Tuesday 20 February 2018

Gleeson class can be difference - McGrath

Former Waterford hurler Ken McGrath. Photo: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Former Waterford hurler Ken McGrath. Photo: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

For obvious reasons the memories of the build-up to the 2008 All-Ireland final have come flooding back to Ken McGrath this week.

McGrath recounts how he played in eight semi-finals and won just one. And after getting over Tipp, the outpouring of emotion was huge to the point where McGrath reckoned their legs were empty long before the ball was thrown in.

"The team was going for seven or eight years at the time and there was a release of emotion after beating Tipp in the semi final," he recalled at yesterday's launch of the eir Sport Sports Book of the Year 2017

"Then you are forgetting you're playing Kilkenny, the best Kilkenny team of all time. Look the thing went over the top we had a couple of open sessions and there was thousands of people at them.

Austin Gleeson in action for Waterford. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE
Austin Gleeson in action for Waterford. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

"I don't think the lads have had an open session this year they are just concentrating on working for Galway."

The buzz was bad for McGrath's hurling but good for business as he ran a sports shop at the time.

"Look, it was manic. I had the sports shop at the time and you were between a rock and a hard place. You wanted to be busy but it was nuts and come the weekend I was probably after burning myself out. That was the joys of it. Only looking back now you say it was crazy what you went through for that week or two.

"You opened a sports shop to be busy and to sell Waterford jerseys and Waterford gear and you had people wanting pictures and autographs and you had to be there because your name was over the door. Looking back, talking so much I'd say it probably did affect your performance on Sunday.

"It was a great craic. I didn't mind doing it at the time but looking back it wasn't the best preparation I'm sure now if one of the boys had a sport shop they wouldn't be allowed in it for the week.

"Look that's nearly ten years ago and come the All-Ireland final day we were nearly too excited to play it if you know what I mean.

"Looking back, we were so excited I think we played the game before the match. We spent all our emotions."

McGrath reflects on his time with Waterford and reflects that they "had their chances." It's down to the new breed now, led by his clubmate Austin Gleeson.

McGrath reckons the club knew they had a special talent on their hands when Gleeson was around 16.

Gleeson might have missed the final for an ill-advised pull on Luke Meade's helmet in the semi-final but McGrath insists he wouldn't change anything about his game.

"Temperament, some of the top players have that in them and I would never take that away from anybody.

"Some of the top players have a bit of rawness in them and are liable to do anything. That's a part of them and a part of their personality. I would never try and train that out of him or drill it out of him.

"He puts bums on seats and he's liable to do anything. We always like that type of player in Waterford. That's why I leave him be his own man because when you can produce what he produces at times - why would you train everything out of him?

"Look, at times he can do a few rash things. I can never say anything about that because I was like that myself when I was playing. We like that type of player in Waterford but we can't have 15 of them. I think that, definitely, leave him be his own man."

"If he does play (well) for 60-70 minutes, we'll be in with a massive shout because he'll take watching all day. He goes for goal, we saw that the last day - he has the pace."

Irish Independent

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