MCGRATH’S MIXED EMOTIONS AFTER HIGH DRAMA IN THURLES
SUNDAY’S draw was as much a case of ‘one that got away’ as it was fulsome proof that Waterford are some distance from fl at-lining at senior inter-county level. And for Deise boss Derek McGrath, well he could hardly have asked for a more dramatic introduction to Championship hurling. “Mixed emotions definitely in terms of the initial disappointment, but on reflection, there was a period in the game between the 57th and 66th minute when the momentum was totally with Cork and we were clinging to it a bit,” he told The Munster Express. “It was almost a case of seeing the writing on the wall because Cork were coming at us so much, but when we got to the 66th minute, we dug in and ultimately we’re just happy that the team showed great resolve and character, to dig in when they had to, in the face of an interrupted campaign in terms of preparation. But we feel we’ve benefited from the game as well and we’re very hopeful I have to say.” The manner in which Waterford gainfully stuck to their task when a red wave threatened to over-run them in the closing minutes of a pulsating second half was particularly noteworthy. While there’s no concealing the disappointment of not holding on to the considerable advantage they enjoyed around the 50-minute mark, their fortitude in those closing minutes demonstrated their mental toughness. “When Cork gained the momentum and drew level, we were able to stay in it and get back ahead again, so you’d have to be happy with that,” said McGrath, pausing for reflection in an otherwise empty dressing room. “We had to take two guys off, both of whom had done really well but just hadn’t the work done in the run-up to the game; there was a big risk factor there but we’re delighted to get the game behind us and we’re looking forward to the replay now.” The Deise boss was also suitably pleased with his Championship newcomers, who warmed to the task of a tussle in Thurles with no little relish. “The game Austin [Gleeson] had today, the game Tadhg [de Búrca] had today; obviously there’s somewhat of an element of surprise, and that’ll be gone the next day – and over the years there’s been few better teams than Cork – I’d like to see a statistic on how many replays they’ve lost over the years. “But look, we’re just delighted with how the guys got on – Tadhg, Austin, Colin [Dunford], Eddie [Barrett], although we’re very disappointed for Eddie given the nature of his knee injury, Barry [Coughlan] – it either went well for the lads today or it didn’t go well for them, but that’s not to say that they won’t go again the next day because we feel they’re all going to be good enough once they’re given the time to develop at this level.” And what of Austin Gleeson’s wonder goal? “It was great. I’ve seen him do it at schools’ level and of course he dominated the Minor Championship last year from centre-back, and ultimately I’d say he’ll go down the Ken McGrath route and ending up at centre-back. “He’s a fine hurler but he’s a very level-headed young fella – he’s got a lovely family behind him, you’d be trying to get under him sometimes he’s so relaxed but I’m just delighted for him. He’s a good young lad.” Another highlight of Sunday’s performance, even allowing for the fact that Stephen O’Keeffe had a busier afternoon than Anthony Nash, was the general solidity and commitment to the battle demonstrated by the Deise backs. In the wake of a testing League campaign, and a goals against tally we’d all soon best forget, the Waterford manager was pleased with the total commitment of a back line which also registered three points. “On the inward eye, Cork’s goal was very scrappy alright; we’d a couple of bodies trying to roll lift it and get it off to the side when the old method of just sticking it out for a 65 would have worked – the ball was there for too long, and to be fair it’s a situation we’d normally deal with. “But look, it wasn’t a case of Cork really opening us up a massive amount during the match, but we’ll have learned a lot from today and you can be sure Cork will have too. Our work rate, our application and our whole drive was probably fuelled by that siege mentality that comes when you get written off but we’ve got to be mindful now of the next day.” He added: “We probably had a distinct advantage coming into today’s game, of coming into it that bit under the radar in terms of outside perceptions, but there’s depth there in the panel, they’re a young group and they need time to develop…but we’re very happy with the young players who’ve come in. “We’ve probably got two generations in the squad – the De La Salle college generation that I was involved in myself and then you’ve got the Waterford Colleges generation – Colin Dunford, Tadhg Burke, Austin then as well of course, and then you’re trying to fuse that with the senior players such as Michael Walsh, Seamus Prendergast and Jamie Nagle and we’re pleased with how it’s going so far.” The rekindling of a provincial rivalry will have pleased the purists, and expectations for the June 8th replay will undoubtedly be cranked up a few notches. “It’s a great rivalry. I read a piece by Donal Óg Cusack [in the Irish Examiner] in which he talked about the recent rivalry between Cork and Waterford and today’s certainly gotten the Munster Championship off to a good start, but we’ve a lot of work to do now and we’ll see where that takes us.” And how did Derek McGrath assess his first afternoon as an inter-county manager in Championship mode? “It’s the first time this year I really felt free myself on the line, I have to admit. I’d no inhibitions, I really went for it, you could say I went back to my old De La Salle days and I make no apologies for that to anyone. “When you’re manic, when you’re that bit aggressive on the line, people are inclined to think that it negatively affects your thought processes, but for me, it’s the opposite and when in it, at least for me anyway, the mind is that bit sharper.”
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