s Munster semi-final defeat to Cork at Walsh Park: “This isn’t life or death. It’s hurling.” And if the extent of your woe is primarily limited to questioning the location of a hurling match, then count your blessings – and then count them again.
This is an occasion genuinely worth revelling in, and one hopes the players can absorb that sense of excitement and anticipation in the coming days, without being potentially over-wrought by it. And one acknowledges how difficult a balancing act this can be, particularly from a management perspective.
Following the win over Kilkenny, Derek McGrath spoke about the importance of the Waterford management’s body language in those moments after the Cats had salvaged a regulation time draw which had looked so unlikely after 58 minutes.
He spoke about retaining faith in his players and, granted, I can only suspect when it comes the following, faith in how he has immersed himself in the experience of being Waterford manager over the past four summers.
It’s been all in. And it’s been a huge learning experience on a range of fronts: addressing the development of the men he manages, in tandem to preparing them as hurlers, has been a huge part of McGrath’s term.
Twenty-four hours apart last week, I heard two men speak in near identical terms regarding a major managerial influence in their respective lives.
One was former Manchester United player and recently ordained Catholic Priest, Philip Mulryne, when telling Sean O’Rourke about Alex Ferguson’s deep, holistic and long-term imprint on his life.
The other was Noel Connors when referencing the role Derek McGrath has played in his own development both on and off the pitch since his days as a De La Salle student. But even the greatest managerial influence can only extend so far come the closing minutes this Sunday.
Waterford will go to the well at ‘The Park’ – as will Wexford – and having Davy Fitzgerald and Paraic Fanning in the opposing trench adds another layer of intrigue to this encounter.
The bigger tank will ultimately prevail here: let’s hope it’s got a white and blue hue.

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