Wednesday 21 August 2019

'They were never in transition' – Derek McGrath lauds Kilkenny ahead of All-Ireland final

Electric Ireland GAA Minor Star Awards Panel member for 2019, Derek McGrath. #GAAThisIsMajor
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Electric Ireland GAA Minor Star Awards Panel member for 2019, Derek McGrath. #GAAThisIsMajor Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Former Waterford boss Derek McGrath has rubbished the notion that Kilkenny were ever going through a supposed "transition" ahead of Sunday's All-Ireland final SHC date with Tipperary.

Few thought Brian Cody could conjure another All-Ireland appearance with a new-look team having sprinkled the likes of Huw Lawlor, Conor Browne, Richie Leahy, John Donnelly and Adrian Mullen into the fold - but McGrath isn't surprised.

McGrath hadn't the Cats in the reckoning for All-Ireland success at the outset of the year but insists "it’s never a surprise with Kilkenny", given the pedigree and experience they have among their ranks.

"I think there’s 40 All-Ireland medals between the lads that are starting on Sunday so I don’t buy into the transition thing and that there’s a new team, I’ve been consistent on it," McGrath said earlier today.

"The 2014 semi-final, I think there was five of the six backs playing in that game against Limerick. And if you have a forward line of Colin Fennelly, TJ Reid, Richie Hogan, Walter Walsh, probably Young Hurler of the Year in Adrian Mullen and (John) Donnelly, I just don’t get the new team kind of thing.

"I think what happens is they’re always compared to Henry (Shefflin) and Eddie Brennan and Richie Power and Jackie Tyrrell and JJ (Delaney), I think that guises that they’re really quality players as well coming through.

"They’ve won five of the last six All-Ireland Colleges titles, St Kieran’s have won something like 12 of the last 16. The conveyor belt will never run dry, albeit they might not dominate in the fashion that they did in the noughties, but they’re some men."

McGrath suffered at the hands of Kilkenny several times during his five-year reign as Déise boss and he is envious of hurling being a religion on Noreside as the Cats bid to land their 12th All-Ireland crown under Cody's tutelage.

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"I just remember the day of the Waterford county final last year, Ballygunner were playing Abbeyside and I said I’d go away from the Waterford scene. I went up to watch the intermediate quarter-final between Tullaroan and Thomastown in Danesfort," he said.

"Tommy Walsh was marking John Donnelly, and then I went on to the junior semi-finals in Nowlan Park, Pilltown and Slieverue and Dunnamaggin against Dicksboro, and I just couldn’t get over the crowds at the matches.

"You know when they talk about it being religion up there, it’s true. You’d kind of be jealous of it really, that’s just being honest. I’d say there was a bigger crowd in Danesfort than there was at the Waterford county final."

Electric Ireland GAA Minor Star Awards Panel member for 2019, Derek McGrath highlights the importance of the pre-game ritual to Minor players, encouraging fans to be a part of “The Championship Haircut” which returns to Croke Park for the Electric Ireland GAA All Ireland Minor Hurling Final, for the second year running. Fans can avail of a free cut or style between 11.30am – 1pm on the Cusack Stand Side. #GAAThisIsMajor

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