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Thursday 26 April 2018

I didn't want final swansong - Derek

Waterford manager Derek McGrath at yesterday’s Allianz Hurling League launch
Waterford manager Derek McGrath at yesterday’s Allianz Hurling League launch

At the time, all the evidence indicated that Derek McGrath's last act as Waterford manager would be his most devastating.

That image of his tear-stained face pressed into Dan Shanahan's shoulder seemed odds-on to be the abiding one of his reign.

Having intimated repeatedly, to the point of almost outright announcing, that last year would be in his final in charge of Waterford, McGrath took eight weeks of swaying to and fro over whether to give it one last season.

Ultimately, he says now, he didn't want to be remembered as the man who led the Déise to the All-Ireland final and then walked away.

"I didn't want the swansong to be the All-Ireland final," he admitted yesterday at the launch of this year's Allianz Hurling League.

"You worry about perception sometimes and plus there was a huge connection between the players and lots of the management team, it sounds crazy but the 'not too much to lose attitude' if you went out. And just in terms of credit with them with regards to the 'walking away' attitude.

"I don't think that would sit well with me.

"And when you are away from it for a couple of months and you are contemplating it over and back.

"The perception is, I wonder is that the end of a journey where everyone has given everything and there is a need to move on?

Resolution

"But I don't think you can react to what other people think the need should be. If your gut is to still give it another go."

While his decision to stay was interpreted as a management extension, McGrath says it was more a collective resolution among the entire squad to continue.

"The group, bar Shane (Bennett), is, in tact at the moment," he explained.

"History will show you that … I don't think we've ever been in back-to-back finals, have we?

"So there's a certain solace in knowing that if you give it everything you have and you're not afraid to fail, we'll be all right."

McGrath also said he was hopeful, rather than expectant that Shane Bennett, the 2016 All-Ireland under-21 winner who is currently on a break from inter-county hurling for an unspecific length of times, will play some part in Waterford's season.

"We'd be very hopeful that he would come back at some stage. We're giving him his space to make a decision," his manager explained.

"It's important that he has been there three years at this stage, been straight in as minor.

"He's an important player so we are not going to leave him go easy."

Tom Devine, who took a year out to travel last season, has rejoined McGrath's squad but tore his hamstring playing for UCC in the Fitzgibbon Cup last week and is now a serious doubt to play any of Waterford's opening Division 1A games.

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