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Derek McGrath On Training Camps, Punditry & Dealing With Mental Health

Derek McGrath agrees with his Waterford successor, Paraic Fanning, that the GAA need to focus their attention elsewhere rather than trying to ban training camps.

Earlier this week, Fanning voiced his displeasure at the GAA’s ruling to prohibit foreign training camps from next year onwards. Waterford recently returned from a five-day stint in Portugal and Fanning described the change in the rule as ‘total nonsense’.

“I think it’s a load of nonsense, being totally honest. I think the GAA could concentrate on a few other things, more pressing for everybody, club players and county players than worrying about top players are trying to prepare for a championship and doing their best to prepare properly,” Fanning told the Irish Times.

“Be that home or abroad, wherever it is. I don’t think they should be too concerned, as they seem to be about it. I could think of far more pressing issues.”

McGrath backed up Fanning’s sentiments, claiming that training camps are a vital part of getting a team ready for the white heat of championship hurling.

“I think training camps are a vital part of any (championship season). Year one we went to Portugal, year two we went to Johnstown House and then year three, four and five we went to Fota. I can’t sit here and be a hypocrite and say I don’t agree with training camps. I agree with Pauric’s point.”

“Listen, Laois were in Waterford this weekend. Waterford were in Portugal. Wexford are in somewhere or they were last week. Kilkenny were in Fota last weekend. My wife’s mother was down at a communion and ran into the Kilkenny team down there and I can assure you, every other team is somewhere as well.”

It’s not an issue McGrath has to concern himself with anymore having stepped back from his role as manager of Waterford following last season’s early exit.

In the meantime, he has dipped his toes into the punditry pool and has come in for considerable praise due to his honest take on the game.

McGrath admits to enjoying his stint inside the Sunday Game studios, however, it’ll never come close to being on the sidelines and in the thick of it.

“I enjoy it. I enjoy analysing the game and I enjoy the chance to impart it in a manner that’s not too complex. Even if there’s something complex happening on the field, if you can simplify it and show what’s happening, it’d be a bug-bearer of mine that sometimes not everything is shown.

“It’s not as good as being involved on the sideline but I enjoy it. It gives you an opportunity to analyse the games and watch the games.”

Former Waterford Hurling Manager, Derek McGrath teamed up with Electric Ireland and Pieta House to encourage people to experience The Power of Hope by registering for this year’s Darkness into Light event on 11th May at #ThePowerOfHope #DIL2019. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

McGrath has joined up with Pieta House and was speaking ahead of their ‘Darkness into Light’ initiative which is aimed at creating awareness around mental health.

It’s something that the De La Salle man feels a strong connection with having dealt with the issue at first hand.

McGrath was Waterford manager back in 2015 when Maurice Shanahan spoke publicly on his struggles with depression. As a teacher, McGrath admits it was a situation he thought he could deal with himself before realising the issue surrounding mental health far outweighed any training he had received.

“I’m teaching twenty years and obviously, there is the whole concept of teaching ‘in loco parentis’ where you look after people, you look after their well-being, you look out for them.

“I was struck, we were at our son’s junior infants night in October, I was struck by the principal of the school who actually said that there were lads as young as seven or eight living with mental-health disorders.

“From my own perspective as Waterford manager, we had a well-publicised issue with Maurice Shanahan. Selfishly, I felt I could solve those issues myself as a teacher with no qualifications in counselling and no qualifications in anything other than feeling you have an emotional degree of intelligence where you deal with an issue.

“You try to deal with those things selfishly. No delegation, no handing off of the problem and then seeing that didn’t work, Maurice linked in with Pieta House, linked in with the awareness campaigns, and linked in with the counselling. I would’ve been aware of it from the resilience programmes that are done in schools in terms of coping mechanisms and in terms of being aware and more aware.

“It’s OK to feel things and it’s OK to feel emotive. I do believe in the kind of ‘one good adult’ theory that a coach or a manager, people on your team or in school can open up to him as much or even more than they maybe can with a parent.

“So I think we have a role in management, we have a duty, more than a role to be able to help people and pass on the information and delegate and being able to say to this person; ‘I can’t help you but there’s someone here that can help’. I think that comes from your own heart and your own feelings that it comes from what’s written in the document here about the Power of Hope.”

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