“We’d our wedding photos taken in here,” mused Derek McGrath at De La Salle College as he was ‘snapped’ during his first Munster Express interview as Waterford senior hurling manager last Thursday afternoon.
The limelight isn’t something which falls easily upon the DLS teacher and clubman, who was officially sanctioned by the Waterford County Board to succeed Michael Ryan in Dungarvan the previous evening.
But he’s cognisant that photo sessions, interviews and all that jazz will soon become a regular part of his hurling life as Deise boss, one of many new briefs he’s now charged with assuming.
“In the midst of my elation at getting the job, I’d be acutely aware of the disappointment that Peter Queally must be feeling,” said Derek, with a level of sincerity that’s long been one of his trademarks in life, let alone in sport.
“I’m very good friends with Peter, and last week, before the announcement was made, I was ready to accept the news from the County Board, whatever that news was going to be, to accept it and to thank them for the whole interview process.
“I know Peter and his wife Ciara well, I know their family well; he’s one of the great men of Waterford hurling and his achievements with Passage this year have been absolutely remarkable. And I don’t think there’ll be any time looking down the line that Peter won’t be involved in Waterford hurling. And they’re not token words on my behalf towards Peter. That’s a fact. That’s the truth.”
It could be argued that McGrath’s apprenticeship for this job began 17 years ago, when he was involved with a De La Salle side which contained a prodigious young attacking talent – one John Mullane.
But when pressed for when he felt his ‘real’ managerial career took flight, Derek recalled De La Salle’s Division Two Féile victory under his tutelage back in 1999, the first of many trophies he’s guided club and college to at various grades.
“Kevin Moran and Pádraig Nevin would have been on that team – they were the stars of that particular side; James Quirke, Barry Twomey, Mark Giles, Darren Russell, Michael Doherty were part of that team too.
“I started teaching here in September 2000, and it automatically followed that I stayed with that team and the direct rivals to that De La Salle team would have been Ballygunner, a team Shane O’Sullivan would have played on, so it was a natural progression that I’d get involved with that age level in school, where you had the Ballygunner De La Salle and Passage lads coming together, along with a good few lads from Mooncoin.
“I remember we were beaten in the first round of the [Under-15] White Cup in 2000, and Flannan’s went on to win it and even though I know we got great coverage for the ’07 and ’08 [Harty and Croke Cup winning] teams, the team we had in 2002/2003 – the team Kevin and Shane played on, Pádraig, Wayne Hutchinson too, lost to Colman’s by a point and Colman’s went on to win the All-Ireland, and up to that time my managerial involvement was mainly with school teams since I was still playing senior hurling.”
You can read the full interview in the munster express and part 2 in this weeks munster express