Wednesday 21 March 2018

Give Derek McGrath a break, Babs

Carew's column - with Niall Carew

All-Ireland hurling final day is a big day in every GAA household. It doesn't matter where you're from it is always a game to watch. The people that have more at stake of course are those from the counties involved and on this occasion it happen to be the pairing of Waterford and Galway.

I read an article Sunday morning written by great Babs Keating, a great dual star from Tipp who also managed Tipp to All-Ireland success, that shocked me. Babs was also in the Offaly hot seat in 1998 but resigned during that year and the Faithful men went on to win the All-Ireland a couple of months later.

What baffled me about Babs was his assessment of Derek McGrath, the Waterford hurling manger. This of course was before a sliotar was pucked in the All-Ireland final of 2017.

Babs said that Derek should step down as manager if Waterford didn't win. His reasons are very simple. Derek is not playing traditional hurling.

All I can say is 'Oh my God'. So if we are not playing the traditional way we not playing the right way. Sure look let's bring back the little fat corner-backs that would take your life that we all know existed up to 20 years ago.

I got my jaw broken twice by these sort of lads when I was a minor playing both football and hurling at senior level. It was simple back then. Burst the young lad and it was acceptable.

I'm sorry Babs but the GAA world has moved on. Imagine how Sligo's greatest ever footballer Mickey Kearns would have benefited if he got protection when he was in his heyday. Sligo could have probably won an All-Ireland but the fact of the matter was these great players got no protection back then.

Sligo were beaten by Galway teams back in the Kearns era that subsequently went all the way. I have no doubt that if the likes of Mickey and co got protection, a lot would be very different.

I remember the first drink-driving ads in the 1980s. One or two is ok. Well that's not the case anymore because it's not.

The world has moved on and the GAA is going with it. It's men like Derek McGrath that evolve our games so give him a break and some credit with what he has achieved to date. For me, he has worked wonders and I'm so sorry they didn't reach the Holy Grail.

I have met Derek McGrath while I was managing Waterford footballers. He is a gentleman and a hard-working manager.

He was always interested in what we were doing in the football camp and wanted to learn. Men like him are the reason why the GAA world keeps on moving forward but if we have men writing about bringing back tradition we might as well throw our hats at it.

Derek and his team were only one puck away from winning an All-Ireland and this is the material that we have to read from the likes of Babs.

Derek will hold his head high and I hope he continues his reign as Waterford hurling manager for 2018 because he is so close.

But I still have to congratulate Galway and in fairness they were the best team by far this year, winning the National League and the Leinster Championship as well, so this was by no means any fluke.

If you are like me, you will have been very touched by the Tony Keady tribute in the sixth minute. Tony Keady and Brendan Lynskey presented me with a medal in 1986.

I was lucky enough to captain our team and these great men travelled to Coill Dubh GAA in Kildare to give us with our medals. These were heroes for us back then and as U14s this was a dream come through to have men like these in our club.

The majority of that team went on to win senior championships Coill Dubh and represented Kildare at every level.

When Tony and Brendan arrived in October 1986, we had never won a senior county title. The following year we won our first and my dad Tony played at full-back. This was certainly his proudest moment.

People might not realise this but in the 1970s Kildare hurlers were very competitive in Leinster.

Wexford beat them by a couple of points in a semi-final one year and went on to win the All-Ireland. Kildare at the stage were always ahead of Offaly and Dublin.

I remember reading all the old paper clipping that my Dad, and my uncle Tommy had. I remember my dad telling me about the time Kildare beat Waterford in Waterford one year in the National League.

The groundsman said 'I hope ye are happy now, ye have put Waterford hurlers back 50 years.'

It proved not to be that severe as Waterford came back and had some great teams. The current one is right up there and was so close to taking the ultimate step. I hope their day will come.

Sligo Champion