Sunday 24 September 2017

Derek McGrath hits out at RTE for Up For The Match sweeper sketch with brushes

Déise boss proud of his players as he reveals that he will take time out to consider future plans

Waterford manager Derek McGrath can’t hide the pain of defeat on
Sunday with Kevin Moran in the foreground. Photo: Sportsfile
Waterford manager Derek McGrath can’t hide the pain of defeat on Sunday with Kevin Moran in the foreground. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

The morning after the night before sees the media descend on the hotels of the respective final teams. It's a long-established tradition at this stage and teams usually oblige with little fuss. The end of the season sees an easing of media policies.

Heading for the hotel of the vanquished side and asking them to relive the heartbreak seems particularly cruel. Still, Derek McGrath obliges and settles into a quiet corner of the busy Burlington Hotel and starts to pick through the embers.

As he talks, it is clear he tried to ensure the night before would be as free of talk of 'what ifs' as was possible. Kevin Moran alluded to his chance that might have put them two up at a crucial juncture. It's a part of the process but McGrath reckons there is some peace for his side in that they gave it everything.

"It wasn't reflecting on the game or what we could have done," McGrath says of the banquet the night before.

"A lot of the conversations I had were extremely complimentary of Galway.

It's not acceptance but a feeling they were a small bit better than us. A lot of them commented on Galway's physicality and maybe they just wore us down and that was the general theme in terms of the conversations we had.

"There was a crucial point where Pauric (Mahony) put us a point up and I think Kevin had a chance to put us two up and two for us given the nature of the game would have been a big lead, but it wouldn't have been for Galway.

"Galway had been four and five (points up) but two for us might have been a big lead and we were clinging to that a small bit, even though Kevin kept us in the game in the first half to be fair. It wasn't a blame game - Kevin himself said, 'I had a right chance to put us two up'.

"I think there was a lot of goodwill in the room last night at the banquet and the disappointment was helped by the amount of goodwill last night.

"There was a sense we died with our boots on so that was the feeling. We didn't go to bed happy, obviously we were massively disappointed but we felt really well supported, you know?"

It's hard to discuss this Waterford team and not see talk turn to tactics and systems.

The sweeper has been much maligned and the finger is usually pointed in the direction of the Déise and Davy Fitzgerald's Wexford.

Some of the criticism irks McGrath because he reckons many other teams deploy similar systems that afford extra security at the back. Gradually, he believes pundits are starting to see the merit of the system.

"In terms of vindication or saying anything, I don't think there's a need because I think there was a definite change in pundits' mindsets and the detail of their analysis.

"I'm not saying (it happened) after Davy had spoken but there is an acceptance that the game is evolving.

"But take the Kilkenny situation with how they played Walter Walsh this year as a kind of auxiliary midfielder. As I said before, Colm Galvin playing at the edge of the 'D' as a defensive midfielder. Dan McCormack did it for Tipp. All the narratives that are there as opposed to the sweeper system.

"Even the language of commentators when they are talking, it's the Waterford sweeper but when it's the language of someone else it's the extra midfielder, it's the man helping back.

"That's only kind of irksome rather than something that's in my mind for a long time.

"I've nothing more to say on it other than we believed in what we were doing and the lads believed in it as well."

For McGrath, the sense that Waterford are portrayed as the poster boys for the hurling's recent defensive leanings was reinforced by 'Up for the Match' on Saturday night where a couple of packages relating to Waterford involved sweeping brushes.

It's only a little thing, he says, but indicative of the wider discourse.

Without a doubt (Waterford are being caricatured) . . . Yeah, disappointing to see the ball being passed from brush to brush on national television. People might say I'm being over the top in criticising it but we're better than that, I think, in Waterford.

"We're better than passing a sliotar from brush to brush. I don't think it was right but that's just a personal opinion."

The next step for McGrath is to consider his future but he insists that his mind wouldn't have been swayed had they won.

"I would never have contemplated that perfect scenario where you win it and walk away and you're a hero forever more.

"If you operated in that modus operandi I wouldn't have taken the job in the first place.

"The advice I was given by people on the outside was to wait until Paddy Curran and the boys were 22 or 23 rather than lob them into a situation when they are 18 or 19.

"The cute route would have been to wait three or four years until they are ready - that was the general perception. I wouldn't operate in a mindset where 'wouldn't it be great get out when on top and get into punditry' and you're a hero for what you have done. That wouldn't have been entertained."

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