Déise cruise on as McGrath takes aim at 'ignorance' of team's critics
Waterford 0-21 Wexford 0-11
Derek McGrath was entitled to his moment.
The swelled ranks of critics of his team's style of play had, he felt, their triggers already half-cocked before Waterford collapsed in on themselves in the Munster SHC final.
"I was asked to speak to the Rotary Club in Waterford about four months ago," he reflected after his team took their spot in the All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny on August 7 with an authoritative 10-point win over Wexford in Thurles yesterday.
"I read The Road to Rotary by Paul Harris. I think there's a great quote in it.
"He said when the clash is between ignorance and intelligence, ignorance is the aggressor. That's the way I would look at it.
"I'd replace intelligence with truth because I'm not saying we're intelligent. That's how we'd feel about it.
"We're here to be shot down because of that but it was definitely a case of guns loaded, ready to go," said the Déise boss.
The 'victory for hurling' stuff was, in hindsight, a bit harsh on a team to have dragged themselves up hurling's rankings through creative thinking and investment in youth.
And now, as a chuffed McGrath pointed out, they're back where they would have been had they won that Munster final, albeit against different and more daunting opposition.
"I looked back at the video and I saw myself with 15 minutes to go in a Munster final, and you're disconsolate," he admitted.
"You look extremely negative on the line and you come out afterwards and face the cameras and it was even more harrowing viewing.
"You are managing your own county and these fellas are playing for their own county, so there is passion and there is a feeling involved in it.
"It's not come in, hang up your coat and head off. It's your own county.
"It felt horrible and it felt horrible to the lads."
The question of whether McGrath would tweak or even dispense with his team's setup in light of that meltdown was answered early yesterday.
Waterford lined up almost identically and with the same players and only for a stack of first half wides 13 high, they would have had Wexford put away by half-time.
Austin Gleeson, otherwise a strong contender for Man of the Match thanks to his slaloming, penetrative runs through the heart of the Wexford defence, had six of those wides.
The wind swept diagonally across Semple Stadium yesterday but equally, Waterford's inclination to shoot from far-too-long range made this victory needlessly complicated, even if McGrath was largely unmoved.
"I don't find that a massive concern because what do you do?
"Do you go into training next week and overly concentrate on not having a wide?
"It's a game-based situation and it's very hard to fix.
"The only obvious fix I could see is if you take the ball on a bit more before a shot is on, I think that's the best way of fixing it, in my opinion, especially guys that have legs: Austin, Shane Bennett.
"If they take the ball on they're not going to be caught and I think they're better like that rather than being stagnant," added McGrath.
For all their wastefulness, Waterford still led by 0-12 to 0-5 at half-time, though had there been points of artistic merit, it would have been a massacre.
Wexford's use of the ball, their touch and their ability to see a pass was noticeably inferior.
Lee Chin and Conor McDonald battled manfully but the thickness of the Waterford defense and the exceptional game-reading and ball use of Tadhg de Búrca meant their efforts were mostly in vain.
"That's not going to be for me to decide," shrugged Liam Dunne, when asked afterwards whether he would continue as Wexford manager after five years of questionable improvement.
Dunne has battled a cruel spate of injuries but his young team have failed to mount a credible promotion campaign in Division 1B and their surprise victory over Cork looks now, in hindsight, something of an aberration.
"There wasn't one club last year, even my own club didn't propose me to go to take over the team.
"It took Tony Dempsey to appoint me, so I don't know what's going to happen as a county board.
"Maybe they want someone else to come in and if they do that's their choice."
His team scored five points on the spin in the middle of second-half here but six points was as close as Wexford got and McGrath used his bench to smart effect to close out the win.
"We'll have to improve all over the field to beat Kilkenny but I tell you, it's a very, very interesting challenge," the Waterford manager noted.
"And one that we're really relishing and looking forward to because it's a great place to be, in the last four in Ireland from where we've come two years in-a-row.
"We're just so happy. We're not satisfied with it or down-playing the significance of the Kilkenny game but we're very satisfied with today's work."
all-ireland shc quarter-final: waterford 0-21 wexford 0-11
SCORERS - Waterford: Pauric Mahony 0-8 (6f), A Gleeson, J Barron, M Shanahan, Shane Bennett, M Walsh, B O'Halloran 0-2 each, J Dillon 0-1. Wexford: C McDonald 0-5 (4f), L Chin 0-2, L Ryan, E Martin, D Dunne, J O'Connor 0-1 each.
WATERFORD: S O'Keeffe 7; B Coughlan 7, N Connors 7, S Fives 7; D Fives 6, T DeBúrca 8, Philip Mahony 6; J Barron 8, A Gleeson 8; K Moran 7, Shane Bennett 7, Pauric Mahony 7; M Shanahan 6, M Walsh 8, P Curran 6. Subs: C Gleeson 8 for D Fives (12 inj), J Dillon 7 for Shanahan (50), B O'Halloran 7 for Curran (55), Stephen Bennett 6 for Shane Bennett (61), C Dunford for Walsh (72)
WEXFORD: M Fanning 7; L Ryan 7, M O'Hanlon 8, E Moore 6; E Martin 6, P Foley 7, D O'Keeffe 6; J O'Connor 6, E Conroy 6; L Óg McGovern 5, L Chin 7, D Dunne 6; P Morris 5, C McDonald 6, H Kehoe 5. Subs: A Kenny 6 for Conroy (27), N Kirwan 6 for Kehoe (45), S Donohoe 6 for Moore (51 inj), A Nolan 6 for Morris (64), J O'Connor for McGovern (68)
WIDES - Waterford: (13 + ). Wexford: (3 + ).
BOOKED - Waterford: 3 (Shanahan 36, Bennett 36, S Fives 46). Wexford: 1 (Kenny 31)
REF: A Kelly (Galway).
MAN OF THE MATCH: Michael Walsh (Waterford).