Waterford finally registered a win in this year’s National Hurling League in Cork on a day when the Páirc Uí Chaoimh pitch proved as big a talking point as the action on the plugged turf. The Deise’s 1-20 to 1-15 win over Cork, which could well have proven more comfortable had they possessed a steadier eye in front of the uprights, may not yet prove sufficient to avoid a Relegation Play-Off. And with Clare to visit Walsh Park on Sunday next, and one eye surely fixed on the Munster Championship, we may well see some further spring time shadow boxing on play when it comes to both starting line-ups.
Nonetheless, a win’s a win, even if there was a cognisance, even at half-time last Sunday, that the sides could well face off again in a Relegation Play-Off.
“We were looking for a win, desperately among ourselves as a group,” admitted Deise manager Derek McGrath, “but it’s good to get a confidence boost in terms of the points…and it’ll stand us in good stead going forward”. Cognisant of how things were standing at the 2pm throw-ins, McGrath stated: “We knew the other results. We said to the players at half-time about the likelihood that we’d be possibly be back here (in Cork) but it depends if Cork can beat Tipp.”
Cognisant that his team haven’t been firing on all cylinders in the League to date, McGrath added: “I have to say, and I’ve been asked this before in terms of cut-throat, I don’t think we’re the worst team in Ireland. We might go down, but I think we’re building towards the summer, like the other teams and that’s not just language to diffuse a possible relegation battle and how you feel after it. All the teams are very obviously building towards the summer but I think some teams are able to do it a bit better than other teams because of the personnel that they have at their disposal.”
However, the De La Salle clubman stated: “You don’t want to keep losing either, and the edge came from that. You’d be worried that the habit… There’s only so much you can say that we’re happy and that we’re a united group, and we are. We’d a great meeting after the match against Kilkenny last Sunday – it was great to be a part of it. All the boys just remarked that we’re eating well, we’re sleeping well, we’re training well, we’re analysing well. Sometimes you need a little more than that. We need to be a little bit more on the edge.” Defensively, Waterford looked solid again on Sunday last, with Stephen O’Keeffe suitably demonstrating his reflexes when handling the few balls which evaded the superb Tadhg de Búrca.
“I thought Tadhg was the outstanding player on the pitch today,” gushed his manager. “He was absolutely outstanding…and it’s not about protecting players, it’s about what you feel is best for your team. The irony of it is that in the first three matches, we didn’t play with seven at the back; people thought we did but we didn’t. But we did play with it today.” Clare visit Walsh Park on Sunday next, a game which Derek McGrath described as “a brilliant test for us…We haven’t won a match at home since we beat Kilkenny three years ago to see if we can get that monkey off our backs, and build towards the Relegation match and then ultimately hand over to the clubs after the 25th of March. We’ll train away right up to that, then hand over to the clubs for three to four weeks and then back into camp for seven weeks. That’s our plan.”