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Derek McGrath's uncertain future, words of advice from 'Brick' Walsh and the long road back to September

Noel Connors is still coming to terms with last Sunday’s All-Ireland final defeat.

WATERFORD FACE AN uncertain future as manager Derek McGrath mulls over his role over the next few weeks.

fsadas Source: Inpho

The Deise boss indicated on Monday he would take a month to make a call on his plans for the coming season.

Experienced defender Noel Connors believes it would be a blow to the county if McGrath did decide to step away.

“I think everybody is well aware of what he’s done over the last four years, it’s been phenomenal,” says Connors.

“From where we were, formerly a team that were struggling, really, really struggling for form — and we certainly weren’t consistent as a team.

“But Derek has developed a team all the way down to the backroom staff. We probably would have had 15 or 16 good players, but that’s extended into fellas that aren’t even on the panel on match-day, so that’s a fair reflection of the development over the last four years.”

Connors believes the man who taught him during his days at De la Salle College needs time to reflect after his fourth campaign in charge of the county came to an end.

“I don’t think anyone even had a conversation around that to be perfectly honest. I think Derek’s philosophy is very much ‘live in the now.’ I know it’s probably contradictory in some sense, but I think you have to enjoy it as well.

Conor Whelan with Noel Connors Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“I know obviously the result didn’t go our way, but this is the one thing that is good about the GAA, it brings so many people together.

“There were the bones of 1,000 people at the hotel on Sunday night, that’s phenomenal when you think about the people who have come from outside of Ireland and travelled miles upon miles just to support Waterford. That’s what the GAA is all about.

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“Winning is winning and hurling is hurling, but at the end of the day it’s all about what the GAA stands for and that’s about club, family, and being Irish.”

Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh is the other figure in the Waterford camp who may decide to step away, but Connors believes his close friend still has plenty to contribute.

“Brick has been a phenomenal player for Waterford. He still has so much to offer. I would have always sat beside him on the bus, he’s always there for a great word of advice.

Noel Connors Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

“Anything you ever need, he’s the first fella you could call. He’s phenomenal and he’s probably like a fine wine where’s he’s getting better with age. He certainly has a lot more to offer.”

Waterford have a young enough team to challenge at the top level for years to come, but Connors also realises how difficult a road it is to this stage. He’s been on the scene since 2009 and appeared in his first All-Ireland final last Sunday.

“Sport is a strange strange thing,” he says. “You could say that as well about the Clare team of 2013 and so on. It’s a long way back, it’s a long way to September. That probably sounds very negative, but it’s a reality.

“The one thing that’s really good about the hurling championship is that there are so many teams that can win it. If you look at the Munster championship alone, every team that’s in it has an opportunity to be there on the first Sunday of September and to win it.

“That’s not trying to downplay the tough road that’s ahead of us, but it’s just the reality of it.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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