Seamus Prendergast was up front about his distaste for Waterford’s ‘defensive’ style of hurling under Derek McGrath when asked for his thoughts late last year, writes Brendan O’Brien.
And his brother Declan has echoed those sentiments in the wake of the county’s loss to Wexford in their Allianz League opener, adding that he believes the approach will never bring the Liam MacCarthy to the county.
Unlike Seamus, who played for a year under McGrath in 2014 before retiring from the inter-county game, Declan was long gone by the time the current boss took control.
His last game was an All-Ireland semi-final loss to Kilkenny in 2011. But the pair share the same thoughts on the use of a sweeper system by a side that has won a National League and competed in two Munster finals and an All-Ireland decider.
“I’d be the same as Seamus, I don’t like their style either,” said Declan, ahead of the siblings’ own outing in HQ this Sunday when they line out for Ardmore against Fethard St Mogue’s in the AIB All-Ireland Junior Hurling final.
“If you are winning, why change? It’s not pretty to look at. I can’t see them winning an All-Ireland the way they are playing. Better teams will outplay the way they are playing. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see them win an All-Ireland.”
McGrath claims to be losing little sleep over this sort of criticism. He joked recently about how some of his own players were ribbing him for ‘destroying hurling’ and added that the naysayers would be more pragmatic if they were managing rather than observing.
That may be true but it isn’t rocket science to understand why players like the two Prendergasts would find disfavour with his methods given they won eight Munster senior titles between them in an era when Waterford were flamboyant and fluid.
“We mightn’t have won the All-Ireland but we enjoyed playing,” said Declan.
But not everyone has an issue with McGrath’s approach.
Tony Browne spoke last August about opinion in the county being split 50-50 as to the rights or wrongs of their current tactics and Seamus Prendergast offered a similar percentage breakdown when quizzed on this last month.
The latter also suggested that the critics would become more vocal if the county lost its first few league games this season and they now have to follow up the home defeat to Wexford with a trip to Thurles on Saturday where Tipperary await.
“I know they didn’t use any subs or anything, and he’ll [McGrath] use a lot of different excuses and things, but you’d want to be winning those games,” said Seamus.
“I know it’s early in the year but to get back to an All-Ireland, it’s a long road for them.”
None of this, it must be said, could be termed a ‘blast’ or a ‘swipe’. Declan Prendergast doesn’t come across as the type.
His words were delivered quietly and honestly in response to the inevitable queries. And there’s an appreciation of the context, too.
An acknowledgment that Waterford aren’t long back from a team holiday. That Davy Fitzgerald would have had a good chunk of early-season work done with Wexford.
And that McGrath opted against using most of his Fitzgibbon Cup players last time out.
He understands the way this all works. Leeway, if it is offered at all by spectators, is reserved for those days and weeks after the team has won. Lose and the noises outside the tent take on a much louder and more discordant tone.
“I want them to win it but I can’t see it with the style they are playing,” he added.
“It’s disappointing and they’ll have to pick up another few players. Brick (Walsh) and Kevin Moran were their best two forwards last year and the oldest players.
“You’d be hoping they pick up a few players in the league.”
This story first appeared in the