Outside the Hogan Stand media room, Waterford selector Fintan O’Connor was having a relieving cigarette. Inside it, Derek McGrath was sitting down for his own type of catharsis.
The Waterford manager’s ease in front of the media is well-known at this stage although he stopped short when it was put to him that Kilkenny were like Dracula in the sense they can’t be killed off.
“What? You want me to run with that quote, do you? Come on now!”
Failing to see out the game when five points up, albeit briefly, between the 55th and 56th minutes, McGrath understands there will be a perception they lost this draw but he thinks otherwise.
“Look, we’re just delighted with our lads but a little bit disappointed we didn’t close it out. And it’s not good enough really to not close it out. There are echoes of the end of the (drawn) league final against Clare – two or three points up with a few minutes to go. I don’t see it as a problem but I think we can use it as good motivation and good fuel.”
He praised to Pauric Mahony for his 14-point display. “Sometimes it’s labelled he’s just a free-taker, so it’s just great to see him open up in the manner he did”.
McGrath showed his angry side when remonstrating with referee James Owens at half-time for booking Barry Coughlan along with TJ Reid. “I didn’t see it but I was fairly boisterous about it because when a back has a yellow card against him, that can be dangerous territory for you in the second-half. We saw it with Seán Cavanagh and Diarmuid Connolly.
“When you’re on a yellow and somebody runs at you, you’re gone if you pull him down. So the irate reaction was based on that probably.”
He was also aggrieved with another match official who held Waterford players back from exiting the pitch at the interval alongside Kilkenny’s following the differences between Reid and Coughlan. “It probably did annoy me. I probably showed a bit of irritation today. But I’ll have a look at myself strongly ahead of the next day to see can I control my inner emotions,” he smiled, tongue-in-cheek.
“Everything was on the line and I suppose today was the day to be a little more vocal. Maybe not sit on the seat as much as you normally would. That was our approach today.”
Looking ahead to Saturday’s replay, McGrath knows Kilkenny’s fine replay record will be quoted a lot. “The general consensus will be that Kilkenny don’t lose replays, you don’t get a second chance, et cetera. So we’ll be coming in as much under the radar as we did today.”
But McGrath wasn’t making any declarations with still so much on the line. “The fear for the manager is that if you say we don’t fear Kilkenny, they come out the next day and wallop us. They’re capable of that?
“In my role as manager, you always probably err on the side of knowing what they can do to teams. The evidence is fairly startling – the 2012 replay against Galway when Henry came deep from centre-forward and the replay against Tipp in 2014. When they come the next day they say to themselves that they weren’t happy with how the first day went and that’s the nature of them.
“I think the lads will take great confidence out of that. I think the people of Waterford will take great confidence out of how the lads just went for it when they had to. That’s the most heartening thing from my point of view. We’ve had a group that has never confessed to anything but hard work and effort. They gave everything and that was unquestionable today.”
Emptied the tank perhaps, but McGrath is confident his players can regroup for Thurles. “I think we’ll be okay. This is a highly- motivated group, they’re a solid group of fellas. I’d say you’re sick of me saying that. They’re a great group of lads and they’re not happy there at not seeing it out. They’re not in any way arrogant that it will be automatic for the next day.
“We know how wound up and ravenous we needed to be today to do what we did and if we’re 5% off that the next day, we’re in bother. That’s my honest opinion. I don’t think it’s a huge issue.”
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