Waterford hurlers determined to deliver for Derek McGrath
By John Harrington
Waterford hurler Jamie Barron says the respect he and his team-mates have for manager Derek McGrath will drive them to new heights in 2018.
McGrath’s fifth year in charge of the team is also expected to be his last, and the players he’s brought through during that time are determined to send him out on a high if he does indeed step down at the end of the season.
“He’s only after getting a one year contract so it’s looking like he will step away and he has a young family,” said Barron yesterday at the launch of the latest stage of the GAA’s Healthy Clubs project in Croke Park.
“He’s not that old he's only 40 or that but I think family has to come before sport.
“We know what Derek brings and we know what he means to us so we are all pulling the one way and hopefully get a bit of silverware.
“We want to deliver this year. I think we are going to give it everything we have and the respect we have for Derek will give us that extra incentive to try pay back what he has done for us over the last four years so we’re going to do everything for Derek and ourselves to try get up them Hogan steps.”
The 2018 campaign could also be the last for another man who means an awful lot to this Waterford group – their longest serving player Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh.
The 34-year-old made his senior debut for the Waterford hurlers back in 2003 and there was a lot of speculation last year’s campaign might be his swansong.
Perhaps winning a 2017 All-Star convinced him there was still more left in the tank, but, whatever his reason for staying on, his team-mates are delighted that he has.
“It’s massive, he’s one of the main leaders of the team,” said Barron.
“He’s 34 now and he’s the one guy that when the going gets tough he’s always there fighting and winning ball and encouraging other lads.
“What he brings even to the dressing room is phenomenal.
“Even for the younger lads as well he is such a leader and someone you have looked up to for so long and he drives you on and to have him back for another year is great.
“He just wants the team to win and everyone to be going in the one direction with him. He doesn't care if he is playing in the forwards and doesn’t score for the whole championship.
“Without Brick I think you'd see a different Waterford, so we are just delighted to have him back for another year.”
Waterford came up short against Galway in last year’s All-Ireland Final after a battling display, and Barron believes that experience will stand to them if they can get back there again this year.
“For any team in their first All-Ireland there are a lot of sideshows that go along with it, and hopefully if we get back there again we’ll have learned a lot of things, and maybe the supporters wouldn’t be as vibrant as if it was our first All-Ireland,” he said.
“We’ll have a lot of things we know how to handle better."
* An independent evaluation by Waterford IT has revealed that the GAA Healthy Club Project (HCP) is already showing significant and lasting improvements to the health of communities across Ireland. Stemming from this, the Healthy Club Project is calling on further clubs to make the GAA a healthier place for everyone to enjoy, by signing up to this transformative initiative. Clubs can apply to participate in the Healthy Club Project by completing the online form on www.gaa.ie/community The closing date is Monday, January 29th.