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04th Sep 2017

The writing on Derek McGrath’s hand for Galway game is a real mark of the man he is

A true servant of Waterford and a true servant of hurling

Conan Doherty

Derek McGrath is one of the good guys.

Rarely will you come across a manager so honest and so open and so genuine. Rarely will you come across a man who holds himself with such class.

Through all the criticism of how his team plays, Derek McGrath held his head high, for the most part he kept his counsel and, for the most part, he proved the critics wrong.

His thoughts on the league were a breath of fresh air when he made no bones about the fact that managers should be targetting the championship and not using league form to dress up their stints in charge.

“Sometimes you just have to live in your own ignorance in terms of your tunnel vision approach to where you want to go into the summer and how competitive you want to be.”

He’s just a Gael who plays hard and plays fair. Before a game with Kilkenny, he once told the opposing goalkeeper to just go out and enjoy himself.

Before the semi-final with Cork there, he went to Tadhg De Búrca’s parents and promised them that Waterford would reach the final so the suspended De Búrca could play again.

During that swashbuckling victory over the Rebels to reach the decider, McGrath also took De Búrca with him onto the field of play.

On his hand, he had written the number five, the jersey number of his trusted sweeper.

A real people person and a true Waterford man, Derek McGrath wouldn’t let the final pass without doing the same for another fallen soldier.

Conor Gleeson missed the final after lashing out at Cork’s Patrick Horgan late in the game so he was suspended for the biggest day in Waterford history since 2008.

Whatever about Gleeson as a player and what he could’ve brought to help the Déise cause, McGrath had the man at the forefront of his thinking and, in another gesture that sums up the loyalty of the manager, the number nine was written onto the left hand of Derek and brought onto the Croke Park turf with him.

In the end, it wasn’t to be for Waterford – not this year anyway.

And the images of Derek McGrath afterwards were difficult to see considering how much he gives to his county and how much he gives to his love, hurling.

They sum up the true Waterford man that he is.

He went out on his shield though. Of course he did.

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