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Friday Legend Focus: 10 questions for Waterford’s Ken McGrath

Brian Corcoran, Andy Murray, the 2004 Munster final and the Tour De France all come up for discussion.

Waterford's Ken McGrath
Waterford's Ken McGrath
Image: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

1. Who was your GAA hero growing up?

“At home it was my father Pat. He played for Waterford in the 70′s and 80′s, before finishing up in 1986.

“I heard all the talk about him playing and there would have been a lot of stories. He won 7/8 county medals with the club Mount Sion as well.

“Outside of the club then it would have been the likes of Brian Corcoran, Ciaran Carey and Brian Whelehan that I looked up to. Carey was a brilliant bit of stuff. He’d great heart and I marked him a few times as well coming towards the end of his career.”

2. Can you remember the first inter-county game you went to?

“I half remember Waterford playing Tipperary in 1983 in a Munster semi-final and going to that game. My father would have been playing in it. I definitely remember a game in 1985 when Waterford played Limerick in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. That’s the first big match I remember.”

3. Tell us about the first time you lined out for Waterford?

“I played in the Tony Forristal competition for Waterford when I was U14. Then when it came to minor, I would have played in that grade for three years. My first match for the Waterford minors was when I was only 16 year-old.

“Waterford played Tippeary in a Munster minor semi-final up in Fermoy in Cork. I came on as a substitute, it was a cracking night for hurling, about 7-8,000 people packed into the ground and they created a great atmosphere.

“I was probably a small bit out of my depth and I remember coming on wing-back, just hoping the ball would stay away from me. But it was a great experience at the time and we won by a point. We’d a very good Waterford team with Dan Shanahan, Derek Bennett, Michéal White and Derek McGrath playing. Tipperary had Liam Cahill and Johnny Enright in their side.”

4. Who was the toughest opponent you faced?

“There would have been a couple of them. I started out my career as a forward and it was very tough playing against the likes of Brian Corcoran, Sean McMahon, Ciaran Carey and Brian Whelehan. Those lads always tried to play hurling.

“When I moved to the backs then, I’d a lot of great battles with Martin Comerford and John Hoyne from Kilkenny and Cork’s Niall McCarthy. They were really hard to mark, very good hurlers for their counties.”

Ken McGrath and Martin Comerford.
INPHO/James Crombie

5. Outside of Croke Park, what’s your favourite GAA venue?

“Thurles is a great place to play hurling but I always liked Páirc Uí Chaoimh. It’s not the most popular stadium for supporters but a lot of players liked it. It always seemed to be sunny there and we’d great championship occasions there.

“With Waterford, we’d very good memories of playing there. We won our first decent championship game there in 1998 against Tipperary and then we won our first Munster final there in 2002 against Tipperary. We’d a great affinity with the place.”

6. What was the most memorable game you played for Waterford?

“The 2004 Munster final without a doubt. It was a very warm day and the stadium was absolutely packed. After losing to Cork the year before, there was a huge motivation to win. It had become a dream for that group of Waterford players to beat Cork in a Munster final.

“I was captain the same day so it was extremely special. Both sets of players tried unbelievably hard, there was a great pace to it and it was a privilege to be involved in it. A lot of people talk to me about the catch I made at the end.

“It was only a small part of a great match but people do remember it which was nice. To be involved in the last player of the game as you captain your county to win a Munster final was a fairytale.”

7. Which sports do you like to watch apart from GAA?

“I’d watch the soccer over the winter. I’d half follow Liverpool, I wouldn’t be too upset if they lose games but I would watch it. I like all sports really on TV and I really like cycling.

“I’d watch the Tour De France which might surprise some people. There’s great scenery to look out for!”

8. And which sporting event in the world would you love to attend?

“There’d be a few of them. The World Cup in rugby or soccer would be great events to be at. I’d love to see the Tour De France at some stage as well. But if I was to pick one, I think it’d be Wimbledon.

“It’s a great tournament and is really a big part of the sporting summer. It’s totally different to hurling in everything about it. But I’d love to go over to see it for one day and witness what it’s all about.”

Limerick’s Wayne McNamara
INPHO/James Crombie

9. What current GAA star do you like watching play?

“Limerick would be a team that everyone is talking about at the moment and they make a real impression on me. There’s a couple of their defenders, Wayne McNamara and Richie McCarthy, who I really like watching play.

“They have a proper go in their defending and give it 100% on the pitch every time. Declan Hannon is a really stylish hurler to watch in the Limerick attack as well.”

10. And who’s your favourite sports star outside of GAA?

“A couple of the rugby lads like Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll would be obvious ones to admire. As well as that Andy Murray at tennis and Rafael Nadal would be favourites of mine. They’re brilliant players to watch in action and great sports men just like the rugby lads.”

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The Bord Gáis Energy Legends Tour with Ken McGrath will take place on Saturday, July 20th at 12pm.

GAA legends Pat Gilroy, Tommy Dunne and more are also set to host tours of Croke Park Stadium this summer as part of the series. For booking and a full list of upcoming Bord Gáis Energy Legends Tours visit www.Crokepark.ie.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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