I think Derek McGrath must have had a barnstorming interview. And you know what? That’s great! I hope he went in and wowed the interview panel with a stunning vision for the future of Waterford hurling. A panel of selectors with a judicious combination of learned wisdom and disruptive genius. Fitness coaches and physios capable of keeping the panel in tip-top condition and able to peak at just the right time. Sensible ideas for blending the undoubted talent at underage level…into the Senior panel. Peter Queally was good. Derek McGrath was better.
The paragraph should not (and won’t be) treated as an I-told-you-so. If nothing else, I abdicated the right to be smug when I booked a holiday months ago, focusing all my thoughts on my wife’s unspoken wish to get away as early as possible to minimise the length of time we would be away from her garden during the peak growing season, and neglected to check the date of our opening match in Munster. In the end, I found out the result via the medium of Twitter:
I was surprised how nervous I was in the build-up to the game. Part of that was a sickening premonition that a defeat here would lead of to all manner of eyebrow raising and sly winks from the usual suspects about how they knew Waterford wouldn’t be able to cope with pressure of Championship hurling and you can’t bayte tradition. As it happens, the game was a positive indicator that the League was not a flash in the pan. It was a repeat of the Tipperary game to see Waterford calmly reel their opponents in after giving them a decent head start and it was a repeat of the Cork game to hold them at bay in the second half while they flailed away at us in the fashion of Scrappy Doo demanding we lemme at em. There was also the bonus of Waterford hitting a team with a couple of quick-fire goals, and top-notch goals they were too. It would have been seen as a potential weakness in Waterford’s arsenal so it will give a few of the more considered eyebrow raisers something to consider to see Waterford deploy that particular weapon. Cork were flattered by the ten-point margin of defeat in the League final. To put in so much better a shift in the Munster match and only get to the stage where they were flattered by a four-point margin of defeat augers well for the future for Waterford.
It is to that future that we can now look, and to do so we must first look at the past and the paragraph at the top of this post. Speaking positively about the rationale for appointing Derek McGrath didn’t amount to much more than an elaborate way of saying ‘give the guy a chance’ but events seem to have proven the hypothesis to be correct. I had said in a prior post that McGrath would have access to the services of Conor McCarthy, the physio of the Irish boxing team, as productive a conveyor belt of talent as exists in Irish sport outside of County Kilkenny. This was questioned on boards.ie, but I saw Conor on the sideline in Thurles – this was an improvement on the last time I saw him in a GAA context, after the Battle of Tramore – and a few days later I got the chance to congratulate him on his efforts. His demeanor was exhilarating in its matter-of-factness. Job done in the League, now on to the next one. I joked that McGrath must be very single-minded. There wasn’t a flicker of reaction to this. EVERYONE was focused on the next one, he said. Everyone was definitely in block capitals.
Now, you can dismiss this as a load of hokum if you wish. Mind games might not survive the matter games of some of the teams lying in wait. Conor grew up in the same milieu for Waterford hurling as I did though, one where defeatism was in the stony grey soil. Here was a prepared mind, and we all know how chance views the prepared mind.
Having felt surprise at the tension that coursed through me before the Cork game, there can be no surprise at any tension in advance of the Munster final. We are not in bonus territory. We are in it to win it.