Waterford manager Derek McGrath has revealed that a phone call from Kerry football boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice lifted his spirits following the crushing Munster final defeat to Tipperary a fortnight ago.
“The amount of positivity I received personally after the Tipperary game was really heartening,” McGrath told WLR FM’s On The Ball programme.
“I got a lovely call from Eamonn Fitzmaurice, I’d be friendly with Eamonn from college. It was just a lovely call from him reinforcing his own beliefs and what he’s had to put up with down in Kerry which is probably 100 times the scale of what happens in Waterford based on the expectancy in Kerry each year. Things like that hearten you to keep going, to drive on and to realise that success doesn’t happen in a straight line, I suppose.”
McGrath previously signalled some turbulence for this emerging Déise side along the way but received no hint of this sudden crash in the build-up to the game.
“At half-three on the Sunday of the Munster final I possibly would have said that it was the most highly charged and emotive dressing room I was ever in.
“I wasn’t convinced that we would win but I was convinced that we were going to get a good performance and that makes it even more imponderable what happened but that’s the nature of it. We had to park it and we’re anxious not to let our two years of absolute solid work be blighted by that particular performance.”
He feels confident that they have dealt with the matter appropriately in-house and discarded it ahead of Sunday’s last six encounter against Wexford.
“We have a very resilient group of lads. With any defeat of that nature, there’s a process whereby the first person you look at is yourself. We do that as a management, the players look at themselves and then you park it immediately.
“If you wallow in it, it becomes worse and it becomes a post-mortem to the point where everything is dissected. The reality is some of our players just underperformed on the day and that can happen in any level of sport or walk of life. We’re hopeful now that we can rectify those things and just work as hard as we have been working up to that. We don’t think that there’ll be any long term effects from the nature of the defeat.”
The Déise fought back from six points down to scrape past the Model County by the bare minimum in the league quarter-final and McGrath predicts that the margins will be wafer thin for this fourth championship meeting between the South East neighbours.
“There’s absolutely nothing between us. Wexford have a very strong team led by Lee Chin and Conor McDonald in the forward line. They play to a particular system as well in that Paudie Foley drops to the edge of the D and they play with seven defenders. They’ll be a very difficult nut to crack.”
Meanwhile, Tipperary legend Brendan Cummins has suggested that self-doubt and indecision could be issues for wounded Waterford to overcome when they return to action in Thurles.
On paper, it’s a Division 1A team with, until the provincial final at least, genuine All-Ireland credentials taking on a 1B team that has slipped back since beating Waterford in the 2014 Championship.
But Cummins claimed that indecision in the Waterford camp over what exactly is their most effective style of play on the back of that Tipp trouncing could play straight into Wexford’s hands.
“Waterford will be interesting,” said Cummins. “For me, it will all depend on how long Wexford can keep Waterford thinking about what they’re going to do next. Because if Waterford keep second guessing themselves, ‘are we really playing the right system?’ and if the management start talking to each other on the sideline during the game, then I think it’s going the same way as the Tipperary game but if Waterford starting playing off instinct and get a flow going, then they’re going to win the game.
“They should win the game, it’s an ideal game for Waterford actually, coming out after the Tipp game because they were very low after that, there’s no doubt about that.”
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