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Waterford hurling manager, Derek McGrath.
Waterford hurling manager, Derek McGrath.

'Structured flair' the key to Waterford's success

By John Harrington

Waterford hurling-team manager Derek McGrath is adamant he is not inhibiting his team by over-instructing them.

Impressive defensive organisation has played a big part in their progress to the All-Ireland Hurling Final, but McGrath argues his players also have a licence to thrill.

“There’s structured flair,” says McGrath. “This argument that everyone is being hamstrung by instruction.

“People asked me does it irritate me. It doesn’t really. It’s just not true.

“I believe what actually supports that it is, how hamstrung was Austin going in on goal the last day?

“Dummy hand-pass one way, dummy hand-pass another way, and then you flick the ball off your hurley into the net.

“I don’t think that’s someone who is being absolutely restricted.”

McGrath has taken some criticism for his faith in a sweeper system and doesn’t enjoy the manner in which the debate has been polarised.

“The argument between traditionalists and purists versus innovation, I think we’re all traditionalists,” he says.

“We all love hurling. We all live and die for it. I think the guns are loaded too easily behind the whole debate.

“We’re playing the game the way we feel the game should be played every day we go out but we’re tweaking it. Every team is.”

Waterford sweeper, Tadgh de Búrca.
Waterford sweeper, Tadgh de Búrca.

For evidence of that he points to the fact that at the highest level no team is still playing a static game where players take up a traditional position on the pitch and stick to it for the duration of the match.

“I’m not any kind of theorist or anything like that…but the language that is out there in terms of 15 versus 15…there’s no 15 on 15,” said McGrath.

“What I mean by that is that if a wing-forward tracks back 80 yards and his man is not with him, that means it’s not 15 on 15. Because if it’s 15 on 15, number 10 should be seven.

“So it’s a fairly simple argument for me. But that’s a problem for the GAA at every level.

“I was at an under 11 game the other night, the mentor shouts in at the young fella ‘get out in front.’

“The young fella gets out in front but by being out in front, he’s out 60 yards. The ball goes over his head…do you stay in?

“The language, the whole thing…when you say things like the game is evolving…we’re all old fashioned about it. But there’s a definite change about it.

“I’m looking forward to getting stuck into a debate about it.”


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