Ken McGrath is best known as one of the greatest hurlers who has ever played for Co. Waterford. He is undeniably one of the absolute greats and has been an inspiration to a whole generation of kids, including my son, who grew up with the height of admiration for a Waterford Team who served up some of the most inspired and magical sporting moments we will ever know.
Ken was a true leader, battler, fighter and talent alongside Co. Waterford greats including, Paul Flynn, John Mullane, Tony Browne ….. the list goes on and on.
BUT, for me, Ken McGrath will always be associated with altruism, pure heart and two astonishing meetings associated with my late mother.
I wasn’t able to attend my mother’s cremation in June 2009 and decided to go swimming instead at one of the off-the-beaten coves along the Co. Waterford Coast with my fourteen year-old son. I was still half dressed in funeral attire when I bumped into Ken McGrath who had just been for a swim in preparation for a big Inter-County Match a few days later.
We were passing acquaintances but he seemed to recognise that I wasn’t quite myself and stopped and asked how I was. I told him that Mother had died and was being cremated as we spoke. His sympathy was overwhelming and he stayed talking for some time, noting how all that had been on his mind was his ‘knees.’
By amazing coincidence, I met him in the exact same spot the following year on Mother’s anniversary and he remembered everything about the previous meeting. Again, we stopped and talked and his supreme kindness and obvious concern for others was palpable.
Over Christmas, Ken was struck down by a very serious illness that has led to open heart surgery and the prospect of very lengthy rehabilitation. My heart goes out to him ~ as one of Ireland’s greatest sportsmen of our time. It comes as absolutely no surprise whatever that the hurling world has united to support this man of supreme talent and heart and tomorrow evening Walshe Park in Waterford City will host a fundraising game between the legends of Munster and Leinster hurling in his honour.
I have my ticket safely tucked away and I can’t even begin to imagine the depths of emotion that that will be unleashed as the greatest hurlers that I have ever known take to the field to honour a man who has been such a servant to Co. Waterford.
More than anything, I want to wish Ken well and thank him for being such comfort on days when I needed comforting. Now, the roles are reversed and, yes, I’ll be there cheering my heart out for a man who is an absolute hero.