'More than a manager': Waterford players pay tribute to Derek McGrath

By Stephen Barry

Waterford players have been quick to heap praise on Derek McGrath, after he stepped down as manager.

McGrath's five-year tenure was notable for deploying a sweeper system and featured an All-Ireland final appearance and National League victory.

However, an injury-hit 2018 saw the Déise relegated to Division 1B of the league and finish bottom of the Munster round-robin.

Pauric Mahony and Noel Connors described him as "more than a manager", while Brian O'Halloran said he "did more for us as hurlers and men than anyone will ever know".

Austin Gleeson added that "he will sorely missed by this whole team".

Mahony, speaking on Morning Ireland, said: "There were plenty of ups and downs in the five years. We made memories with Derek that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives and as a squad of players we'll be forever grateful for what he has done for us.

"The professionalism that he brought to the set up was 100%. He put his own life on hold for the last five years and maybe in that situation you couldn't have expected him to go for another year."

Pauric Mahony of Waterford and his manager Derek McGrath dejected after the 2017 All-Ireland final. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Mahony paid tribute to McGrath for the help he gave them throughout their daily off-field lives and in finding jobs, as well as the work on the field.

"He was more than a manager. That might sound a bit corny and cringey, but he was that.

"He would try to get students in the college jobs for the summer so they would have something to keep them tipping over.

"I'd say there are ten or 11 teachers inside in our dressing room and Derek would go that extra mile to see could he get them work placement or a permanent teaching position.

"We would like to think we went out on a high on Sunday with our performance. We were playing for Derek.

"He's just done so much for us and we'll never be able to thank him enough for what he's given the players."

Last night, Gleeson tweeted: "I’m absolutely gutted that Derek McGrath who has done so much for this county, myself on a personal level and anyone who has dealt with him is stepping away!! The amount of work he has put in that nobody realises is incredible! He will sorely missed by this whole team!! #GachLá!!"

O'Halloran added: "Normally wouldn’t tweet something this but needs to be said how unbelievable Derek was. Did more for us as hurlers and men than anyone will ever know. Gach rud gach lá".

Waterford performance analyst Tomás Ó Cadhla also paid tribute to McGrath on Twitter.

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