Friday 20 April 2018

Pressure on managers can be intense - Derek McGrath

Waterford manager Derek McGrath. Photo: Sportsfile
Waterford manager Derek McGrath. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Derek McGrath has admitted a distaste for the pressure managers are continuing to find themselves under in the inter-county game.

McGrath, whose Waterford team return to the same Innovate Wexford Park venue where they laid arguably their earliest marker just over 12 months ago, was reflecting his relief that they were able to hold ground gained last year in this league campaign.

"I'd be very happy with where we are, given the nature of the league," he admitted. "It's not 'just the league' to us. We're well aware of the momentum it can provide. With the age profile of the team, I'm not so sure if we'd be all that confident if we were going up to Salthill (where Galway play Cork in a relegation play-off) this weekend.

"Maybe Galway and Cork would be better able to deal with it."

"We were there two years ago (relegation play-off). If we had to go through it again? No matter what anyone says, relegation is always on the back of your head and it's hard to escape it.

"This year, I felt, lent itself to almost an over pressurised situation," he said.

McGrath admits to being "surprised" to open a newspaper last week and see the faces of six inter-county managers whose jobs were considered "on the line this season," he recalled, citing the pressure that managers perform under. "I didn't like to see it," he said. "It brought it home to me a little. We're all volunteers in this game doing the job as best we can.

"The ordinary man in the street can be influenced by that."

McGrath faced his own pressures within his own county during his first year and distinctly recalls being asked to sign something on the night that the benefit match for Ken McGrath took place in Walsh Park.

"We were playing Laois in a qualifier the next day and this person approached me and said to me, 'Will you sign this before you get the sack tomorrow'."

After 'loosening' a consistent selection policy by giving game-time to fringe players for the last game against Galway, McGrath will take a strong squad to Wexford with Pauric Mahony back on board and only Darragh Fives and Stephen Bennett out of action.

Waterford will continue to ease Mahony back in action with his introduction the last day designed to "give him a lift" in front of a 6,000 home crowd.

"We figured that might be our last home match of the year so we wanted to expose him to that. We'll continue to ease him back.

"It wasn't a case of tokenism, the team we selected the last day. I was a bit taken aback by the negativity towards it when the team was announced on the Friday night.

"But there was warmth from the crowd on the Sunday towards the team. It was part of a plan if we ensured our safety before the last game. We want to give as many players as possible exposure to at this level."

McGrath recalls Waterford going into last year's league game against Wexford as "outsiders" and contends that there will is always "very little" between the counties when they meet.

"We were coming off the back of a championship defeat to them the previous year when we hadn't played well," he said.

"Maybe they feel they haven't been at their best and that's when they are at their most dangerous. We'd be expecting a massive performance from them."

Irish Independent

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