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  • 'If You Want To See How Stupidly Superstitious I Am...' - Derek McGrath Opens Up On Unusual Pre-Match Ritual

'If You Want To See How Stupidly Superstitious I Am...' - Derek McGrath Opens Up On Unusual Pre-Match Ritual

'If You Want To See How Stupidly Superstitious I Am...' - Derek McGrath Opens Up On Unusual Pre-Match Ritual
By Conall Cahill
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During the last ten minutes of today's epic All-Ireland hurling semi-final between Kilkenny and Waterford, the number of Rosaries being said in the county of Waterford would have increased tenfold. Thousands of lapsed Catholics and non-believers from the Déise found a faith in a higher power in those final moments, begging any sort of deity that might exist to help their side crawl over the line.

Alas, it wasn't to be, and those who briefly flirted with a return to faith remain unconverted. But Waterford manager, Derek McGrath, is one figure who prefers not to leave the result of a game entirely in the hands of himself or the players.

McGrath gave a fascinating interview to Newstalk's 'Off the Ball' show which was played before the game and gave some great insight into how he deals with the stress of inter-county management and the process he goes through before every big match.

I wouldn't put myself in the same bracket as people who are really devout. I would, every Saturday before every game, go to De La Salle College, go into the prayer room (and) go through the whole St Joseph's booklet beforehand, praying for luck, praying for everything.

I call myself a hypocritical Catholic! I promise God, I promise St Joseph, that I'll be a good person, and I'll go back to Mass every Sunday and bring my ten year old and three year old, and (ask) if he can just make us be our best we can possibly be during the games.


McGrath opened up on his practice of meditation and reflection, going away on 24-hour retreats in order to help him "almost be solemn for a period...it wouldn't be based on being hugely devout, but it would be based on finding something that works for me." But he admitted that, even during these periods of meditation, his "obsessive" preoccupation with hurling is never far away.

When I tell myself not to think about something, I tend to think about (it). There's periods of the meditation, the silence, where the hurling comes  into mind...of solving things, where things went wrong, how we can fix things. But there's also periods within that three hours where there's no hurling thought.

Waterford's incredible display against the Cats, their passion and commitment, seemed to indicate a group of players who were together and fully behind their manager. McGrath told Joe Molloy that his "open, fairly transparent" nature is something that the Waterford players "respond" to. While the schoolteacher said that he wouldn't be "thanking the Lord, thanking God or whatever" in the aftermath of a win, he uses prayer to find "a bit of solace" amidst the storm of inter-county hurling.

And McGrath poked fun at himself while revealing a slightly more bizarre, superstitious side to his clearly very thoughtful personality:

On Sunday I go to the Cathedral, I go to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and I just say, 'Make us be the best we can be'.

And if you want to see how stupidly superstitious I am, when I'm lighting the candles, I light them in the same formation (of the team) for the day! And I actually say, 'This could win us the day.'

From the sublime to the ridiculous!

McGrath's ritual didn't quite work for his side today, and Waterford will need every bit of psychological and spiritual help they can get in order to lift themselves for the replay next weekend.


You can listen to Derek McGrath's remarkably open and honest conversation with Molloy here.

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