Waterford hurling manager Derek McGrath says Sunday’s Allianz HL opponents Tipperary are “four to five years” ahead of his team in terms of overall development.
Waterford are reigning league champions and lost by just five points against Tipp in last year’s Munster final but McGrath insists his Déise charges are still far behind Michael Ryan’s men.
McGrath also believes there’s an argument for Tipp to be ranked as the country’s top team on current form — despite their recent Nowlan Park defeat against Kilkenny.
He said: “If you look objectively at their two games, there’s an argument to be made for Tipp to be the best team in the country.
“They were hugely impressive against Dublin and I wouldn’t concur with the general theory it was same old, same old at the end of the Kilkenny game.
“They led that game in the 67th minute and had four or five goalscoring chances that they didn’t take.
“Tipp could take huge positives from that display. I was at the match and while I was listening to some Tipp people saying it was the same old stuff, I had the totally opposite opinion.
“It was a positive Tipp performance and they were only caught down the home stretch.”
McGrath concedes that he could be accused of “bigging up” Tipp ahead of the weekend clash at Semple Stadium but he expanded: “They’re four or five years ahead of us in terms of where they are.
“They have seasoned players who have played in All-Ireland finals and won Munster championships. We can’t say that.”
Despite their 100% return from two outings to date, McGrath insists Waterford are focused on consolidation in Division 1A this year.
But he revealed an “absolute obsession” within the camp in the quest to get better and become “consistently competitive.”
McGrath added: “That’s the way it will have to be, along with an acceptance by us as a team and management that there will be some tough days along the way.
“I’d be happy with stability, maintaining our spot in Division 1A and a small bit of progress. We’re the type of team that will benefit from going through a process that breeds confidence and the best thing we can do is try to put in good, united performances.
“It’s so far, so good. I’m very happy with the overall attitude but the overall attitude of the Tipp players is outstanding too. And we’re acutely aware that things can change from week to week in the league.”
Star forward Seamus Callanan is back in the Tipp fold for Sunday’s clash. The hand injury which kept the Drom & Inch sharp-shooter out of the Dublin and Kilkenny matches has now cleared up.
Kieran Bergin is also available again after injury, but Michael Ryan will be without Jason Forde, who injured a hamstring playing for UL in the Fitzgibbon Cup final, and James Barry, who has a foot injury.
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