16 reasons why we love Waterford hurling legend Ken McGrath

The former Déise star is next up on Laochra Gael.

Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

WATERFORD HURLING HERO Ken McGrath is next up on the popular TG4 Laochra Gael series and this is one we’re really looking forward to.

During the course of a glittering intercounty career, McGrath won four Munster senior hurling medals, a National League crown and three Allstars.

It’s right and fitting that he’s receiving the TV documentary treatment and here, we take a closer look at why the Mount Sion colossus is so revered….

1. Those spectacular catches

On the promo teaser for next Sunday’s Laochra Gael featuring McGrath, the early footage captures a couple of brilliant aerial fetches pulled off by the Mount Sion colossus.

THAT catch at the end of the 2004 Munster final against Cork is one of the most iconic moments in Waterford hurling history, as the Déise prevailed with 14 men.

Source: TG4/YouTube

2. Ken’s brave recovery from open heart surgery

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The hurling world was shocked in 2014 when it emerged that McGrath would have to go under the knife.

McGrath suffered a brain haemorrhage in December 2013 and extensive tests at Ardkeen Hospital revealed an abnormal valve and infection in his heart.

He went under the knife the following April and received massive support for the Ken McGrath Allstar challenge match that was held at Walsh Park in June, to raise funds for a lengthy and costly rehabilitation process.

3. The breakthrough Munster SHC final victory of 2002

Tipperary were reigning All-Ireland champions and expected to conquer Munster once more against Waterford.

But the Premier County hadn’t banked on a stunning performance from a Waterford team boasting a host of rising young stars – including McGrath, who scored seven points from play despite nursing a shoulder injury.

Relive some of those great memories here:

Source: joekilgobinet/YouTube

4. McGrath also served his county as a selector

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

When the call came to work as a selector alongside former boss Michael Ryan, McGrath couldn’t ignore it.

McGrath stepped into the breach in 2012, following the departure of Nicky Cashin, and resigned in 2013 when Ryan stepped down.

5. He’s a club legend

McGrath won six county senior hurling medals in the colours of Mount Sion, and his finest hour arrived in December 2002 when they captured Munster senior glory.

McGrath is pictured here celebrating with Brian Flannery following victory over Sixmilebridge in a game that was played in dreadful conditions at Semple Stadium:

Source: INPHO

6. He’s a four-time Munster SHC medallist

Source: INPHO

Unfortunately, McGrath will be remembered as one of the finest players never to win an All-Ireland senior hurling medal.

But he did manage to collect four provincial senior titles with the Déise, including as captain in 2004 when he pulled off that magnificent late catch against Cork (see number 1).

7. Ken’s Dad was his hero

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

In conversation with The42 in 2013, McGrath revealed that his father Pat was his hero and inspiration growing up.

Former opponents Ciaran Carey, Brian Corcoran and Brian Whelahan were other players McGrath held in high esteem.

8. He won three Allstar awards

McGrath won three Allstar awards during the course of a glittering career.

Here he is receiving a prized bronze statuette from former GAA President Nickey Brennan in 2007:

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

9. Ken could play almost anywhere

imageMcGrath savours that winning feeling after the 2002 Munster final. Source: INPHO

McGrath was a gifted and versatile player, who those Allstar awards in three different positions.

He was honoured at wing-forward in 2002, midfield two years later and in the centre back slot in 2007.

McGrath burst onto the senior intercounty stage in attack before playing the majority of his senior days at centre back.

10. He knew when the time was right to go

McGrath (24) in one of his final outings for Waterford, against Tipperary in 2011. Source: Cathal Noonan

McGrath retired from intercounty hurling in 2011, at the age of 33.

Having struggled with knee problems for some time, he failed to see out a National League clash with Cork in March of that year and explained with typical honesty that his body just couldn't cope with the rigorous demands any more.

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11. Dedication to the cause cost McGrath his front teeth

Source: INPHO

There were few finer sights than McGrath in full flight, pre hurling helmet days, with the head down and a few gnashers missing.

We're not sure how many times he had to pay a visit to the dentist down through the years and presumably he was one of those who had to take some time adjusting to the now compulsory headgear.

12. He was a teenager when he made his senior intercounty debut

McGrath was just 18 years of age when he lined out against Tipperary in the 1996 Munster senior hurling championship.

Waterford suffered a three-point defeat at Walsh Park against a Tipp side featuring Brendan Cummins, current boss Michael Ryan, Michael Cleary, John Leahy, Declan Ryan and Tommy Dunne.

McGrath scored a point against the Premier men and played for the full 70 minutes.

13. He's a National League winner

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Waterford won the National Hurling League crown in 2007, defeating Kilkenny in the final.

McGrath played his part, scoring three points, including a free, from the centre back position at Semple Stadium.

Waterford's victory ended a 44-year wait for League honours.

14. McGrath's also manager of his club team

Source: INPHO

McGrath has coaching experience with various Mount Sion underage teams and in December 2014, it was confirmed that he would take over the senior team for the 2015 campaign.

Last December's club AGM confirmed that McGrath will once again guide the fortunes of Mount Sion in 2016.

15. Ken's a top man for the Sunday Game banter

16. And behind it all, Ken's one of most humble legends you could ever meet

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