Davy’s back in Wexford and Tipp are on top.
THREE TIMES IN six weeks earlier this summer, Derek McGrath and Davy Fitzgerald faced off on the sideline in Thurles.
The results helped shape their campaigns with the league success proving the high-water mark of Clare’s season under Fitzgerald, while the Munster semi-final triumph helped McGrath’s Waterford rebound and travel on a championship journey deep into August.
They got well-acquainted and even Davy’s departure from Clare has not pushed him out of the inter-county limelight for too long.
16 days after his Clare exit, Davy’s arrival in Wexford was confirmed. ‘It’s a match made in heaven’, is McGrath’s opinion.
Waterford hurling boss Derek McGrath
Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO
“I’m glad Davy is back involved because I think he absolutely loves hurling, he’s obsessed with it.
“I actually was watching something on Monday night there, just watching back a bit of analysis of Wexford Cork, when Cork beat Wexford well last year in the championship down in Wexford Park.
“On the Sunday Game that night, Donal Óg was there and Donal Óg pointed to how well structured the Wexford team was under Liam Dunne and they were beginning to do the right things.
“For me I think it’s a match made in heaven. It’s a perfect match, Davy and Wexford.
“Wexford, I think have a lot of good players. In terms of a management and in terms of a pressure free zone, I think it’s an ideal scenario for Davy in that you’re in (Division) 1B and there’s not the same stigmatised approach in terms of relegation and promotion that there is in (Division) 1A from your respective supporters.
“I think the Wexford people will welcome Davy down to continue the excellent work that I thought Liam Dunne has done already.”
Liam Dunne and Derek McGrath after this year’s All-Ireland quarter-final
Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO
If Fitzgerald’s installation in the south-east is the most eye-catching appointment in the close season, the front-runners at the outset for 2017 will be the current champions Tipperary.
McGrath feels that the playing resources at their disposal indicate the current strength of Tipperary hurling.
“Not to be hypocritical, I expected Kilkenny to win (the final) because I just expected they’d find a way to win.
“(It was) not based on absolute logic, it was more a gut feeling. I just thought they’d find a way to win.
“Looking back on it, you’d have to say now Tipperary were so primed for the final with their attacking threat. The sextet up front in terms of what they can do, their inter-changing and the space they created on the day.
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“These fellas are solid, they’ve always been solid fellas. The advantage that Tipperary have I suppose is Tipperary’s minors won the All-Ireland impressively, if that was a situation in Waterford we would probably fast forward those guys straight away.
The Tipperary minor players celebrate at the end of their All-Ireland minor final win
Source: James Crombie/INPHO
“Tipperary for me are at the stage where those fellas can serve an apprenticeship similar to Kilkenny where over the years, you don’t have to rush them in.
“A few years ago we took a decision that was the best policy going forward to get guys in.
“So I think Tipperary are in a really strong position. Even ourselves we were playing Thurles in the Harty last week with De La Salle and Thurles wiped us. There’s lots and lots of hurlers in Tipperary.”
Closer to home, McGrath was able to celebrate an underage success as well. The core of the Waterford U21 team that blitzed Galway to achieve All-Ireland glory are part of the senior squad.
“We were delighted as a management ourselves, 12 of them were involved with us over the last few years. It’s great that there was something tangible in terms of a cup at the end of the year.
Waterford players celebrate their All-Ireland U21 final victory
Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO
“With encouragement comes a kind of a forewarning though. If you met a guy on the street, ‘he’d say you’d have a job picking that team next year with the U21′s’, whereas the reality is the U21′s are in with us already.
“The major core of that U21 team have been exposed to senior level. Put TJ Ryan’s situation (in Limerick) last year, promoting guys from U21, some of them had actually never played senior.
“Our lads have already played at senior level, so it’s a different dynamic, albeit there’s one or two you’d hope to pick from going into the future.”
Derek McGrath has been named as the Gaelic Writers Association 2016 Hurling Personality of the Year. The GWA awards ceremony takes place in Dublin’s Jackson Court Hotel tonight.
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