Derek McGrath points to work ethic as the key trait for Déise

Waterford manager an advocate of the core hallmark of Brian Cody’s Kilkenny

Modern hurling seems obsessed with systems.

More so than ever before the perfection of the sweeper role is viewed as the primary weapon to unseat the traditional hurling powers.

Eoin Kelly, speaking as an ambassador of championship sponsor Etihad, sees a more direct reason behind Kilkenny success ahead of the Leinster final against Galway at Croke Park on Sunday.

“When Eamon O’Shea was [Tipperary manager] with us he was adamant and I remember him standing in the dressing room and saying: as long as I am here we’ll never go with the seventh defender. You go with your six, your two midfielders, maybe bring out a half forward,” said Kelly.

“The only one thing about it is you have to work your socks off. I thought Tipp did that the last day. In the past they have not always done that. Kilkenny do it every day.

"Waterford seem to do it most days now so when Tipp don't work, don't chase back, they become an average team. When they work hard, as they did with 14 men the last day, they are as good as anyone."

Work ethic

That idea was also presented to Waterford manager Derek McGrath. More than any defensively minded system crafted for his young panel, desire and work ethic supersede every other winning trait.

“I think it changed with the changing of the guard in terms of our panel . . ,” McGrath explained a week out from a return to the Munster final against Tipperary.

“Everyone just has to be relentless in their approach for what we are trying to do. Everyone has to just buy into it. That was certainly the case.

"Look, you listen to the aftermath of the Roy Hodgson resignation and on every media feed, every programme, they were talking about [English players] not being technically adept enough.

"Damien Duff made a point on the RTÉ panel that it was about spirit, about old-fashioned values that are evident in every [successful] team. These are more evident in Tipperary or Kilkenny. That hard resilience, that determination. No one else was talking about the sense of spirit that a team should have. To me those things outweigh any talk of systems or sweepers.

“Sometimes that gets lost – the human element of what it takes for the lads to put everything into something. Albeit you need some strategy to accompany that and people will point to formations and that.

“But for us it started with the changing of the panel and the lads deciding they were just going to give it everything for the period we were involved.

“There is a solace in being able to look back and say you gave it everything you have. It all dissipates away if you have given everything you have. There is no real shame in that,” added McGrath

Do players themselves need to police that?

“It manifests itself in the management working harder than the players initially to impart that drive, if you like. Once the belief is there from the players it becomes a 50-50 situation or 60-40 from management to players. . . the management still retain control, the players have an input and that has become more evident over the last two years.

"It's about constantly challenging yourself to be better every time you go out," McGrath added. Brian Cody would nod in agreement.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent