McGrath's attention to detail reaping rich rewards
Published 11/07/2015 | 02:30
Derek McGrath's hurling addiction started from an early age. He collected the Gaelic Sport magazines during the '80s and the Galway team of that era grabbed his attention.
"I loved Joe Cooney and Martin Naughton as well, and the white boots of Gerry McInerney. My father hated them but I loved them. I just loved Galway," recalls the Waterford manager.
McGrath watched the 1990 All-Ireland final between Cork and Galway from the Nally Stand, and 25 years later, he can clearly recall the game's key tactical switch.
"Tomás Mulcahy came from the corner to centre-forward and that changed the whole game. It was like he said to Tony Keady, 'I'll take you down'," he remembers.
McGrath brings that fanatical streak to his management. The ability to store minute detail underpins his meticulous planning ahead of big matches.
Selectors Dan Shanahan and Fintan O'Connor, along with the rest of the set-up, match McGrath's pursuit of excellence. On weekends like this, he mines information from Shanahan.
"Myself and Fintan defer to Dan on most things because, if you've 12 or 13 years of inter-county experience and three All Stars, it has to count for something," he explains. "He's been involved in eight Munster finals."
In anticipation of his first provincial decider at the helm, McGrath hoovers up information in pursuit of a peak performance.
"There's a realisation among us that everyone has to be 100pc on their 'A' game for us to win," he says.
"But we feel we have a chance and we are going there to play. We are very at ease with ourselves as a management because we are witnessing first-hand what the lads are putting into it. We can sleep easy knowing that their efforts are total."
McGrath wants his charges prepared for every scenario and has left nothing to chance.
It has proven worthwhile, given the sticky situations Waterford have encountered of late - in games against Limerick, Offaly, Tipperary and Cork, they chased down leads.
Their counter-attacking system has been perfected in those high-pressure environments but McGrath also recognises the need to keep things fresh.
Will he be tempted to unveil a different plan this time?
"There's not pressure but there is thought put into it. We actually have changed in some games and maybe people didn't pick up on it," he says.
"We have played differently in a number of games. There is a plan B. We try to roll them out in training or in games but maybe people don't pick up on them, subtle things.
"It's imposing those plans without hamstringing fellas so that there is no fluidity in your play or that you are almost robotic.
"A lot of it is decisions made by the boys on the pitch. It's not PlayStation.
"You would hope that players would adapt to the situation as they see it in front of them. There has to be an allowance for that.
"You can't be relying on a live feed from an iPad saying that James Barry has 12 possessions or Paddy Stapleton has ten possessions.
"You have to allow your players a freedom to deal with the situation as it is in front of them."
Inter-county management complements his forensic research of the game. McGrath can rest easy tonight in the knowledge that everything is ready.