Derek McGrath revels as Waterford deliver on No. 5 pledge

Promises. Derek McGrath and Waterford have made plenty of them this summer. Thus far, they’ve held true to their word.

Waterford manager Derek McGrath savours the winning feeling with Philip Mahony. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

The Waterford players promised one another ahead of this second instalment with Cork that they would not be as flat as they had been on June 18.

Derek McGrath promised Tadhg de Búrca outside the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel following the latter’s failed appeal before the DRA that he’d have an All-Ireland final to look forward to upon serving his one-match suspension.

McGrath travelled to Clashmore on Friday to chat with de Búrca’s parents, promising Tadhg’s father Waterford would win this semi-final.

Whilst chatting with the press after the county’s first All-Ireland semi-final victory since 2008, it became noticeable the Waterford manager had the figure five drawn inside a circle on the top of his hand.

“A lot of the players had it too,” explained McGrath, with ‘5’ relating to the jersey typically worn by the suspended de Búrca.

“Things like that are perceived as a bit gimmicky but that’s what we are about. He’s central to our circle. 100%, we did it for Tadhg.

“We spoke about it as a group on Friday night. We spoke about it as a group today. We weren’t sure whether we should because you are dealing with a young lad who, I won’t say he is reserved, but he’s just everything we feel we are trying to be as a team. He’s a purist.

“Tadhg showed great mental fortitude within the two weeks. It was definitely part of the group’s motivation because of what he had contributed up to this match over the last four years.”

The Déise had spent the past fortnight exhausting every available avenue in a bid to clear the name of the young defender, with McGrath adamant the whole ordeal had been more “taxing” than “distracting.

“I don’t think there is ever a distraction in terms of trying to do the right thing.

“I have to acknowledge the role of our county secretary Pat Flynn. He put everything into it. We immersed ourselves in it because we realise how important Tadhg is to us.

“There was always a plan running parallel to it that involved Kieran Bennett or Shane McNulty coming into the team. There were two trains of thought running and that is difficult to have ahead of a match, particularly given the timescale.”

Stand-in-sweeper Darragh Fives filled de Búrca’s role superbly.

That coming as no surprise to McGrath.

“Tadhg and Darragh alternated the roles up to the league quarter-final. He was always the man who was going to be there and he did really well. He was really safe near the end, especially when a lot of long balls went in with about 10 minutes to go.

“He was heroic. It’s a brilliant story for him too because he’s had so much torture with injuries. He didn’t train this week, so it’s great for him.”

Aside from switching Noel Connors onto Alan Cadogan, McGrath insisted there was very little difference to this Waterford side from the team which had offered such a meek showing in the Munster final semi-final.

“Noel would have a very good record on Patrick Horgan, but we felt Cadogan had to be taken down if you like. Other than that, we used the ball well.

“When space opened up, Jamie Barron and Austin Gleeson got in behind for goals.”

That Up For The Match will carry a Waterford tune next month excites him.

“It’s going to be brilliant. The general theme in Waterford is that we have suffered in general. We needed a lift.

“The town and the county needed some sort of uplifting surge in terms of their pursuit of the Cath Lab or things that are central to Waterford people’s emotions. This will give everybody a pep in their step.

“It’s a mixture of elation, relief and anticipation now at this stage of what’s to come.”


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