Monday, September 4th 2017. Waterford’s Quay is heaving with humanity and emotion and one wonders what runs through the mind of those charged to speak at a homecoming for defeated All-Ireland Finalists.
If what’s said inside the walls of the dressing room can prove trying and tear inducing, one can only imagine what it must be like to take to a microphone, looking out over a crowd of 10,000 to 15,000 people.
That was the scenario facing Waterford hurling manager Derek McGrath on the first Monday in September, as the Deisemen arrived back on Suirside in the wake of their Croke Park defeat to Galway.
In hindsight, given the insights the man himself had shared with us over the past four years, the words shared on The Quay that night were probably one of two scenarios he’d already run over in his mind in those quiet moments before and indeed after the All-Ireland decider.
Bear in mind the second speech prepared for Richard Nixon had the Apollo 11 mission failed tragically – the one the world never heard, that is.
McGrath’s passionate words, which had many of the departing thousands yearning for their politicians to speak of their place and people with a similar level of conviction, were just what such an evening required. And they’ll long be remembered.
It’s very hard to put into words – it’s just incredible,” the Deise boss said, to thunderous applause and hollering.
“It’s just so heartening for us, the banquet itself…gave us a real lift it gave the players themselves a real lift. We were in a quandary in terms of our feelings in that we’re really disappointed in not getting over the line and we’re pragmatic enough to know that that’s what we went up to do yesterday and yet we’re heartened and we feel very proud of the absolute totality of effort yesterday so it was an absolute complete effort from the lads.
“I just want to acknowledge that we spoke yesterday morning as a group in our hotel in Johnstown House, we spoke about…that we were refusing to take no for an answer and we spoke about perspective, who we were doing it for, who we were representing, our families, loved ones that we’ve lost, our clubs, our teachers, the wider base of Waterford supporters and we just said to ourselves that living a receptive, relaxing easy life wasn’t for us.”
McGrath added: “If a man can go to the limits and stretch his body and mind to his absolute limit that’s what we were asking the lads to do and they’ve done that for us for the last four years. They’ve given us absolutely everything they have.
“I’d just like to take the opportunity to thank, particularly, the lads’ families and their friends and their partners for the support and the love and the care and the ability to live with them when times are tough and times are difficult and criticism is, as we know, part of the process and they’re willing to accept that and sometimes their moods can be dictated by how they’re going in the hurling, etc.
“So we’re completely empathising with the family and friends in particular with the players in that they live it 24/7 and the obsessive nature in what they do is perhaps lost on the wider public so thanks particularly to the families and the really close friends of the players.”
To Kevin Moran and his fellow panellists, thank you for lighting up our summer. The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die. Port Láirge Abú!
(Photos by Noel Browne)