Waterford Bow Out of Championship Following Heavy Defeat to Limerick
Criticism and praise are the equivalent of the short distance between a pat on the back and a kick in the posterior.
Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, whose philosophy has dropped into the narrative of this newspaper’s coverage of the Derek McGrath era, left behind a rich legacy of critique and observation on the nature of sport and what it means to us. Sometimes it means too much. Sometimes, it compensates for a shortcoming within our own personal lives.
Bill Shankly surely had his tongue pressed firmly in cheek when speaking about sport in life and death terms, even if his own words probably came to haunt himself in the years after he stood down as Liverpool manager.
But Wooden’s treatise on criticism and praise felt an apt observation worth sharing with Waterford’s 2018 Hurling Championship campaign already and unfortunately done and dusted.
“It goes back to what my dad used to say: ‘If you get caught up in things over which you have no control, it will adversely affect those things over which you have control.’ You have little control over what criticism or praise outsiders send your way. Take it all with a grain of salt. Let your opponent get all caught up in other people’s opinions. But don’t you do it.”
Nobody will be question, critique or revise with greater ferocity what didn’t go right for the hurlers of Waterford these past four weeks than Derek McGrath.
The disappointment at failing to progress from the revamped Munster Championship will be keenly felt on a personal level for quite some time to come by the Deise manager, in ways and means that only he himself will quantify in the fullness of time. Ultimately, it’s difficult not to conclude that those issues over which he had no control came to mark what’s almost certain to be his final weeks as Waterford senior hurling manager.
And while the lack of home Championship matches was certainly a factor, it paled into insignificance in contrast to both an injury list of unprecedented proportions, in addition to that phantom goal ‘conceded’ on Sunday week last. For these were both invariables over which he and his management team could do precious little about.
“I think what was highlighted today was the spine of our team from a League winning run and an All-Ireland run was based around Barry Coughlan, was based around Tadhg De Burca, was based around Shane Fives, was based around Darragh Fives, was based around Kieran Bennett – five of the seven weren’t involved today and Shane Fives only played for five minutes,” said the Deise manager in the wake of Sunday’s heavy defeat to Limerick.” Speaking to Off The Ball’s Oisín Langan, McGrath stressed: “And the significance of that is not an excuse, it’s a reality and I think you have to be pragmatic at times. And when that defensive structure is taken away from you and when you’ve relied on that, and perhaps the balance between trying to be more expressive and more contained at the back, it’s a hard balance to strike – I thought we did it well last week – but key individuals that hadn’t trained in the run-up to the game and had only played for the first time last week, maybe fatigued a small bit.” Waterford were well and truly second best on Sunday last, but it’s hard to make an argument for any team hurling at their Championship optimum when deprived of so many of the personnel who came so close to taking the ultimate prize only nine months ago