Waterford manager Derek McGrath believes that the heavy defeat in yesterday’s final is evidence of how the Déise should stick with the defensive system which has been a key factor in their progress over the last two years.
The concession of nine goals in two leagues against Clare and Kilkenny in 2014 informed the decision to assemble a format which guarded against such high concession-rates. While Tipp plundered five goals yesterday, McGrath stated that this was largely down to Waterford adopting a conventional set-up, but Tipp drawing players back didn’t make the change apparent.
The loss certainly doesn’t shake his faith in the system.
“No, it doesn’t, it actually reinforces how we should set up,” he said afterwards.
“A close analysis of how we set up today would actually lend itself, for about 45 of the 70 minutes, we were actually conventional. It was more that Tipp were dropping a man back and it looked like we had an extra man.
“It would revert me to thinking that we’re actually better playing a particular way. I think the nature of the defeats to Clare and Kilkenny in the league prompted a change but that was an off-season change. We’re mid-season, we haven’t the time to alter too much.
“We altered today, we chose today to be the day where we felt that 16 points mightn’t be good enough to win a Munster championship, it wasn’t good enough last year. The irony is that, when we altered, we scored less.”
Positives were few and far between for Waterford and McGrath has genuine concerns that it may be difficult to improve morale before the All-Ireland quarter-final against Wexford in a fortnight.
“I suppose it’s my job, and our job as a management, to have the team ready for a Munster final and you couldn’t argue that we had the team ready today,” he said.
“It’s gut-wrenching, to be honest. It’s a young group and it’ll be hard to lift them with the demoralising nature of the defeat.
“Wexford were very impressive last night. When we beat Wexford by a point in the quarter-final last year, people pointed to the fact that we struggled to get over them but I think the reality of how good they are struck home last night.
“All I can fathom or all I can think about at the moment is how really poor we were today. It’s very hard to take, especially in terms of the training regime, have they been over-training? That’s the thought-process going through my head.”
Tipp’s first goal, when John McGrath capitalised on an error by Waterford goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe, affected the team, McGrath admitted.
“It looked like it did,” he said.
“We watched the video of the Munster final last year, it was 0-6 to 0-2 to Tipperary after about 11 or 12 minutes, so we focused in on the start and I suppose it went against the grain of the game at the time.
“We wouldn’t have been happy with the nature of the goal, it seemed to [affect Waterford], we went from a position of being two or three points up to obviously being down a couple of point.
“It’s just the nature of the defeat, I keep coming back to it, it’s extremely worrying.”
A number of more experienced players were substituted by Waterford in garbage-time, but there was a method to these decisions too.
“That was in our minds with the substitutions,” McGrath said, “taking off our more experienced players like Maurice [Shanahan] and Michael [Walsh], not because they were going particularly badly but more that they would be able to deal with it better rather than taking off some of the younger lads.
“We were trying to process how they would react and how they would recover. We feel that Michael and Maurice and them would recover very well from a performance-dip but the younger lads mightn’t recover as well so that was part and parcel of that.
“The lads will go out on Wednesday night with the U21s and tear it up, they’ve an outstanding U21 team, so they’ll be back on the horse straightaway, you’ll probably see a reaction in that game.
“We just have to go again because it’s a test of everyone’s credentials. We’ve shown a lot of resolve over the last two years as a group, we shown a lot of togetherness and unity and that’ll be needed more than ever. We’re not as bad as we showed today, that’s clinging to the absolute minute positives, but we’re not as bad as that.”
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