Knockout hurling will suit Waterford, says Derek McGrath

Former Waterford manager Derek McGrath reckons that the Déise could thrive in a straight knockout hurling championship.
Knockout hurling will suit Waterford, says Derek McGrath
Waterford have failed to win nine Championship games in a row since Derek McGrath presided over the 2017 All-Ireland semi-final defeat of Cork. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Waterford have failed to win nine Championship games in a row since Derek McGrath presided over the 2017 All-Ireland semi-final defeat of Cork. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Former Waterford manager Derek McGrath reckons that the Déise could thrive in a straight knockout hurling championship.

GAA chiefs are considering what format to use for this year's condensed competition with a return to the provincial knockout system looking likely due to time constraints.

That could serve Waterford well because they failed to win a single game from their eight group matches in Munster across 2018 and 2019, losing seven and drawing one.

In total, they've failed to win nine Championship games in a row since McGrath presided over the 2017 All-Ireland semi-final defeat of Cork.

"If you're asking me a straight-up question as to what would suit Waterford, I think the old system suits Waterford," said McGrath, who noted that even four points, or two wins, didn't guarantee qualification from Munster for teams in 2018 and 2019.

I was saying to myself this year that Waterford were really homing in on that first Tipperary game in Walsh Park and I felt that Waterford were really going to perform well against Tipperary.

"I felt they were going to perform well against Clare last year in the first game too and they didn't win that one. But this year I felt there was going to be a real energy in their performance against Tipp in Walsh Park.

"I was saying to myself that we'd be going into the last game against Clare possibly on four points having hopefully beaten Cork as well. So they could have been on that four points going down to Ennis.

"That was just me working out the permutations in my own head but I thought there was a better chance of getting four points this year, for whatever reason.

"But if you asked me a straight-up question in terms of what would suit us best, like, if they draw Limerick down in Thurles in a one-off game, a knock-out game, a Munster semi-final maybe, I'd fancy Waterford.

"Maybe I'm being unreasonably biased or blinkered but I'd always fancy us in a one-off Championship game but for the four games it seems to be hard to sustain that."

Liam Cahill's side showed solid Allianz League form under the Tipperary man and began the campaign with a morale-boosting narrow win over Cork.

"There were high energy levels and real connectivity between everyone, supporters included," said McGrath of that win over Cork.

"I think there was a real stamp on how they were going to play, in terms of using the ball, keeping it short, middle third fairly condensed and breaking forward in waves. Look, they know what they're doing and they have good players there. The perception is probably out there that we're at a low ebb, expectation is low, and I think Waterford are very dangerous when they're like that."

The De La Salle man also noted that the team's dip after the high of 2017 wasn't entirely unprecedented.

"I think a natural curve for any team is to have a little dip in that and I think the dip has come," he said. "I think there's real optimistic signs now that that dip has kind of flattened, if you like, if you want to use that Covid term.

"With us and trying to get over the line in '17, it was similar to Clare in '13, obviously we didn't win it and Clare won it, but Clare had a natural dip after that. It happens. I think that's as much of a reason (for Waterford's underperformance) as anything else."

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up