Waterford’s manager Derek McGrath celebrates after Sunday’s All-Ireland SHC win over Wexford in Cork. Photo: Inpho.
All-Ireland SHC Quarter-final: Waterford v Wexford: Derek McGrath
After making the All Ireland semis for a third consecutive year on Sunday, Derek McGrath made no apologies for winning ugly.
In light of recent comment that Waterford won’t go all the way with a sweeper in place, he staunchly defended their tactical approach. “I read Henry Shefflin’s article in the Sunday Times after we beat Kilkenny. In the forefront of my mind before that was how Walter Walsh played against Limerick. Walter Walsh was on D and there was no commentary whatsoever on it. Henry was saying that it won’t win an All Ireland but we were trying to beat Kilkenny in the match that we designed and implemented that game plan for. The danger is that there’s so much debate about it that it seeps into your team. You take a situation where Shaun Murphy goes back as a sweeper and we push our man up on Shaun Murphy and then there’s five on five at the other side. We’d be accused of being defensively naïve. We were happy to keep our shape and we’re good at it over the years. Each game is planned differently so we played slightly different today than we did against Kilkenny. I wouldn’t argue with Michael Duignan who has a lot more All Ireland medals than me and Henry has ten All Ireland medals so I wouldn’t hear tell of arguing against what they know about hurling.”
It wasn’t a free-flowing contest by any means but that doesn’t stop Waterford from racking up big totals in his estimation. “It didn’t flow against Offaly and we got 1-35. We got 4-23 against Kilkenny. What I would see is the lack of clarity on why we got those four goals against Kilkenny. If you look at Maurice’s last goal, it was because the rest of the team were sucked down the pitch and we had the run on them if you like. We’re trying to play the game in a manner that suits our players that we like and they like. We got 1-23 today. From 2009, we’ve scored more than any other Waterford team in the last ten years. I just did that in my room at home yesterday from league and championship. I thought it was an interesting stat to throw out.”
Terrified in build-up
The tactical minefield presented by a united Wexford force terrified him in the build-up. He was so concerned that he couldn’t tune in properly to Tipperary-Clare the day before. “I was very nervous yesterday, I couldn’t even watch the Tipp-Clare game. I was watching bits of it and I had the commentary turned down. I was watching the golf in between and I hate golf! I was switching on the golf because I didn’t want to hear what was being said especially when they were previewing our game. I was saying to myself, ‘l know what’s coming now’. I said that I would keep myself in good form. My youngest son was four yesterday so we went into Rockin Joes and had a burger after the game yesterday.”
He agreed that Kevin Moran’s three pointer in a struggle like this turned out to be a pivotal moment. “Up until then we knew what way it was going. It was a classic case of they have seven and we have seven so who’s going to break first in terms of the tit for tat approach. Sometimes if you push your man up on their extra man, it’s a five on five situation at the other side. I’m proud of the lads in terms of how we kept our defensive shape and our use of Darragh Fives in the first half. It was obvious that Podge Doran was going to try and discommode Noel in the air and discommode Tadhg as well. It was a crucial score in the game. It was the first chink that there was a bit of space in behind. Kevin took it very well for a guy that’s not renowned for goal scoring.”
The leaders shook up their attack early in the third quarter and while Maurice Shanahan and Brian O’Halloran delivered two points apiece, McGrath also hailed the endeavours of starting pair Jake Dillon and Shane Bennett. “We were weighing it up because when you only have five up there it takes huge energy not alone to chase Shaun Murphy but also to get on the ball. Every ball you go to you’re going to be outnumbered. I give great credit to Jake and Shane Bennett for that role. When it opened up, Brian and Maurice did really well but equal credit to Jake and Shane Bennett for doing it when it was more frustrating.”
McGrath slammed a water bottle to the ground when Fergal Horgan brandished the red card to Tadhg de Burca. He missed the altercation with Harry Kehoe in front of the North Stand. “I’ll take the Arsene Wenger approach, I didn’t see it. What I’ll put on record is that Tadhg has been at the centre of everything we’ve done well over the last four years. He made his debut at wing back in 2014 and obviously has been hugely central to how we play and what we’ve done. He’s a purist in terms of his approach to the game. I’ll have to see it and then we’ll leave due process take its course.”
The Clashmore-Kinsalebeg defender has been an ever present in championship since that maiden year and any suspension would deprive Waterford of a large jigsaw piece. “It would be a huge blow. It would probably change things. We haven’t really thought about it yet in terms of our approach to it or I didn’t speak to him about it.”