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15th Aug 2017

Derek McGrath gesture to Tadhg de Búrca’s parents before Cork victory was pure class

Meant so much

Patrick McCarry

He made the player a promise and then went a step further.

Many of the Waterford hurlers took to the Croke Park pitch on Sunday with two intentions that bled into one steely purpose. Beat Cork and do it for Tadhg de Búrca. Win.

‘5’ was scrawled on the helmets of many of the Déise players. Derek McGrath, their boss, had it inked on the back of his left hand.

“We had a tough couple of weeks with [Tadhg] and he showed great mental fortitude,” McGrath told The Irish News after Waterford had beaten Cork 4-19 to 0-20 and reached the All-Ireland final.

De Búrca had been suspended for the semi final, despite numerous appeals, after interfering with the helmet of Wexford’s Harry Kehoe. McGrath continued:

“We did it for him, year. We make no apologies, that was part of the motivation, not in a corny way… because of what he’d contributed up to this match over the four years.”

Those kind words from McGrath were not all he did for the 23-year-old. Not by half.

McGrath was with de Búrca last Thursday evening when, at the Louis Fitzgerald hotel in Dublin, he learned that the Disputes Resolution Authority [DRA] would had rejected his final appeal to play in the last four clash. The player was crestfallen but his manager made him a promise – We’ll get to the final.

The following night, McGrath went above and beyond with a gesture of pure class. He reiterated the same promise to de Búrca’s parents. He commented:

“I know it sounds overly dramatic but I just promised him that we’d be in the final.

“I went up to his mother and father on Friday up in Clashmore and they were upset. Naturally, like, they would be. So I just promised him we’d be in the final.”

Taking that trip up to see de Búrca’s mother and father, just two days out from the biggest game of his managerial career, was not something McGrath had to do but it speaks volumes of his character and what his players mean to him.

Four years with these Waterford lads and every day they have been striving to get to the All-Ireland final, and to win it. McGrath has kept his promise to de Búrca and showed us, once again, how many great characters are in the game.

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