Ken McGrath: ‘It was boring, it was actually boring’

Modern game leaves McGrath cold but he remains hopeful for the future

Waterford’s Dessie Hutchinson and Patrick Curran   after last weekend’s defeat to Clare. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Waterford’s Dessie Hutchinson and Patrick Curran after last weekend’s defeat to Clare. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Ken McGrath had a couple of unusual experiences during the recent hurling league. He turned off the television rather than endure any more. The former Waterford All Star, one of the key figures in the county’s return to prominence 20 years ago, was commenting on recent trends in the game.

“It was boring, it was actually boring. There were a couple of games I turned off and I’ve never turned off a game of hurling in my life. It is hard to get excited watching some of the hurling but it will change again because the skill level is so big.

“And I think it needs crowds. We’ve seen that in the Euros. So many games over the past week or two in the soccer were absolutely brilliant, you’re enthralled watching them.”

He was speaking at the launch of this year’s Bord Gáis Energy GAA Legends Tour series, which for a second year will take place on line. It features former prominent players in Croke Park talking about their careers and is one of the highlights of the stadium’s summer activities.

It’s probably not surprising that as a member of a famously instinctive and freewheeling team, he would have issues with the chessboard manoeuvres of the modern game.

“One hundred per cent. I work with my brother Eoin. I played for 15 years and Eoin played for close on 15 years as well and it is such a different game. I don’t know if I know the game anymore. I sat down last Sunday and at times you are finding it hard to get excited.

“It is such a structured game now and there are players everywhere. I could count on one hand how many times I strolled onto a ball in a Munster championship game but that is happening countless times in game now.

“You can’t waste a ball, every ball matters, every ball has to count we are told in certain area. It is just a hard game, it is after evolving so much.”

The match he was watching was Waterford’s defeat by Clare in the Munster quarter-final. Although the margin was four points, Clare’s squandermania kept the margin artificially low.

“I think Liam Cahill (Waterford manager) summed it up well when he said it was a flat performance and we have not got many flat performances under him in fairness.

“It was hard to judge this year as well with the league being so close. We finished the league very well, played some great hurling against Tipp so our confidence was very high going in but we suffered a few injuries over the last couple of weeks and the spine of the team was gone for last Sunday.

“I think you could see that as the game wore on. From the final last year, you had (retired goalkeeper) O’Keeffe missing, Conor Prunty who was playing full-back, you had Tadhg De Búrca gone and Jamie Barron gone so the spine of the team was weakened and Clare capitalised on that.”

He remains confident though for the All-Ireland qualifiers and believes that the depleted side would have had difficulties taking on Tipperary this Sunday. He also revealed that former county top scorer Pauric Mahony was making good progress after a serious injury that forced him to miss last year’s run to the All-Ireland final.

“Going in against Tipp missing those players, we would struggle so it will balance out and long-term it will be good for us. Pauric Mahony as well is coming close to full fitness and we need all those top players back if we really want to have a go at it and I think it will suit us.

“You get back - they have a few days off after the Clare game - and then they will tear into it and re-focus. You need something like that to get you going again, players might think that it is a case of rolling on again after getting to the final and you will play some great hurling but it does not work like that. Sometimes a defeat like that is what you need.”

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