McGrath: I promised Tadhg we'd be in final
At the final whistle yesterday in Croke Park, after the four years of his apparently endless devotion to Waterford hurling finally paid off with an All-Ireland final appearance, Derek McGrath made a beeline for Tadhg de Búrca.
"I promised him the other night when we came out of the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel that we'd be in the final. I just promised him," McGrath, who cut an emotionally exhausted yet hugely content figure, revealed afterwards.
The pair had emerged from their three-battle war with the GAA's disciplinary system badly scarred and beaten.
And so de Búrca, not only Waterford's sweeper but their beating heart, missed yesterday's All-Ireland semi-final victory over Cork. "I know it sounds overly dramatic but I promised him that we would be in the final," McGrath went on.
"I went up to his mother and father on Friday and they were upset. Naturally.
"So I just promised him that we would be in the final."
McGrath, his management team and several members of the Waterford squad played with DeBúrca's usual jersey number five written in marker on the back of their hands yesterday, suggesting the group had used his absence as a motivational force.
"Yeah, one hundred per cent," McGrath admitted.
"One hundred per cent. We spoke about it as a group on Friday night. We spoke about it as a group today.
"We weren't sure that we should because you're dealing with a young lad that's … I won't say he's reserved … but he's just everything that we feel that we're trying to be as a team.
"He's a purist and he's just a great lad. He's tough. We had a tough couple of weeks with him. But I think he showed great mental fortitude within the two weeks.
"We did it for him. We make no apologies. That was our motivation. Not in a corny way.
"But it was definitely part of the group's motivation because of what he contributed to the team up until this match over the four years."
Otherwise, McGrath described his emotions as "a mixture of elation, relief, anticipation now at this stage of what's to come".
"All those emotions. Elation relief, joy, ecstasy. I don't know.
"It was everything too coming into it and we were able to perform well, so it's very, very satisfying."
Regardless now, we have a famine-ending All-Ireland final on September 3.
Galway haven't won one since 1988. Waterford's drought stretches back to 1959.
So McGrath was on the money when he said: "I think it's the final that the general public would want in terms of colour and the dynamic of it.
"In terms of motivation, our motivation was (on winning) third semi-final in-a-row.
"I don't think we can lose this at this stage. And Tadhg. Our motivation wasn't what someone else had said about us," McGrath added.
"Which it might have been previously."