Friday 24 November 2017

'I admire Ger Cunningham's bravery because it's a massive risk' - Derek McGrath

Waterford 2-19 Dublin 1-17

Donal Burke rifles home Dublin’s goal despite the best efforts of Waterford defender Noel Connors in Croke Park on Saturday night. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Donal Burke rifles home Dublin’s goal despite the best efforts of Waterford defender Noel Connors in Croke Park on Saturday night. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Having culled many elder statesmen and injected youth into Waterford's squad during his second season in charge, Derek McGrath has nothing but admiration for the "massive risk" which Dublin manager Ger Cunningham has taken by overhauling his panel.

There have been many disconcerting voices towards Cunningham's tenure in the capital with a host of Anthony Daly's 2013 Leinster SHC winners being put out to pasture in favour of blooding the next generation, but McGrath hasn't been one of them.

The Déise boss watched his charges overcome a slow start, trailing 1-10 to 1-8 at the break, as Stephen Bennett bagged a goal in either half to help his side coast to a comfortable win against the inexperienced Dubs in Croke Park on Saturday evening.

Players like Eoghan O'Donnell, Donal Burke and Rian McBride all impressed and McGrath feels "there's a two-fold benefit to what Ger has done". He said: "There's a real parallel to what we did ourselves two years ago and what Dublin are doing now.

Pressure

"It indirectly takes the pressure off you from a media point of view. Dublin are perceived to be preparing minus the Cuala players and to be going the youth route, which disguises the fact they have some serious players. The risk is possible impatience of supporters or clubs.

Waterford's Austin Gleeson in action against Dublin's James Madden. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Waterford's Austin Gleeson in action against Dublin's James Madden. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

"There's also the risk of a cohort of people being negative no matter what you're doing. It's a massive risk, but I would see a very together Dublin team. I'd know Ger personally as a coach, so it's not a personal affirmation of him, it's a man doing his thing because he knows it's the right thing. It has to be respected. I admire his bravery because we've been through that path ourselves."

Buoyed by Burke's goal, after making a fine catch and clinically finishing to the net, and four first-half points from roving centre-forward Eamonn Dillon, the young Dubs surged into a five-point lead, 1-7 to 1-2, midway through the first half but their early efforts told.

As the game went on Waterford wore them down and with 2016 Hurler of the Year Austin Gleeson reverting back to the sweeper role, Cunningham admitted that the Déise are "good at sucking the life out of you" and he took away many lessons.

"It's all part of learnings that our guys will have to take from the game. You're playing one of the top three or four teams in the country, who are an experienced team now. They know how to win games and maybe that's what we've got to learn," he said.

Dublin's Niall McMorrow in action against Waterford's Michael Walsh and Pauric Mahony. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Dublin's Niall McMorrow in action against Waterford's Michael Walsh and Pauric Mahony. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Pauric Mahony opened the scoring with his first of 12 points within 60 seconds and five minutes later Stephen Bennett was quickest to react when Mahony's long-range free hit the post with the Ballysaggart attacker whipping the ball to the net.

Dublin weren't deterred, however, and with four points in quick succession through Burke (two frees), Dillon and Chris Crummey they were level with Dillon causing Tadhg de Búrca all sorts of problems and helping his side seize control.

McBride hit a fine point before Burke brilliantly caught a Crummey delivery and raised a green flag but Mahony ended a 15-minute barren spell at the other end and Waterford found their feet after a sluggish start.

Captain Kevin Moran led by example with two quick-fire points before Gleeson strode forward to fire an excellent point as Mahony and Burke traded frees to close out the half with Dublin's lead eroded to two.

The visitors started the second half like a house on fire and went ahead, a lead they wouldn't relinquish, when Stephen Bennett was again on the scene to pounce on a mistake from Dublin keeper Conor Dooley and fire to the empty net.

Bennett followed up with a point and Mahony added a free to send them three ahead but Burke and Ryan O'Dwyer kept the Dubs in touch. It was tit-for-tat until midway through the closing half when an exquisite effort by Bennett from the touchline extended their advantage to four as their extra class shone through.

With substitute Maurice Shanahan also on target the Déise eased to victory despite Stephen Daniels' late dismissal for a second yellow as they picked up their first win at HQ since their 2008 All-Ireland semi-final defeat of Tipperary.

SCORERS - Waterford: P Mahony 0-12 (10f); Stephen Bennett 2-2; K Moran, A Gleeson 0-2 each; M Shanahan 0-1. Dublin: D Burke 1-7 (7f); E Dillon 0-4; R McBride, R O'Dwyer 0-2 each; C Crummey, N McMorrow 0-1 each.

WATERFORD - I O'Regan 7; N Connors 7, B Coughlan 6, S Fives 7; C Gleeson 6, T de Búrca 6, S Daniels 6; J Barron6, K Moran 8; M Walsh 7, Shane Bennett 6, P Mahony 7; A Gleeson 7, Stephen Bennett 8, P Curran 6. Subs: M Shanahan 6 for Curran (49), M Kearney 6 for Barron (50), B O'Halloran 6 for S Bennett (61), J Dillon for Stephen Bennett (66), D Lyons for C Gleeson (67).

DUBLIN - C Dooley 5; J Madden 6, E O'Donnell 8, S Barrett 6; B Quinn 6, L Rushe 7, C Crummey 7; N McMorrow 6, C Conway 5; R McBride 7, E Dillon 7, E Conroy 6; D Burke 7, R O'Dwyer 7, F McGibb 6. Subs: C Boland 6 for Conway (47), C Mac Gabhann 6 for Madden (55), C Barrett 6 for Conroy (61), C O'Sullivan for Quinn (69), F O Riain Brion for S Barrett (72).

REF - J Ryan (Tipperary).

Irish Independent

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