National Hurling League Division 1A
So Waterford’s next manager will begin life in Division 1B of the National Hurling League, the second time that the Deisemen have fallen through the 1A trap door on Derek McGrath’s watch. “I feel strangely contradictory,” the Waterford manager admitted in the wake of Sunday’s defeat at a bitterly cold Páirc Uí Rinn following a match in which his side never led. “I thought it was one of our best performances of the League. I think we had grounds to feel that we could have been ahead at half-time. We created a lot of goalscoring chances and were a little bit more conventional in our approach with Tadhg (De Búrca) just not following 50 yards and with six forwards, if you like, playing a little more conventionally so we were having a look at that today ahead of the 17th of June.”
The De La Salle clubman continued: “We came to try to build on the performances against Cork (at Páirc Uí Chaoimh) and Clare and I think we actually did that without getting a good result.
“We’re very happy with lots of our play, to be relegated isn’t nice – I’m not going to go the Mourinho approach so we’re disappointed over that – but we weren’t even approaching it in a manner where we mentioned relegation or even staying up. We were just trying to build towards a good performance and I think we got that…we won two regulation games, most teams won three regulation games and we’ve won two and lost a crucial one, but we didn’t even talk about up or down in the whole run up to the game and as I said, I think we got the performance without getting the result.”
The build-up to Sunday’s match wasn’t helped by Austin Gleeson’s absence after having stitches woven into an opened ankle during the week, in addition to captain Kevin Moran being ruled out due to illness. Added to that, Fourmilewater’s Conor Gleeson found himself literally impeded from reaching Cork due to the Saturday night snowfall, as his manager explained.
“We got a message at a quarter past eleven to say that he was on the back of a tractor and that he had to turn back, and then they got a four wheel drive jeep out of his home and probably serves to highlight, not the madness but the dangers associated with the weather at this time of year. I think it was just a freak in fairness; Conor was going to come late, he’d no food into him so we made an early decision in the Silver Springs (Hotel) to say that Colin (Dunford) would come in and Kieran (Bennett) would go wing-back. Austin trained on Friday night – he’d five or six stitches in his ankle from last weekend and the leg swelled up yesterday. So he arrived this morning to play and then the leg was swollen; he tried to do some work in the hotel and he wasn’t able to do it and then you had Kevin who has been sick all week. So it was a test as well. And it was a test as well. We said to the younger fellas when you don’t have Brick or Kevin, well, there’s going to be a time when we won’t have them and this was important so how will ye go (without them) and there were times when they drifted in and out and were a bit peripheral, but overall in terms of the learning experience for Mikey Kearney, Stephen Bennett and Patrick Curran…we’re extremely happy and the impact off the bench was good to when Jake (Dillon) and Conor (Gleeson) came in.”
McGrath said there was a major contrast between how he viewed this particular relegation and the drop back in his debut year in 2014. “It doesn’t bother me, having two relegations on my CV,” he declared.
“It’d bother me if the lads were hurt by it but psychologically there are no scars in our dressing room. There’s a sense of pride that maybe we are going in the right direction. We’ve put in three good performances back to back, two results going for us and one going against us but that’s the general feeling. And I go back to objectivity, since its inception into a 1A League (prior to his appointment), Waterford’s most amount of League wins was two in 2012 – we’ve managed to win three in the last two years – so a bit of objectivity is probably needed there in terms of the overall sense of where we are.”