Derek McGrath: ‘Sometimes it’s fine for a few pints to turn into a few more’

Experience always helps. Derek McGrath says one of the lessons of a couple of years as Waterford manager is to loosen the leash sometimes.

On and off the field.

Take their celebrations after the win over Clare in the championship.

“We had a few pints on the Sunday - and on the Monday, which is probably unheard of in this day and age, and then they went back to the clubs.

“I went for a couple with them the second night and it wasn’t a case of the old schoolteacher keeping an eye on them.

“I know what they put into it themselves, and I know if the release valve isn’t tearing into a big session, if it’s a little slower than that, it may be better. Letting them have the two days once they behave is fine, and they do behave.

“I remember Gary Neville saying that sometimes in that socialising, different friendships can form, fellas can relax.

“That’s not to promote a drink culture, which we don’t do, but at the same time we don’t have a big drink ban either. We let them drive that but they’re so keen to do well that that’s not a problem.

“I suppose I’d probably be a bit looser on them now. But it’s always easier to be loose with them when they’ve won a game.”

And a big win. Beating Clare was a big win after the Banner beat them to the tape in the league final replay.

“The satisfaction came from the effort the lads put in for the four weeks leading into that game, it was fantastic, and getting a performance out of them, it was brilliant.

“It’s interesting, the challenge to drive it to the next level for the Munster final, because last year there was a perception we fell back after winning the league and then making to a Munster final, maybe.

“We think there’s a freedom in our odds, that the gap between us and Tipp, if there is one, is that big. We think we have a fighting chance.”

A better chance because Bubbles O’Dwyer is suspended?

“He did a lot of damage to us last year in Thurles, and he did plenty of damage to Limerick in last year’s semi-final too, I watched it the other night.

“He’s an unbelievable player, a serious talent, but his loss is balanced a bit when you look at the likes of Jason Forde, Niall O’Meara - they have a lot of good players to bring in.

“The other side of missing a talismanic player like that is the response of the other players - not as simple as ‘we’ll win it for Bubbles’, but other players tend to lift their game when they know another big player is missing.

“Last year against Cork we were missing Pauric (Mahony) and the lads raised it. His loss was offset a bit by Stephen Bennett coming in and doing well, by Maurice (Shanahan) coming in and standing up for us.

“It’s a loss to Tipperary, no doubt about that, but motivationally and literally they could nearly be stronger.”

He noted how Tipp dealt with the extra man Limerick had: “That was impressive, but even against Cork, who had William Egan as a spare man in front of the full-back line, they were very good.

“Tipp have obviously put huge work into how to deal with the different systems they’re coming up against, but what gets lost in that a little is the fact that Tipp just have unbelievable players, unbelievable stickmen.

“People like to say teams can practice different ways around different systems, with Tipp you can say that they’ve had the better players in the games they’ve played so far in the championship.

“At times in the Limerick game the Tipp half-forwards were so deep, coming back to forage and help out their half-back line, that it looked as if they had the extra man at times.

“I’ve been hugely impressed by Tipperary. I think what may be helping them is that there’s been a lot of analysis of Cork and Limerick’s performances against them in the two games as opposed to how good Tipp have been. There’s merit in the fact that you could go into Paddy Power’s now and Tipp and Kilkenny are 7/4 for the All-Ireland.”

IS it worth taking them out of Thurles and over to Limerick, then?

“That’s a hard question to answer, particularly if we get a pummeling down in Limerick, but if that happens it’s because they have a better team on the day.

“That decision, though, to go to Limerick is something we’d be keen to park. I won’t say there was a disconnect between us and the supporters - we played Limerick in Limerick on February 14th 2014 in the league, and we felt we owed it to the supporters last year to keep the Thurles thing going.

“But people have forgotten that Tipperary went to Limerick last year and hammered the life out of Limerick, so it’s not a matter of discommoding them, and it wouldn’t have discommoded them last year either.

“We took upon it ourselves to work out what was best for us as a team this year, though. As a group. We want to keep the connection we’ve begun to set up with the supporters, who see us as an honest, hard-working team.

“We’re conscious of handing Tipp a motivation, too, any sense of, ‘oh, they’re bringing us to Limerick, we’ll show them Limerick’. That could happen, but we’re comfortable with the decision.

“We’d think that a Munster final should be in a neutral ground, that that’s an absolute entitlement. If Cork were available then it’d be a no-brainer, the game would just be on there. But there’s also the thing where Waterford people just have it in their heads that there’s going to be a bottleneck going into or coming out of Limerick, no matter what.

“I’ve been meeting people in Waterford who are saying, ‘I hope the game is in Thurles, you know what the traffic is like in Limerick’. I just think that the more you say something the more it becomes ingrained in people’s minds.

“My view would be to on getting into Limerick early and worry about getting out after.”

At least it was an issue that got parked early, he says.

“Yeah, at least it all got settled quickly, and fair dues to the county board, they were very supportive of us in doing that.

“The rumour mill often gets out of hand, and last year there was a lot of talk about Waterford selling their soul to go to Thurles. In fairness, Paddy Joe (Ryan, chairman of the Waterford County Board) and the lads put absolutely no pressure on us to go to Thurles, certainly not for financial reasons.

“The same this year - the decision to go to Limerick was a joint one involving the team, the management and the county board. If we lose to Tipperary it’ll only be the small-minded who’ll point to the venue as the reason for losing.”


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