Eoin McGrath has been a frustrated spectator during Waterford’s opening hurling forays in 2009.
But with his fan’s hat firmly on, the Mount Sion attacker was greatly encouraged by his team-mates’ superb success over All-Ireland champions Kilkenny on Sunday last.
Having enjoyed arguably his best year yet during the 2008 campaign, McGrath’s problematic groin injury forced him onto the operating table not once but twice. But he’s now firmly on the road to recovery.
“I’m about five, six weeks away from getting back, realistically,” he told WLRfm’s Kieran O’Connor at Walsh Park. “I’m seven weeks over the operation and things are going fairly well.”
The Deise’s 2-17 to 1-16 victory was a source of great encouragement for McGrath, who watched from the stand alongside Tony Browne, Bryan Phelan and John Mullane.
“You can only take positives from today’s game,” he said.
“I mean it is a League game but it’s an important League game as well and you have to take the positives out of every game. We’ll try and bring what we had today to the next game and try and improve.”
Dublin, who lost narrowly to Limerick last Sunday are up next for Waterford on March 22nd, a game which McGrath is looking forward to.
“It’ll be interesting to see how they’re faring out as well,” he added. “They’re going very well.
“They’re obviously training very hard; Anthony Daly is a good manager so it’ll be interesting to see how we get on. We’ll just have to knuckle down again over the next two weeks, train hard and prepare well for that game.”
In McGrath’s absence, and with some older panellists being rested and the De La Salle contingent still on club duty, players including Noel Connors and Jamie Nagle have stepped up to the plate.
“As it stands the lads have their places and all the rest of us have to come back and fight for our places again,” Eoin added, reflecting on the deepening of the player pool.
“The two lads in midfield are actually playing great so far this year. They haven’t had a bad game between them. There were countless balls the two of them hit there today and their tackling is just unbelievable at the moment. The two of them just don’t give up.”
Older brother Ken, scorer of nine points, was another who produced the goods against the Black and Amber.
“He’s gone from centre-forward to centre-back, Fergal [Hartley] did it before,” added Eoin while in the company of the Ballygunner stopper, who provided co-commentary last Sunday.
“Ken is playing there for the club a long, long time and he’s settling back in there nicely. Brick is playing great at centre-back so it’s good all round.”
McGrath also feels that De La Salle’s run to the All-Ireland club final has injected confidence into hurling across the city and county.
“It’s great. Over the last 10 years, all the clubs from Waterford have done really well in the Munster Championship. It’s given Waterford hurling another boost and days like today are a follow-on from that game last week as well.”
Analysing a great win for Waterford, Fergal Hartley said the value of good spring form couldn’t be underestimated when casting an eye towards the summer.
“People say the National League isn’t important – I think that’s nonsense because the National League provides the building blocks for the Championship,” he told O’Connor.
“It is very, very hard to go from having a poor National League campaign and go on to have a successful Championship. This was a huge morale lifting victory for Waterford today and everyone will head into training over the next two weeks with an extra step in their stride…
“I have to say that over the years the two places I always hated going to were Ennis and Parnell Park. It’s a horrible place to go to try and beat Dublin. They’re a difficult team to beat up in Dublin but today’s win will really give Waterford a major boost.”