They shared the unenviable tag of bridesmaids last year although Derek McGrath sees plenty to admire in Mayo from a Waterford perspective.
Like the 2016 and ’17 All-Ireland SFC runners-up, McGrath knows there’s goodwill in the general public directed towards the Déise and mentions the affinity people share for the teams.
However, it’s Mayo’s ability to keep coming back and Stephen Rochford’s boldness that appeals to him when the competition is fierce and the pressure from their own grows.
“What is very relevant is the nature of the people in each county, they long for it so much,” he said at yesterday’s launch of the KN Group All-Ireland GAA Golf Challenge to be played in Monaghan’s Concra Wood and Nuremore Golf Clubs this August.
“They want it so much that everything is probably over-analysed and over-scrutinised. That’s why I’d have great admiration for Rochford from afar, just even the tactical decisions he made coming into the Kerry game with the Donaghy-O’Shea (tactic). Not being afraid.
“Even back to the All-Ireland final replay where he replaced the goalkeeper (David Clarke) a couple of years ago, he had a plan around the kickouts and he was willing to back himself on it.
“It’s very obvious to me listening to the commentary that it’s centred on the Mayo-Galway game in Castlebar (on May 13). Everything is being channelled towards that performance, not from Mayo’s perspective but from everyone’s perspective in terms of building the pressure towards Mayo. I’d just be impressed how Mayo do their business in terms of going back all the time and just going at it all the time.
“They’re fairly relentless. People are afraid to say they’re gone as well because they know there’s more in them.”
Mayo, like Waterford, will be judged by the ends rather than the means but McGrath takes a different approach: Great players don’t necessarily need to have won All-Irelands.
“The Ken McGraths, the John Mullanes, Tony Brownes, all those guys, I think it’s a bracket that perhaps ye (the media) might put them into, as the greatest players never to win an All-Ireland but they’re still great players, part of great teams, and I think people have great respect for people that do those things, that shine without getting to the top of the mountain.
“If I was talking to some of the lads (Waterford players), they might say it’s all about the medal, but my personal opinion is no; it’s about what you give to it while you’re there.”
As Waterford face Clare in Walsh Park this Sunday with a relegation play-off likely the following weekend, it goes without saying McGrath wants to avoid the drop. The focus has never shifted from the new Munster SHC format and the Championship as a whole, though.
“We’re training through the league and we’re going to continue to train hard tonight (Tuesday) and Friday and make up for what we lost over the last five or six days.”
He argues there is little difference between the Division 1A teams and many in 1B.
“In my first year we were relegated, and I remember reading a well-known pundit saying we’d be in transition for the next 10 years based on the playing pool and that kind of stuff. I’m not saying the reality is we should be in 1B, but the bottom two teams that’ll be in the play-off, which is more than likely ourselves based on the scoring average anyway, I don’t think there’s much between all of those teams, and I’d add another three or four teams from 1B as well when it comes to the overall hurling landscape.”
McGrath admits Shane Bennett is unlikely to figure at all for the team this year despite several meetings with the Ballysaggart forward. “He’s hoping to travel, he’s got alternatives in terms of travel and we just have to wish him well. It looks like there’s no go for Shane in terms of coming back.”
Waterford manager Derek McGrath was speaking at KN Group Headquarters, Clondalkin, Dublin, at the launch of the 19th annual KN Group All-Ireland GAA Golf Challenge. This year the two-day challenge takes place at Concra Wood and Nuremore Golf Clubs in Co Monaghan on August 24 and 25. Visit gaagolf.com for more information.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved