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Wednesday 25 April 2018

Cork stand in way of McGrath taking next step for Deise

Waterford manager Derek McGrath. Pic: Sportsfile
Waterford manager Derek McGrath. Pic: Sportsfile

The interview auditorium of the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh may be just a few days old but it has made an auspicious debut.

On Sunday evening, Derek McGrath and Davy Fitzgerald had plenty of interesting thoughts (and provocative, in the case of the latter) about the sweeper system in hurling, why certain teams such as their own embrace it and why pundits seem to loathe it.

All of which meant much of McGrath's other comments were buried. But his reflections on where his Waterford now lie, ahead of a third consecutive All-Ireland SHC semi-final, were equally intriguing.

At that stage he didn't know what Cork, their conquerors in June, would be next up. But he knew a significant road-block stood between Waterford and the quantum leap of reaching a September final.

McGrath had been "terrified" of a Wexford ambush. If they'd lost, it might simply have been because they fell to a better side on the day - but it wouldn't have been construed that way.

"I'm very proud of the lads in terms of where they are at," he said. "I'm equally proud of Davy and his players because he's another fella who is subjected. This year with Wexford, the colour they are bringing, the togetherness.

"But the trajectory of that can be different in year four - I'll accept that. It's about the next step. For us, it's about getting on the bus, doing the recovery and getting home, listening to the draw tomorrow. I don't think Galway or Cork will sleep too uneasy tonight having to face us."

Some might dismiss that last sentence as classic managerial 'poor mouth' but McGrath is too deep a thinker to be accused of such glib banalities.

Privately, he might even accept this group need to reach an All-Ireland now to keep on growing, whatever about achieving their ultimate goal. This is his fourth year in charge; the third consecutive year of Waterford being a heavyweight championship player.

Central to that has been their embrace of youth (even while, conversely, Kevin Moran and Michael 'Brick' Walsh lead the charge) and their devotion to a defensive system that leaves the pundits and/or traditionalists nonplussed.

Tinkered

For whatever reason, they tinkered with the tried-and-trusted against Cork last June. The reversion to 'man on man' in the first half didn't work (albeit the sides were level at the break) but it was the flatness of Waterford's performance that really surprised.

The presumption is that McGrath will go with his sweeper and to hell with the begrudgers next month. Only one problem: Tadhg de Búrca has this position down to an art form but we will be suspended on August 13 bar the unearthing of video evidence to show he didn't interfere with the face-guard of Harry Kehoe.

De Búrca's red card means the onus is on Waterford to prove his innocence, not the other way around, and Sunday night's inconclusive footage certainly wouldn't suffice.

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