Friday 24 November 2017

Young Ken's tricks were too much for hungover Larry O!

Book review - Alan Aherne

Hand on Heart
Hand on Heart

Former Waterford hurling star Ken McGrath tells an amusing Wexford-related tale in his autobiography, 'Hand On Heart'.

He was still a Minor when he made his Senior inter-county debut in 1996, and this led to an invitation to join his Mount Sion clubmate Tony Browne on the Rest of Ireland team which took on our newly-crowned All-Ireland champions in the Goal charity game on a memorable Wednesday night in early September.

Being an eager chap, Ken wasn't used to the protocol of such encounters where the guest players always go easy on the victors from the previous Sunday.

Wexford had spent the three days since their victory over Limerick celebrating naturally enough, so McGrath wasn't following the unwritten rules when he flicked the ball over Larry O'Gorman's head at one stage, ran on to it, and fired over a fine point.

He was delighted with himself naturally enough, but quickly got the message after Larry ran past him on their way back outfield and proferred some friendly advice: 'Don't do that again, Ken'.

I was also interested to read McGrath's view of Davy Fitzgerald, given that our new boss managed him to his sole All-Ireland Senior final appearance in 2008 and was in charge for the next two seasons too.

McGrath retired from the inter-county scene after 2010 and his last couple of years were difficult as he suffered from various injuries and wasn't a regular starter at certain times.

'We'd played off the cuff, stylish hurling for years but under Davy we were sterile, structured, and often boring,' he notes in the book which was written by Michael Moynihan of the 'Irish Examiner'.

'He learned a lot from his time with us, and given the systems now at play in hurling - not to the betterment of the game, I think - he started that with us.'

McGrath would have to come into serious consideration for any fantasy team of the best hurlers without an All-Ireland medal, and he was a driving force of that swashbuckling Waterford side of the 2000s along with John Mullane, Paul Flynn, Dan Shanahan, Eoin Kelly and many others.

He has been through some tough times since his retirement as, at the young age of 38, he has fought back from a brain haemorrhage and later underwent complicated heart surgery.

And while he got the medical all-clear in 2013 and did contemplate going back to play with his beloved Mount Sion, his dodgy knees put paid to that and he is now content in the role as their Senior manager.

It's refreshing to read that he has turned down several offers to take charge of other clubs because he simply couldn't contemplate a situation where he might be in opposition to players and close friends he has grown up with.

He also deals with the one big controversy that marred his inter-county career, from the All-Ireland semi-final of 2002 when he got away with his part in an incident that left Clare's Gerry Quinn with a broken hand as none of the officials saw what happened.

He says he reacted to getting a hurl shoved into his back twice by swinging wildly without looking around, so it was a case of an 'eye for an eye' so to speak.

However, he does regret the vow of silence he took in the aftermath of the game when the dogs on the street knew he was the culprit.

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