“It might sound over-dramatic or over the top, but we probably should have gotten counselling. We probably should have had some means of working through what happened” – Ken McGrath’s assessment in his autobiography of the impact the 23-point defeat by Kilkenny in the 2008 All-Ireland SHC final had on the Waterford players.
It was nine years before the Déise next reached the
All-Ireland final and, yet again, they were beaten, albeit narrowly by Galway. And so the longing continues as Waterford’s wait for a third All-Ireland title extends to its 61st year.
That in no way undervalues the calibre of the many great players the Déise have produced. Indeed, a look at the top 20 (since 1970) we have selected reinforces the point.
None more formidable than Ken McGrath, who played in all five outfield lines at various stages in a 15-year career, during which he won All Stars at left half-forward, midfield and centre-back.
His father, Pat, who was inducted into the GAA’s Hall of Fame six years ago in recognition for his excellence in the 1970s/80s, is also included in a top 20 which has several candidates for selection on a ‘best players never to win an All-Ireland’ selection.
Ken leads the way, followed by Tony Browne, ‘Brick’ Walsh, Paul Flynn and John Mullane. Remarkably, those five played for Waterford for a combined total of 80 years.
John Galvin holds the distinction of being Waterford’s first All Star (1974) and he added a second eight years later. It was 16 years before they picked up their next award, a lean period during which they even dipped into Division 3.
Things changed in 1998 and continued into the new Millennium which explains why so many of our top 20 are from that period.
1. Ken McGrath, 2. Tony Browne, 3. Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh, 4. Paul Flynn, 5. John Mullane, 6. Kevin Moran, 7. John Galvin, 8. Dan Shanahan, 9. Pat McGrath, 10. Fergal Hartley, 11. Noel Connors, 12. Jim Greene, 13. Mossy Walsh, 14. Eoin Kelly, 15. Jamie Barron, 16. Pauric Mahony, 17. Stephen Molumphy, 18. Tadhg de Burca, 19. Austin Gleeson, 20. Stephen O’Keeffe
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