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Ken McGrath Speaks Up For Hurling People Against Modern Hurling

Ken McGrath Speaks Up For Hurling People Against Modern Hurling
By Donny Mahoney Updated

I was very excited for the hurling league final. The two best young teams in the country. The two best teams of 2016. The next great rivalry in hurling. The prospect of a rematch in 5 weeks. And more.

Except the match was crap, mostly. Maurice Shanahan's ballsy free at the end of extra time and Conor McGrath's ballsy free at the end of regulation will partially cover up that fact. When Davy Fitz and Derek McGrath squared up in the first half, it was like two pro wrestling managers taking the entertainment into their own hands because the spectacle in the ring was so poor.

Tactics, of course, were to blame.

Here's Michael Moynihan in the Examiner giving the lay of the land:

At 3.30pm yesterday, for instance, in Thurles both teams had one player in their full-forward line and almost everybody else between the 45s, milling about in a misshapen crowd; for a while both teams’ strike forwards, Shane Bennett and Conor McGrath, were marking each other in the middle of the field.

All neutrals who watch hurling yearn for Kilkenny to be dethroned but if the alternative to amber dominance is dour matches like yesterday, the future for hurling is worse than the present.

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That's why it was intriguing to view Ken McGrath's twitter feed yesterday after the match. As much as Mullane, McGrath was the spiritual torchcarrier for the great Waterford team of the noughties, a team that never won an All-Ireland but played in almost every memorable game that decade. Yesterday, McGrath essentially said he's happy he's not hurling for Waterford anymore.

The tweet could be interpreted as one Waterford man tweaking another one, but it matters more as a generational critique. When do you ever hear an ex-player saying he is glad he retired?Anthony Daly retweeted McGrath. Michael Duignan let rip on 'modern hurling' in his Mail on Sunday column last weekend, which felt in many cases like a veiled takedown of Waterford. I was so bored during the first 55 minutes or so of the match I started scratching my head, trying to remember if Waterford had ever played in a legitimately thrilling match. I couldn't remember one.

Waterford created plenty of chances to win the match in the second half. They seemed to lack the confidence to take them. McGrath has taught his players how to disrupt a match against a superior team but has he emboldened them with the flair and bravado it takes to win one?

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That Derek McGrath's tactics work is not in question. What's interesting to me is how long fans, analysts and ex-players will tolerate them. Yesterday, Ken McGrath politely said thanks but no thanks.

It felt like the beginning of a movement of hurlers against modern hurling.

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