Waterford’s manager, Derek McGrath at the end of the game on Sunday in Walsh Park. Photos: Inpho.
NHL: Round 1: Waterford v Wexford: Derek McGrath
Derek McGrath won’t let this first round defeat disrupt his squad management plans for the rest of the league. He aims to mix and match across the five matches based on the workload of each player and promises changes in round two.
Aside from Conor Gleeson and Tadhg de Burca, he chose to rest the Fitzgibbon Cup contingent here. Nine members of last September’s All Ireland final side took the field but he accepts that they are off the pace at the moment. “Not just motivationally but from a physical point of view I’d say we’re a good bit behind. Listen, we picked our team for the Tipperary match last Thursday night. We’re not really going to be affected by how the results go week to week and we’re not treating the league with contempt, I want to point that out. There’s a massive game between CIT and UCD on Tuesday. The temptation during the week was, looking at DJ Foran and Mikey Kearney flying, to go with a freshness. We just went with the guys that are more seasoned and that have been training with us outside of the Fitzgibbon. They’ve a bit of work to do to get up to the level where some of the Fitzgibbon lads are. We’d expectchanges next week, we’ve already planned for it. We’ll stick to the plan.”
He resisted the urge to dip into the subs bench as the game petered out. Was that decision taken prior to throw in? “No, we made it as it went along when the game was out of our reach. You don’t want to give a guy a token fifteen minutes either. Patrick Curran played two matches with DCU in the space of four days. In the era of player welfare, we’re trying to mind him. I spoke to Patrick on Friday about the possibility of playing next Saturday. Sometimes when you’re seven or eight down, it’s up to the players to figure it out as they go along and see can they dig themselves out of it. I think fitness-wise, getting the 75 minutes into the legs, that’s good for them.”
‘WEXFORD AT A HIGH PITCH’
Wexford’s exploits in the Walsh Cup counted in their favour. “Wexford are at a high pitch at the moment in terms of intensity, fitness levels and general togetherness. They’re certainly at a higher pitch than a lot of teams.”
Waterford found themselves six points in arrears at the interval having played into the elements. The hosts attempted valiantly to reel in the Model men on the resumption. “We were looking back to the Cork league game here last year when we had a similar sort of lead to peg back. We said if we could peg it back yet not be vulnerable to a goal against the run of play. Unfortunately, that’s what happened. David Dunne slipped in for a great goal just when we seemed to be getting a bit of momentum. We had it back to three. No complaints. Wexford were ravenous and we knew what was coming.”
The second-half drive from the Déise number five was one encouraging feature out of this exercise. “I thought Tadhg was immense for us at centre back. I watched him on Wednesday with UCD and he’s playing again this Tuesday. Himself and Conor Gleeson were the only ones from the Fitzgibbon that we exposed to it based on matches next week.”