Derek McGrath set to be appointed new Waterford hurling manager

GAA stand over drug testing programme, saying it acts as deterrent

Derek McGrath celebrates with the De La Salle team after winning the Waterford senior hurling title in 2012. Photograph: Inpho.

Derek McGrath is expected to become the new Waterford senior hurling manager. Last night he won the endorsement of the selection sub-committee appointed to recommend a candidate to succeed Michael Ryan whose two-year tenure ended last summer when he lost a vote of confidence amongst the players, having narrowly failed to defeat Kilkenny in the All-Ireland qualifiers after extra time.

The other contender for the position was former county hurler Peter Queally who last week led Passage to the club’s first senior county hurling title.

McGrath came to prominence when coaching his school De La Salle College to successive All-Ireland colleges titles in 2007 and 2008 and guided the De La Salle club to a Waterford senior title in 2012.

It has been reported that McGrath’s back-room team will include 2007 Hurler of the Year Dan Shanahan and William Maher who managed the Tipperary minors to last year’s All-Ireland.


The selection committee comprised county chair Tom Cunningham, vice-chair John O'Leary, secretary Timmy O'Keeffe, treasurer Joe Cleary and former players Stephen Frampton and James Murray.

Drug testing
The GAA have expressed disagreement with Kilkenny doctor Tadhg Crowley, who questioned on RTÉ radio at the weekend the benefits of drug testing, both generally and specifically in relation to the Gaelic games.

Reacting to the comments, Fergal McGill, the association’s head of games administration and player welfare, who is also a member of the Croke Park Medical, Scientific and Welfare Committee said he believed testing to be an important in policing performance-enhancing drugs.

"Tadhg, who has been a valued member of the committee himself, was expressing a personal position on this but as an association we feel it's important to retain this procedure as a way of ensuring that our sports stay clean.

Strong stance
"It's true our players would have an easier life if they didn't have to submit to the testing but given the world we live in it's important that then GAA takes a strong stance on this and are known to.

“It’s also important players know it too.”

Speaking to Marion Finucane on Sunday, Dr Crowley had this to say about testing in Gaelic games: "After the big matches two players are taken aside and tested in a room. People from the outside are probably looking in thinking it will make sure there is no drug testing in the sport. There has been no positive drug test in the sport and yet these amateurs have to spend up to, I've certainly been in the room, until after 9pm, waiting.

“I’d be arguing why are we doing it at all? These are amateur games. There’s been no positive testing in the game.”

Since its introduction 11 years ago, only Kerry footballer Aidan O’Mahony has tested positive and the presence of Salbutamol in his sample was accepted as being for medicinal use.

“It’s been peddled out there by testing we’re going to stop drugs coming into our games. I’d make a point we’re doing something no other country in the world is doing in that we’re over-testing our athletes and we’re putting amateur athletes under huge pressure,” he said.

Players are obliged to submit to testing both because the GAA have signed up to the Irish Sports Council’s anti-doping code and also because the player grants for inter-county panels, administered by the ISC, also oblige those taking them up to subscribe to the code.

It was also a requirement of the grants allocated to the GAA back in 2001 for the redevelopment of Croke Park – the €75,000,000 that was controversially announced the night before that year’s debate on opening up Croke Park for rugby and soccer – that the association sign up to the ISC anti-doping code, a process that was already in train.

According to McGill, the testing procedures are not especially intrusive.

“The chances of any player getting tested more than once in their career isn’t big. There are about 90 tests a year, the majority of them conducted at championship matches but there are also tests at training sessions.”

He went on to say that although testing hadn’t uncovered any systemic problems within Gaelic games, it has played a useful role in policing the issue.

"I'm glad there's just been one positive test. But how do you ensure that your sport remains drug free? Maybe the threat of testing plays a role in regulating behaviour.

"I think it's right and proper these controls are in place. They mightn't catch everyone across all sports but signing up to the code sends out a message of where the association stands and also functions as a deterrent and so plays a role in keeping the games clean.

"The Irish Sports Council administers the tests and all we have to do is provide a room for two tests. There are obviously also the costs of educating players about what they are and aren't allowed take but that's something we would be doing anyway."

Dr Crowley was also critical of potential embarrassment or the compromising of players’ careers should they test positive for recreational drugs even if taken unwittingly.

“I understand the point he’s making,” said McGill, “but equally you have to bear in mind that recreational drugs are illegal – anyone taking them has to be aware of that.”

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times