'We're in that top level, pushing for an All-Ireland' - legend McGrath on Waterford hopes

Ken McGrath believes Derek McGrath’s Déise are serious Liam MacCarthy Cup contenders.

Ken McGrath has served as a former Waterford selector.
Ken McGrath has served as a former Waterford selector.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

WATERFORD LEGEND KEN McGrath is confident of an All-Ireland push from Derek McGrath’s charges this season.

McGrath, a four-time Munster winner during his playing days, is regarded as one of the finest players never to get his hands on a prized Celtic Cross.

But McGrath is optimistic about the Déise’s chances of ending a 58-year wait for Liam MacCarthy Cup glory.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast this morning, McGrath predicted a victory for Waterford against Cork in next Sunday’s Munster semi-final in Thurles, and in a wide-open race for All-Ireland glory, backed them to have a big say.

“It’s even, there will be a lot of teams right in the hunt. With Tipp and Kilkenny getting beaten, there are a lot of teams that feel they have a chance. I think, realistically, we’re in that top level, pushing for an All-Ireland.

“You’ll always need a bit of luck, it’s been 1959 since we last won an All-Ireland and a lot of times, we probably didn’t get the luck we thought we deserved but look, there’s definitely five or six teams who feel they have a chance of winning the All-Ireland.

“It’s like the 90s all over again, when everyone has a chance nearly every year.

Ken McGrath dejected at the end of the game Ken McGrath pictured after Waterford's 2010 All-Ireland semi-final defeat against Tipperary. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“Why can’t this team believe? A lot of these lads have won minor and U-21 All-Irelands so they have to believe and push on.

A lot of them have a League medal from two years ago and now it’s time to deliver on a Munster title and push on from there.”

McGrath has also hinted that Waterford will play with a sweeper system against Cork on Sunday.

The Rebels showed how dangerous they are with space in which to operate during their memorable provincial quarter-final victory over All-Ireland champions Tipperary.

Kieran Kingston celebrates with his son Kieran Kingston embraces his son Shane after Cork's victory over Tipp. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Waterford have favoured the sweeper set-up in recent seasons but went more orthodox against Kilkenny in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final and replay.

McGrath acknowledged: ”That’s the big question we’re all asking down here – what will we do? Will we play a sweeper?

“Look, I couldn’t see Cork getting the space they got against Tipp.

“That’s the way Waterford have played for the last couple of years, manic work-rate and closing down space.

“For any good defender, his first role should be to disrupt the forward and cut out space, and play hurling secondly. From a Waterford point of view, they’ll be looking to cut out that (space) and make Cork work harder for their scores.”

Kevin Moran lifts the trophy Kevin Moran lifted the Allianz League trophy in 2015 but now Ken McGrath says it's time for championship silverware. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

And while Waterford have had an 11-week lay-off since their League quarter-final defeat to Galway, McGrath believes they’ll be ready to hit the ground running.

“They should be up and running. Every team is judged on championship and how you do in it. We were in the last two League finals but they maybe felt that getting a draw against Clare, the team suffered when it came to Munster championship.

We were League champions two years ago, it’s been seven years since we were Munster champions. These are the games you’re judged on. We’ve been there and done the League, and now it’s time to perform in the championship. Sunday is a massive game for the boys.

“If Waterford perform to their level, there will be very little in it but Waterford by a couple of points.”

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