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Martin Breheny: Derek McGrath should ignore the halo


Derek McGrath celebrates after Waterford’s victory over Cork in the Munster SHC clash in Semple Stadium

Derek McGrath celebrates after Waterford’s victory over Cork in the Munster SHC clash in Semple Stadium


Derek McGrath celebrates after Waterford’s victory over Cork in the Munster SHC clash in Semple Stadium

Whoever originated the quote about wishing he was as sure of anything as someone else was about everything would feel rather isolated if he sifted through the reaction to the opening stages of the All-Ireland hurling championships.

Only 12 games have been played so far, six of which were in the Leinster round robin, territory unlikely to be represented in the latter stages of the championship. That leaves six other games, some of which featured some genuine contenders.

Naturally, they have attracted the biggest interest and, indeed, the most sweeping generalisations, where superficial judgments depict all winners as heroes and all losers as, well, losers.

Since the commenting classes have been swollen enormously by an influx of former players and managers over the last decade, you might expect a different take on events.


It ain't necessarily so. Just as you don't need to be a cow to know the difference between cream and milk, you don't need to have a pocketful of medals to understand sport.

And when you read and listen to comments from some of those who are supposed to bring an illuminating insight through their personal experience, you quickly learn that spoofing thrives in the land of punditry.

Derek McGrath would be well advised to remember that. He has been anointed as a genius after rebooting Waterford so successfully this year that they won the Allianz League title and booked a place in the Munster final.

It's a fine achievement, for which he deserves the highest praise, but how many of the expert classes predicted it last February? Indeed, there were plenty of takers for the view that he had taken too many scalpels to Operation Waterford. Now, he can't put a foot wrong. So which is it?

McGrath has been a welcome addition to the management game, talking openly about an exciting adventure that has invigorated Waterford. He even blamed himself for the slow start against Cork on Sunday, explaining that playing a video of a message from the injured Pauric Mahony on the team bus before the game might have overcooked the emotion dish and drained the players early on.

Now, if Waterford lost and McGrath made similar comments, he would have been described as naive and patronised about it being part of the learning process. Instead, Waterford won so it's a case of winner alright. Meanwhile, Jimmy Barry-Murphy is back in territory he knows quite well, listening to remarks about how Cork are a beaten docket.

There were plenty of those about too at the start of the 2013 championship and later when Cork lost the Munster final to Limerick Yet, Cork later came within seconds of winning the All-Ireland final.

The issue here is: if Waterford were so good and Cork so awful, how come only two points separated the teams in stoppage time last Sunday? McGrath's systems and selections have been eulogised since then, while JBM's have been slated. And yet, there was little enough between the teams at the end.

Then, there's the case of Davy Fitzgerald and Clare. They lost to Limerick by a point, scarcely a grand failure against opposition that won the 2013 Munster title and ran Kilkenny to two points in last year's All-Ireland semi-final.

Yet, the critical darts have arrowed in on Fitzgerald, including claims about a golden era being wasted in Clare.


Memo to his critics: Clare have won four All-Ireland titles in championship history: Fitzgerald played in two of them and managed in another. When someone beats that, let them talk.

Ger Cunningham has copped heavy criticism since Dublin's big defeat by Galway last Saturday.

So too the Dublin players, who have had their character questioned. Cunningham was held responsible for allegedly setting the team up wrong while the players were blamed for not working things out when Galway hit them with a blistering start.

Funnily enough, there were no such criticisms of Brian Cody or his players when Galway blitzed Kilkenny in the first half of the 2012 Leinster final. It has long been the case that Galway are unstoppable when they hit one of those manic days. Last Saturday was such an occasion so it's best for Dublin to see it in that light, rather than overdoing the introspection.

The same goes for Clare and Cork. Pundit Central may tell you otherwise, portraying all three as problem-laden empires, whereas Waterford, Limerick and Galway are poised for an exciting season.

Somehow, I don't think it's anything like being that straightforward. Truth is, early-summer losers can still be autumn achievers because, frankly, there's very little between several counties at present.


A few thoughts on a summer Wednesday . . .

1 Best wishes to Michael Lyster in what hopefully will be a speedy recovery and a return to 'The Sunday Game'.

Our north Galway paths have interlinked since we worked together under outstanding editor JP Burke in the 'Tuam Herald' all of 40 years ago. We even came to Dublin within a few months of each other in 1979, he to RTE, me to the Irish Press. I admit to being biased but I've always regarded him as one of the best TV presenters in the business.

The reason? Because he presents the programme rather than himself, an all-too-rare quality across all facets of broadcasting. It has kept him at the top of his form for 31 years on the 'The Sunday Game', with hopefully many more to come.

2 Talk about bad luck. It's tough enough on Wicklow, who had a disappointing Division 4 campaign, to be drawn against Meath in next Sunday's Leinster quarter-final but they must also travel to Pairc Tailteann, where the Royals will be having playing their first 'home' provincial game since beating Offaly in 1995.

And if Wicklow lose, they may have to travel to either Armagh or Donegal in the first round of the All-Ireland qualifiers. Not exactly easy times for Johnny Magee's troops.

3 Down manager Jim McCorry has a valid point when he questions why referees are not used as umpires at championship games. The GAA have always had a policy of allowing the referee to bring his own umpires, on the basis that he has a good understanding with them as they work as a team on a year-round basis.

Nonetheless, the fact remains that they are appointed solely because of a friendship with the referee - scarcely a convincing qualification.

Irish Independent