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11th Jul 2017

Derek McGrath’s classy gesture to Kilkenny goalkeeper speaks volumes

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Niall McIntyre

Derek McGrath masterminded a historic Waterford win over Kilkenny in the All-Ireland hurling qualifiers on Saturday night, but he also proved his admirable sportsmanship in Semple Stadium.

The Déise, and particularly their manager, Derek McGrath, were under intense scrutiny from inside the county, and further afield, in the build-up to the game after a disappointing league campaign and a crushing Munster first round loss to Cork.

The secondary school teacher was obviously feeling the pressure, as reflected by his decision to temporarily abandon his teaching career before the Championship began.

Saturday night was do-or-die for Waterford, it was do-or-die for Derek McGrath.

If Waterford lost to Kilkenny, some serious questions would’ve been asked regarding McGrath’s future in the county.

JJ Delaney was in Thurles on Saturday, and before the game, he was struck by the selflessness of the De La Salle club man during an encounter with Kilkenny goalkeeper Eoin Murphy.

“Just before the match there, we were watching the Dublin Vs. Tipperary match and all the players (From Kilkenny and Waterford) were out in the tunnel together. Eoin Murphy went over to shake hands with Derek McGrath and McGrath just turned around to him and said, ‘just go out and enjoy it,’ I thought it was just a brilliant thing to say to a person that you’re going to do battle with in ten/fifteen minutes time.

McGrath is well-renowned for his popularity within the Waterford squad, but this display of sportsmanship to a competitor is an even truer reflection of the man.

It is a refreshing reminder, that despite how serious we take our games, and just how serious Waterford hurlers take it was highlighted on a recent GAA Nua episode, that at the end of the day, it is just a game.

Delaney, speaking on The GAA Hour Hurling Show, told of his admiration of the 41-year-old’s approach to management.

“I like Derek McGrath as a manager. I like what he stands for, I like what he does for the players as well.

“The character of the man, he just strikes me as an absolutely brilliant manager. He’s doesn’t just want to get the best out of his players in hurling but he wants to get the best out of them as a person as well.

McGrath was asked after Saturday’s game how his team would spend the days after their victory, and his response was bloody refreshing.

In an age of sport science, of at times overstated preparation techniques, McGrath’s allowing of his players to celebrate their victory, to have a few pints is great to see.

“We’ll go out tonight. We’re going to have a couple of drinks tonight.

“We’re two weeks away from the match, so we’ll have a few pints tonight. We’re going to enjoy it, I think the lads deserve it.

“We’ll focus on the Munster Final tomorrow. We’ll go out and celebrate this without going cracked.

Sometimes a team bond, a psychological and social approach can outweigh the physical side.

You can listen to Delaney and other interesting topics from the GAA Hour Hurling Show here.

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