Derek McGrath rules out prospect of Shane Bennett boost after reaching out 'four or five times'
Rising Déise star confirms he’ll not return for 2018 season
Waterford are resigned to being without Shane Bennett for the entire 2018 campaign, manager Derek McGrath has admitted.
McGrath said he was prepared to draw a line under the issue and move on, leaving the All-Ireland finalists without one of their most prodigious talents.
Bennett opted out at the start of the season but there were hopes he would eventually filter back in. McGrath confirmed that he spoke to the 21-year-old "four or five times" since his initial decision, the last time on the Friday before the recent Kilkenny game.
"I've been unable to persuade him to come back," confirmed the Déise manager, a guest at yesterday's launch of the All-Ireland GAA golf challenge at the west Dublin headquarters of sponsors KN Group.
"It looks like there's no go for Shane in terms of coming back. We've tried very hard now in terms of conversations with him. He's a very important player for us but he's absolutely entitled not to commit to it. We have to have respect to that.
"Over the four years we've espoused the whole value of living. Tom Devine came to us at the end of the league last year and said he was going travelling for the summer.
"I'm not sure if Shane is definitely going travelling or not, but I'm sure there are alternatives there in terms of what he wants to do. He's a great lad and we wish him well. I think it's important to move forward now and it's not as if we don't have an open-ended panel."
Bennett has hurled a lot in the last number of years since his elevation as a 16-year-old winner of an All-Ireland minor title in 2013.
"He was straight in," reflected McGrath. "The year we won the league, Shane played the first three league games for us that year as a teenager.
"Then he came on against Cork when we beat them in the 2015 semi-final and came on in the Munster final. He started against Dublin when he got the goal off the ground so he's gone straight into it in a very, I won't say pressurised environment, but all the time being asked to get the best out of him from 18 to 21. Its hard going."
McGrath's pre-league prediction that Waterford would struggle in the competition has been right on cue with the prospect looming of a relegation play-off in two weeks' time.
"I probably flagged it, not in a cute sense. I just knew we hadn't enough done. I keep saying that we have to be completely right on point in terms of our work-rate and intensity and levels of possessive approach to be at it and we haven't been at that in any game thus far, bar parts of the Cork game the last day. We've struggled.
"I knew it was coming and we just have to stick to the process now and try and grind our way out of it and get some sort of nuggets of hope towards the championship, given the new championship format.
"I've been saying it since the start, it's only a plan but if it doesn't go right in the championship, everything that's been done in the league would be relayed back as being the wrong plan. But at least it's a plan."
While acknowledging how much closer and more consistent the Mayo footballers have been, McGrath says he can see why people make comparisons between the counties and their urge to cross that line and win an All-Ireland title. With that kind of longing, his admiration for Stephen Rochford and some of the decisions he has made has grown.
"I'd be impressed how Mayo do their business, going back all the time and just going at it. They're relentless. People are afraid to say they're gone because they know there's more in them. I'd have great admiration for them.
"I don't think we've reached that level where Mayo are at. I think what is very relevant is the nature of the people in each county, they long for it so much. They want it so much that everything is probably over-analysed and over-scrutinised.
"That's why I'd have great admiration for Rochford from afar, just even tactical decisions he made coming into the Kerry game with Donaghy-O'Shea. Just not being afraid.
"Even back to the All-Ireland final replay where he replaced the goalkeeper a couple of years ago. He had a plan around the kick-outs and he was willing to back himself on it. Just more of an affinity to what's going on in their camp, not that we could mirror it but learn from it," he stated.
The 2018 All-Ireland GAA golf challenge will be held in Nuremore and Concra Wood courses in Monaghan on August 24/25 and will raise funds for a number of charities including the aid and rehabilitation of Spa GAA member Ian O'Connell who suffered serious injuries after falling from his bike in Killarney National Park last August.