Waterford still behind Tipp in terms of their development, warns McGrath
Waterford hurling manager Derek McGrath has revealed how he was "hammered" almost 12 months ago for suggesting that Tipperary were "four or five years" ahead of his team in terms of overall development.
McGrath's assertion was justified when the Premier County stormed to All-Ireland glory but, at the time, he was accused of deliberately trying to downplay Waterford's potential and quell growing levels of expectation.
The Déise's march to a Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U-21 title has further fanned the flames in the county that good times are just around the corner for the senior team. And the hype machine cranked up again last Sunday when Waterford beat Kilkenny on the opening day of the Allianz League.
But McGrath insists that Waterford still have a long road to travel - and reckons that many of his players will be in their mid-20s before their full potential is realised.
McGrath has studied Sunday's opponents Tipperary closely - and believes Michael Ryan's visitors to Walsh Park are priming themselves for an assault on a league and All-Ireland double.
"Surely I was vindicated, and maybe vindicated's not the right word, by that statement by the end of the year," he said. "The fruits of Tipp's 2010 All-Ireland U-21 win are only being seen now.
"I know I was hammered for it but I was at the WIT-LIT Fitzgibbon game last week and Liam McGrath was one of the best players on the field - and he's on the Tipperary football panel.
"There's probably a focus on Waterford based on the fact that players are in the spotlight for the last two or three years as young players and what other counties are doing gets lost in that.
"The likes of Tom Fox and Willie Connors in Tipp, if they were in Waterford, I'd make a strong argument that they'd be regular players, they'd have to serve less of an apprenticeship.
"I made a statement that Tipp were ahead of us in terms of development and what I meant by that is that when you sit down and pick their six championship forwards, you have Noel and John McGrath, 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer, Seamie Callanan, 'Bonner' Maher and Dan McCormack. How many of them are U-21?
"Four of our six forwards who started last week are U-21. Conor Gleeson started only his second league game last Sunday, and Tom Devine his third. When you say it, you're accused of downplaying it but it's a different dynamic."
McGrath is calling for "an absolute totality of effort" against the All-Ireland champions but adds he has noticed a "real steel" in the current Tipperary set-up.