Wednesday 21 February 2018

John Mullane: Marmite McGrath is Waterford's Arsene Wenger

Waterford manager Derek McGrath. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Waterford manager Derek McGrath. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

John Mullane

There's a whiff of Marmite off Derek McGrath down in Waterford at the moment and I'm not sure why.

Within the county, it seems to me that Derek almost finds himself in the same predicament as Arsene Wenger, who's divided a fan-base as Arsenal manager.

You have a couple of lads down here who are like those guys on Arsenal Fan TV.

They say things, others follow the narrative like sheep and it gets out of hand.

The dogs on the street know that this could be Derek's last year in charge and I just hope the players will go out and give it their all for him this summer.

He's invested so much time and effort since taking the job in 2013 and it's up to the players now to repay the faith he's shown in them, and to give him a proper send-off.

If it was an 'outside' manager in charge of the team over the last few years, he'd have been respected a lot more but after Derek fielded an under-strength team in the League quarter-final against Galway, I've become aware of some murmurings of discontent.

The main goal for Waterford this year was to retain Division 1A status and not go to bald-headed in the knockout phase.

In 2015 and 2016, two finals were followed by two decent summer championship campaigns but, crucially, no silverware or an All-Ireland final appearance.

I'm sure that fed into Derek and his management team's thinking ahead of the 2017 campaign and they settled on a different approach.

I'm sure that Derek would have been mindful, too, that we could have met Tipperary, our likely Munster semi-final opponents, in a League final.

What I've also learned from the League, and I've discussed this at length in a recent column, is that Kilkenny are more unsure than ever about themselves heading into the summer.

Flaws remain in the full-back line and a lot will depend on how well Michael Fennelly is when he returns.

This will be Kilkenny's toughest and most challenging Leinster championship for some time.

It's hard to know where Clare stand after an up-and-down League but they have the potential and the firepower to get back to Croke Park for the first time since 2013. The worry for me is the lack of pace at the back and the injury to Oisin O'Brien is a massive blow but with Limerick in a semi-final, there's a glorious chance to reach a Munster final and secure the added bonus of an All-Ireland quarter-final.

Down in Cork, Kieran Kingston will have been delighted with how Division 1A panned out for him, winning three out of five matches, a big improvement from five defeats last year.

He'll ponder the Limerick quarter-final loss but if you're going to judge Cork, it's better to judge them on their excellent performance against Waterford at Walsh Park.

He'll cling onto that going into the summer, knowing that there is a display of high magnitude in this team.

Dublin may have suffered relegation but I still think it was a reasonable campaign for them.

Ger Cunningham's hands were tied with the absence of Cuala's players but he did get the chance to experiment, and Donal Burke in particular was a big find.

Dublin will still prove hard to beat, they're solid from 1 to 9, and Galway will earn it against them on May 28.

That leads me nicely to Galway and Tipperary, tomorrow's League final opponents.

What Galway will want out of this game is silverware and a national title, but they won't be too concerned if they lose as long as they're clear in their minds by 5 o'clock that they're good enough to take Tipperary's All-Ireland title.

Tipp, on the other hand, will be anxious to get the right result and add more silverware to the Munster and All-Ireland trophies collected last year. This would harden their mindset going into the summer, and only two members of the current Tipp panel have League medals.

Tipp by three or four points.

Irish Independent

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