I was 'too candid' on leave issue, admits Deise boss Derek McGrath
Derek McGrath has admitted he may have been "too candid" in speaking about his decision to take parental leave from secondary school teaching to create more time for managing the Waterford hurling team.
McGrath's comments at the end of March sparked a debate about the status of managers in Gaelic games which has surfaced regularly since on the back of such a strong reference point.
Admitting at yesterday's Munster Championship launch in picturesque Muckross House outside Killarney that he was "surprised" by the reaction, McGrath said he never intended to provoke such a discussion but he was just being himself telling it as it was.
"I'd argue that I acted as a catalyst for a debate about paid managers but I didn't actually say they should be paid. I said it might clear up ambiguity about it, I didn't say they should be actually paid," he said.
"I knew leaving Croke Park that day… I wouldn't say that I'd made a mistake, but I'd probably been too candid. Sparking a debate? I was just being myself, so if you make a mistake being yourself, that's alright then."
McGrath has taken leave until September when the new school year starts, allowing him time with his family and more time to work with the team in his fourth year.
"The point I made was it depends on the personality. My personality was such that I wasn't performing well in the classroom, and other personalities are able to cope with that better, to switch better," he said.
"In my school my commitment is to the kids, all or nothing, and I mean that not in an overpowering way, but I have a great commitment to those kids and that school.
"I went there in 1989 as the only student from St Saviour's Ballybeg, so I have a massive commitment and emotional bond with the school - and I wasn't doing my job properly.
"I was doing it okay but not properly. Others are probably better switching off from hurling, but it sparked a huge debate. Maybe that's healthy as well."
McGrath said he never intended it to become about him.
"I didn't want it to become - which was the danger - the 'all about you show.' I wouldn't be that type of character. That what it looked like to some people. I curled into my own ball on that. I was at home talking to Sarah (his wife) and she said to me over a cup of tea 'You fecked up on that one!'."
McGrath has welcomed potential changes to the hurling championships that could see provincial round robin matches in place in 2018, with a developmental group providing a potential pathway to All-Ireland quarter-final for five other counties.
He feels however that the League will be diluted as a consequence, as so many high-intensity games will not sustain. McGrath said he had been championing change for the last two years, especially with the structure of the League, which he has consistently said is too intense.
"I could possibly see a dilution of the League. And where does the Munster League or Walsh Cup fit in? That's normally January, then you're heading to February," he said.
"It looks like I'm finding fault, but I'm not. Going back to my original point, if you went back to two groups of six in the League coinciding with the proposals, then it might lighten the League for everybody.
"If the League came to January-February, and then you shut down March and April for the clubs, then the Championship begins… I'm not sure if that's the definitive calendar and I don't know how provincial officials would feel about it. But in my own head that's how the calendar would be.
"I'd have faith in the Hurling Development Committee. I don't think they're reactionary but those were their proposals anyway."
He also believes the potential home and away arrangement will spur a decision on the redevelopment of Walsh Park, the ground where he made his Waterford debut against Tipperary in 1996, the last time it hosted a Championship match.
"There's a lot involved in terms of the capital that needs to be raised for the venture," he said. "I'd be slow to write of the ground, but it might act as a spark to say, 'we need to do something with our ground here'. I don't want to be damning of the people driving that."
On the injury front McGrath reported that Philip Mahony, who missed the entire League, and Jamie Barron, who cracked ribs against Cork, have recovered while Barry Coughlan is having a scan this week to assess if the fractured jaw he sustained against Clare has healed.
"His jaw isn't wired, and if the scan shows it's healing naturally, he'll need a couple of weeks of proper nutrition. He's been eating smoothies, he hasn't eaten properly for a month, " McGrath said.
"Conor Gleeson got good news, his hand was wired up but those wires will be taken out in the next two weeks and within a week of that he'll be hurling, so he'll have three weeks of good hurling preparation."