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'I was living an almost neurotic lifestyle at the start of it' - Derek McGrath on lockdown and the return of GAA

Former Déise boss loving life as a coach having slipped into 'neurotic lifestyle' during lockdown

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No hurling on the ditch: Former Waterford boss Derek McGrath is enjoying his role as coach to Faythe Harriers in Wexford. Photo: Sportsfile

No hurling on the ditch: Former Waterford boss Derek McGrath is enjoying his role as coach to Faythe Harriers in Wexford. Photo: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

No hurling on the ditch: Former Waterford boss Derek McGrath is enjoying his role as coach to Faythe Harriers in Wexford. Photo: Sportsfile

Everyone dealt with lockdown differently and Derek McGrath has no hesitation in saying that it took him some time before he could shake the "neurotic lifestyle" which the Coronavirus pandemic initially sparked.

When restrictions were gradually lifted, so did some of the weight on McGrath's shoulders as he recommenced his role as coach - under manager Tony 'Sack' Walsh - with Wexford club Faythe Harriers.

The bigger picture and the need to return to sport slowly began to emerge for the former Waterford boss, but not before some weeks where his usual routine was totally disjointed after he had "shut up shop".

"I was living an almost neurotic lifestyle at the start of it but I've loosened. The first three, four, six weeks, you are not even seeing your parents - who would mind my lads every day. So you'd shut up shop," McGrath reflects.

"But whether it's a good or a bad thing, I've probably been part of that attitude where, not that I've decided to live with it, but decided to kind of get back to normality. I look forward to going back to school, if it's open.

"But obviously at the same time hoping that any health risks won't manifest themselves in our house or anywhere else. I am thinking of the health risks but I'm not as overly neurotic as I was at the start of it. I was kind of watching everything but I've definitely loosened a small bit, no different to anyone I'd imagine."

McGrath is "hopeful" that the inter-county season restarts in mid-October as planned by the GAA but given his involvement with the Laois minors and the O'Moore county currently being in lockdown for 14 days, he has his doubts.

"I'd be hopeful," he reasons. "I'd be hopeful that we will. The crux for me, say in Laois we're due to play Offaly in the first round of the minor hurling championship - so is there a Plan B in terms of the club championships in each county?

"They have both lost two weeks now, so when are those two weeks integrated back in? They might do well to get out of it just with the club championships. I'd be hopeful but not at the risk of anybody's health."

McGrath admits that he has met "nothing but positivity around a blitz-like championship" as is currently happening in Wexford and he believes that the GPA's proposal to drastically shorten the inter-county season will be met with mass approval given the benefits to club and county players.

"I would have picked up during the five years I was involved with Waterford that that's what they like - they love having December and January off, the boys can travel or go where they want, come into a pre-season in February and get going in March.

"Then have your club scene from July or August until October. At least they'll know when they are playing. The April club month has been a disaster - because you are playing two matches and then you're back."

McGrath stepped aside as Déise manager at the end of a disappointing 2018 championship - having guided them to the All-Ireland decider the year previous - as he sought some time out to refresh and regroup after a hectic five years.

He well and truly has his mojo back now, however, and he committed to the Wexford town club for a second year in the wake of their quarter-final reversal to Shelmaliers last Sunday.

County management looks certain to land on his doorstep again over the coming years, but for now he enjoys being free of the pressure-cooker environment where silverware is the only currency that matters.

"I've been doing the 6s and 7s in our own club (De La Salle). I've been involved with the Laois minors throughout the year, that was kind of my main focus this year. Another couple of clubs asked me to get involved but I didn't bother," he explains.

"And then I met Lee (Chin) and Nicky (Keeling, chairman) and 'Sack' in Waterford. The appeal was kind of, not the madness of it, but like they were in relegation for three of the last four years. It reminded me of where I grew up myself, based in a kind of a city-based area, working class area, they are just characters.

"I've enjoyed coming up and down the road. There are fellas there that maybe haven't been as serious about it over the years and that's a nice journey to go on, so I'm keen on being involved with them. I've enjoyed that factor, where the outcome is not based on having Liam MacCarthy in your hands.

"We played a heap of challenge matches around the country, which they wouldn't have been used to. I felt that was really enjoyable. In terms of the bug? Yeah, definitely, definitely (I've been bitten by it again).

"I'd like another cut at it in terms of I'm enjoying it. There's a relaxed nature to it too, which is kind of suiting me. You just come in, set up your training and you go out the door."

Irish Independent