Waterford boss Derek McGrath said Cork were “full value” for their Munster SHC semi-final win yesterday, saying his side had been “chasing” the game all afternoon, writes Michael Moynihan.
Asked if Waterford would turn matters around in the qualifiers, he said: “I’d love to cling to that but I’d be more pragmatic. I thought we were chasing it, straight down the line. We created chances but they were ‘bitty’ chances.
“Cork had bodies back and they broke at pace, we were more open than we would be normally.
“That probably came from Tadhg (de Burca) picking up Conor Lehane on the opposing puckouts, we were being dragged (out of position).
“We put huge emphasis in the last three weeks, since we knew it’d be Cork, on Anthony Nash’s puckouts, but Mark Coleman picked three in the first half, we got picked on those.
“We didn’t do what we’re supposed to, and the management are probably culpable there - I just felt we were chasing the game.
“We said at half-time that we were lucky to be in the game, and before we knew it, by the 42nd minute Cork had a three or four-point lead.
“I just thought they were full value for it. To be this flat on the back of that preparation, to underperform in key areas, underperformances from key men . . . that’s sport. I can’t explain it only to say it’s not what we meant to do.”
McGrath agreed Waterford had never had a purple period in the game: “When Maurice got the goal or when it was ten points all and Pauric (Mahony) had a free before half-time, there were little signs . . . some very obvious tactical from Cork, like Seamus Harnedy going in full forward and then coming 60, 70 yards out the field, he was supposed to be met with a Waterford body at that stage.
“It looked, though, like we were exposed at the back because Cork were coming so deep and then breaking at pace.
“Which is what we had planned to do - there’s no secret to it, every team is planning to do it.
“At times in the first half we had the six forwards plus Kevin (Moran) and Jamie (Barron), so we had eight up the field under the high puckout. The ball was breaking to Darragh Fitzgibbon, Bill Cooper, (Luke) Meade, (Conor) Lehane coming deep into the area. Cork are being very clever in what they’re doing. It’s just a mirror of what most teams are doing - leaving two inside and bringing their good players down the field. I’d like to see a heat map of where Lehane got most of his possessions today, a lot of them were in his own half.
“The disappointing thing is we knew it’d happen, we planned for it, and we didn’t execute the plan.”
Was there an argument for throwing Austin Gleeson into full-forward rather than substituting him late on?
“There was, there’s always an argument for leaving the player of the year on, for a bit of magic. We just felt he was a bit fatigued.
“That was the argument we had - is he someone capable of doing something special near the end of the game, of course he is.
“But with the day that was in it, the conditions, we erred on the side of fresh legs as opposed to someone who’s trying hard but isn’t quite flowing.
“It was no different to what we did with him in the last few years, we gave Austin a free role and hoped Colm Spillane would follow him. He did, we hoped space would open up - but that’s sport.
“That’s the reality of what can happen. Austin will bounce back. He’s 21, he’ll have more good days in the Waterford jersey. I was more delighted with his conduct when he came off the field, encouraging the team.”
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.