McGrath: Early summer exit could benefit next Deise boss
Waterford’s early Hurling Championship exit may serve to benefit the plans of the county’s next senior manager in 2019, with several players having made for foreign shores following the Deise’s elimination at the first hurdle. That’s the view of outgoing manager Derek McGrath, whose five-year term drew to a close following last Sunday week’s Munster Championship reversal to Cork at Semple Stadium. Speaking to The Munster Express on Friday last, a visibly relaxed McGrath agreed with the suggestion that the largely unexpected opportunity to travel abroad this summer, already availed of by several players, could satisfy a need which some may have been contemplating a year from now.
“One hundred per cent,” he contended. “And I think that’s the real, real benefit that might arise from this, even though of course we’d all rather we were still contesting for Liam MacCarthy. During the year, having discussed it with the lads, a lot of them were lads were saying to me, but not because of me, that we were going to give it lash this year and then whatever has to be done next summer, I’ll be heading for ‘A, B or C place’ – and that was more than a rumour, to be honest. But now, given the opportunity to have an unexpected six-month lead-in in terms of travel, in terms of freshness, it will make the job more appealing for the next man and it’ll be brilliant to watch the team continue to develop in front of our eyes.”
Twenty-four hours prior to our conversation, the De La Salle clubman had received a photograph from Tadhg de Búrca, Philip Mahony and Darragh Fives at Sydney Harbour, while another group of players, including DJ Foran, have already touched down in the United States. “It might sound completely wrong to say it – obviously everyone wanted to be in the shake-up for the All-Ireland – but to see them have the opportunity to travel as a group, Darragh, Philip and Tadhg, to see the world with their teaching qualifications in the bag and with four or five more lads gone to ‘San Fran’ to do a bit of hurling for the summer and live a bit…look, we wanted to be in the Championship, we didn’t want them out there and I can understand that their clubs might be up in arms – if they are, I’m not sure – but these lads have given so much and they need to live a bit too.”
Derek McGrath also said Waterford’s relegation to Division 1B will also provide his successor with an “ironic appeal” during the new management team’s bedding-in process this winter. “You look at Galway, sitting pretty in 1B, not too worried about it: you get into the top four next year, you’re in a quarter-final and you can build momentum straight away. You can build a team as well, you can leave a team develop.”
He admitted: “We panicked at the start of 1A this year. We had played a couple of challenge matches with a different team and then we went back to 12 or 13 of the guys for the Wexford game, trying to nip the points to stay up, whereas next year, there’ll be no pressure like that, which will allow for a natural building of the team which we went through in 2015 and 16 and I think it’s a very appealing job, as there’s lots of talent there. The only forewarning, and I’ve said this before about talent and potential is that they’re only distant relations of what’s needed to really push things on.
But there’s a strong group there in terms of the empowerment stage and I’ll think they’ll drive it on. It won’t be a case of sulking on the back of, ‘oh Derek’s not there’ and I mean that with the greatest of respect – we spoke about this last Sunday evening in Thurles – that this is the way it would have to be going forward; there can be no leaning on my decision, it has to be always about what the group represents: honesty and ambition and I think that’s the legacy we wanted to leave in terms of our overall approach, that they will now take of control of it with the new man in. He’ll bring his own fresh ideas and principles but I think he’ll consistently tie in with what the players’ own natural traits are, which is what’s been inculcated over the last few years and had been there previously with other previous managements as well.”