Derek McGrath: Waterford won't abandon tactics but we'll show we can open up
Waterford will not detach completely from the style of hurling that made the county such an attractive proposition throughout the last decade, their manager Derek McGrath has insisted.
McGrath sees a time in the future when his team 'opening up' will be part of the plan.
But for now they are content to stick with the template that has already earned them League success, taking down Division 1A opposition in their final three games with a very strong emphasis on defence and counter-attack.
"Waterford's absolute obsession in the mid-2000s and late '90s, and rightly so, was flamboyant hurling," he recalled. "It was great but there will be a time when we can open up. It's not that it's not a plan, it is a plan.
"We have a plan in place that when we have it this way and when it have it that way, that we'll be able to open up a small bit more."
A tactical approach to hurling is even taking firm hold in the club game, he pointed out. During the most recent round of club championship fixtures in Waterford in mid-May, McGrath couldn't get over how many games he saw that were set up so tactically.
"Of the five matches that I went to that weekend it was interesting to note how many of them were tactical," he reflected.
"I couldn't get over it, for managements of the teams that are involved at senior club level and to be traditionalists in their viewpoints, to be playing as tactically as they were.
"I was pleasantly surprised but I was saying, 'hey, something has turned here'."
McGrath admitted that the Deise could never have expected to make such quick progress and win a League from Division 1B, but he fears now that there could be a consequence.
"I am worried now that the fall-off will come later in the year based on early season training and the run that we got in the League. I'm worried, not that the season will fade away but that the fall will come at some stage," he conceded.
"But the nature of it is such that if we could have a relatively successful Munster Championship, a run in the All-Ireland series and target an U-21 title, it would be huge progress."
Whatever happens he sees this Waterford team continuing to develop over the next two to three years.
"Whether it comes in this Munster Championship or the next Munster Championship, I'm not sure," he said.
"But the team will get better over the next two or three years. You might think I'm playing the game where I'm dismissing the Munster Championship, but I'm not. I think Waterford will be in a very good place in a few years' time because the players are coming.
"There are players outside our panel who, to me, will make a really significant impact when they come in.
"You'd have to hope that there's another level because otherwise it'll be spat back into your face that it was only the League and that teams were at half-pace..
"But I don't think that's really the case. I think it's more the team that beat you on a particular day were better on that particular day."
He admits there has been a level of satisfaction for his management team and the players at being able to recover from a disappointing first season.
"It is satisfying but there's no sense of smugness, we'll just continue to do what we can do to try to win the games and make no apologies for it," he said.
McGrath is expecting a significant Cork backlash on Sunday in the same way that Clare felt it two years ago after they had beaten them in a relegation play-off.
"It's potentially the same as what Davy (Fitzgerald) faced then," he said. "If you are subjected to over-analysis within your own county and if you are subjected to criticism in your own county, it can sting you and hurt you, and it results in a dressing room being extremely motivated in the run-up to a Munster Championship game.
"I think that's what we'll see from Cork. I can actually see what's going to happen, I can see Cork being in our faces. I know what's coming.
"You'll see an extremely motivated Aidan Walsh - I think you'll see the Aidan Walsh that we saw in the replay last year and in the Munster Championship final.
"I would still imagine that most people will plump for Cork, based on tradition and based on the fact that Cork have very good hurlers and are the Munster champions from last year. They didn't perform well against us in the League final. To me all the aces are with Cork."