Derek McGrath tackles sweeper critics

Waterford boss Derek McGrath wasn’t ducking questions about sweeper systems after yesterday’s All-Ireland quarter-final win.

Pundits have questioned the Waterford system, and McGrath responded to Henry Shefflin’s points specifically: “I read Henry’s article after we beat Kilkenny, I think, and forefront in my mind before that was actually how Walter Walsh played against Limerick.

“Walter Walsh was on the D all the Limerick game and there was absolutely no commentary whatsoever on it. So it wasn’t a retort to Henry, but he was saying it won’t win you an All-Ireland — but we were actually trying to beat Kilkenny in the match that we designed and implemented that gameplan for.

“The danger, I suppose, is there’s so much debate about it that it seeps into your team. You take a situation where Shaun Murphy goes back as a sweeper today and if we push our man up on Shaun Murphy. And then there’s five on five on the other side. We’d be accused of being defensively naive then, and gullible.

“So we were happy to keep our shape. We’re good at it over the years.

“But I have to say, each game is planned differently. You mightn’t see it, but it’s actually planned completely differently. We actually planned slightly differently today than we did against Kilkenny, albeit there were some crucial match-ups involving some of our man-markers.”

McGrath said criticism is “part and parcel” of the game: “I wouldn’t argue with Michael Duignan who has a lot more All-Ireland medals and a lot more credit in the bank in terms of me, in terms of hurling stock. And Henry — ten All-Ireland medals. Jesus, I wouldn’t hear tell of arguing against what they’d know about hurling.

“As I said, ‘Praise your enemies’ … who said that, Oscar Wilde, was it?”

McGrath did point to Waterford’s recent scoring record, however.

“It didn’t flow against Offaly and we got 1-35. I think we got 4-23 against Kilkenny. What I would see as the lack of clarity on why we got those four goals against Kilkenny — if you look at Maurice’s (Shanahan) last goal against Kilkenny, for instance, it was because the whole rest of the team were sucked down the pitch and we had the run on them, if you like.

“I’m not getting into a debate on… I’m kind of getting into a debate here! But it’s for another day. We’re happy to be in a semi-final.

“I know what’s coming. Ahead of the semi-final, if it’s Galway or Cork and they absolutely open us up and fillet us, it will be ‘Ah, sure, you can’t’ … but I think it’s the optics of things at times. How things look. I think there’s a bit more to it than that. And we haven’t all the answers.

“We’re trying to play the game in a manner that suits our players, that we like, and they like.”

McGrath admitted to being “terrified” of yesterday’s game: “I couldn’t even watch the Tipp-Clare game. Just watched bits of it. Had the commentary turned down.

“I was watching the golf in between — and I hate golf! I was switching on the golf because I didn’t want to hear what was being said, especially when they were previewing our game. I was saying, ‘I know what’s coming…’ To keep myself in good form.

“My youngest son was four yesterday, so we went in to Rockin’ Joe’s and had a burger after the game yesterday.”

Even a manager has to answer to someone.


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