McGrath says decisions were difficult but necessary

Waterford management set out to put their own stamp on team for the coming years

Waterford hurling manager Derek McGrath is in the process of rebuilding his panel. Photograph: James Crosbie/Inpho.

The logic of the situation inherited by Derek McGrath when he took over as manager of Waterford last year has been playing out in the past week or so. Long-established players, who took the county to a league title and All-Ireland final, were always going to move on and that process has accelerated this month.

Yesterday's announcement by former captain and All Star Stephen Molumphy that he was retiring came after similar news from Séamus Prendergast and Shane Walsh and also in the wake of a number of players – Liam Lawlor, Richie Foley, Jamie Nagle, Ray Barry, Killian Fitzgerald and Stephen Roche – being let go from the panel.

Speaking to The Irish Times, McGrath said that the process had been difficult but, he believes, unavoidable.

“We’ll be able to put our own stamp on it now. Last year’s squad was inherited and it would always have been on our mind – without thinking of any specific individuals – that we would need to go down this route. But the decisions while calculated weren’t made without emotion either and were difficult.


‘Reasonable cause’

“The whole idea that you have ruthless managers getting rid of lots of players is untrue. You have to think about players and their families getting upset when they’re left off panels.

“The players who are leaving owe us nothing in terms of their dedication and they have reasonable cause to feel aggrieved for not being involved but we believe that the whole thing needs a shake-up.

“The counter argument is that if you keep older players around it can help the performance levels of the newer ones but we feel over the course of the next two years that by blooding lads they’ll be ready to be competitive that bit earlier.”

Relentless pressure

The upside of last year’s relegation from the top division of the league is that there is less relentless pressure to get results but in reality the only way for a team to guarantee promotion is to win all of its matches.

"Without a doubt," according to McGrath, "but our three away fixtures against Limerick, Wexford and Offaly are fairly hard going."

He reflects on last season as “disappointing” but it is equally clear that an element of frustration lingers after a few close calls between league and championship.

"We ended up with the same number of points as Tipperary, Dublin and Galway and got relegated when Shane O'Sullivan was sent off when we were six up against Dublin in the play-off.

“In the championship we put everything into the first Cork game, played very well, blew a nine-point lead and were just disappointed. I felt we had to take it the first day. We beat Laois by 10 and lost to Wexford. It was probably the reality of where we were.”

He says that he’s “excited” about the coming season and the rebuilding process.

“I think it will afford Waterford a chance to go on its own journey. That’s sounds very corny but it gives them a chance to write their own story going hopefully from One B with the younger players and along the way they may experience bad days. But it might be more in our interest to stick with them the next day and the next day again.”

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times