Former Waterford hurling manager Justin McCarthy is unhappy with the defensive approach employed by Derek McGrath, lamenting the lack of flair and imagination in the Déise play this spring.
McCarthy is far from taken by Waterford’s packed defence, crowded midfield and sparsely populated attack; the county’s supposed period of transition, heralded by sweeping changes in panel personnel and numerous retirements during the off-season, has been revived by promotion to the league’s top tier and a first final appearance since 2007.
Ahead of Sunday’s decider, McCarthy has accused management of abandoning the county’s traditional style of “open, free-flowing hurling”.
“Personally, I wouldn’t be for that type of system. I would like the players to express themselves more,” he says.
“It is great for the backs because you have plenty of cover. They won’t be exposed. It is very tough then on the forwards because they have to work very hard.”
The former Cork All-Ireland winning hurler accepts success is measured by results, but does not believe the present Waterford attack are capable of executing the expansive system which defined McCarthy’s tenure at the helm.
“They don’t have big men up front that can catch the ball and get their individual scores as such. They have to work the ball, they have to make four or five passes to get the ball up the field. It wouldn’t be my type of hurling to be honest, but it is working for them.
“Derek [McGrath] thinks this is the system that will get them results. Waterford were known for their bit of flair and imagination; good, open play, great score-taking and great clearances. The whole thing has changed. They feel the players are not there to do that.
“I thought the Waterford minors and U21s play good, open hurling. Now the seniors are playing a different brand. At the end of day, managers want success and that is measured by results and not by the brand you play.”
Opponents Cork have not tasted league success since 1998 and McCarthy insists defeat on Sunday would represent a “set-back” for Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s side.
“There is no doubt that Cork are further down the road in terms of their development. They are after winning a Munster championship so their aim has to be winning another trophy and see where they go then in the championship. There is no doubt that winning the league features heavily in their ambitions and it would also give a settling effect to the team as well.
“Cork will expect to win. It would be a set-back if they didn’t win, it wouldn’t be a tragedy, but it would be a set-back. “Most of these Cork lads have played in two All-Ireland finals between the drawn game in 2013 and the replay, so they will be expected to move on and take a team like Waterford, who are still finding their feet at senior level.”
Cork hurler Lorcán McLoughlin said earlier this week that ruthlessness is still the missing component in their armour and McCarthy can’t but agree.
“The game has got more physical. There is a lot of close exchanges and you have to be physically tough enough to win the ball, both in the air and on the ground. You have to have a cutting edge to you. Cork could do with a bit more of that, no doubt. That cutting edge has to be there, has to be developed and the players must realise that themselves.
“A win on Sunday would give them a major boost going forward. The team, off the back of their Munster win last year, might feel they should be winning a bit more and should be winning more regularly. Success will bring them on a bit.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved