A home of our own II

A good reason for having a child is that you can blame any form of inactivity on them. And that’s the last time I’ll ever use the word ‘inactivity’ in relation to my son, who is wreaking havoc around me as I type . . . but I digress. Haven’t shaved in a week? Haven’t the time because of the boy! Living off takeaways when mommy isn’t around? Haven’t the time because of the boy! Reduced blogging activity? Haven’t the time because of the boy!

None of those things is fair. I could shave, cook and blog regularly if I were so inclined. However, it is fair to say that your priorities change, and while shaving and cooking remain important, spending money on a website, even the relatively trivial amount that self-hosting costs, does feel like an extravagance.

Therefore this is the last post (and chorus, do-do-do-do) on comeonthedeise.ie. I’ll be picking things up again on deiseach.wordpress.com. Thank you to Alpha Design for putting me up/up with me for the last four years, and hopefully we’ll see a few of you back on the other side.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by deiseach - December 31, 2014 at 7:09 am

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So many, many ways to feel miserable

It’s been a good couple of weeks for Waterford GAA, what with Modeligo and The Nire reaching their respective provincial finals, and Cappoquin winning theirs. It might not seem like much in the grander scheme of things but if the tweet I referenced last year was correct, i.e. that Ballysaggart’s three wins in the Munster championship were more than all previous entrants managed in the Junior competition’s entire history, then it’s definitely been a good couple of weeks for Waterford GAA. It’s an article of faith that the Intermediate and Junior competitions are far less competitive in Waterford than they would be in the larger counties, so any evidence of broadening the base of talent in the county is to be welcomed. As for the footballers, it’s always been a curious anomaly that a county with a robust infrastructure for the big ball game cannot even take on the best that Clare, Limerick and Tipperary have to offer with any confidence, let alone those hailing from Cork and Kerry. Add in a savage, if shameful, delight at The Nire taking the wind out of the sails of the supposed Invincibles of Cratloe, thus gaining a measure of revenge for their hurling win over Ballygunner, and it has been a very good couple of weeks for Waterford GAA.

I hope the fundamentals have changed. When Waterford teams of the past were going down like dominoes as soon as they crossed the Suir/Blackwater, it didn’t really matter because the first I’d know about it was reading a headline in the local papers or, if I was feeling particularly energetic, a single line in tiny font in the results section of the Monday national paper. In the days since Twitter went supernova (see top of post), it’s incredibly easy to keep tabs on the adventures of Waterford teams against mysterious rivals like Bruff, Ballylanders, Feohanagh-Castlemahon or Castlemartyr. Okay, not all rivals are that mysterious. Hammering away at the refresh button on my Twitter feed to see how The Nire were getting on against Cratloe was a surprisingly tense affair. It’s not The Nire I care about, it’s the Waterford team, and there are going to be six of the them at the various levels in each code to concern myself with. If this becomes habit-forming, and the fundamentals have not changed – the anomaly is the current run of competitiveness and we will soon see a reversion to the mean with frequent 20-point beatings for each of the respective county champions – then there’s going to be many a cold winter on Twitter ahead.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by deiseach - November 26, 2014 at 7:38 am

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With inexperience comes wisdom

When De La Salle had ‘3-3-1′ sewn onto their training tops during the 2012 county championship, each number respectively being the target they had set for the club to have won the county, Munster and All-Ireland title by the end of the season, it drew widespread scorn, scorn that seemed justified when they came up short in the Munster final. There was another story to that loss, but for lots of people the message would have been clear – after hubris comes nemesis.

After yesterday’s loss for Ballygunner at the hands of Cratloe in the Munster championship, I wonder whether we need to reappraise De La Salle’s cockiness. The Gunners are the undoubted kingpins of the county. You have to go all the way back to 1994 to find the last time that there were consecutive years where they didn’t make an appearance in the county final, and there is no doubt in my mind that their Munster title win in 2001/2 played a part in the loosening of the shackles on the county team in the years that followed. Which makes what I am about to say rather churlish, but I can only offer in my defence an assurance that what I say comes from a desire to see what is best for us all in general and Ballygunner as our representatives in particular.

For it is a harsh truth that Ballygunner have underachieved in the Munster/All-Ireland stakes. Thirteen times they have advanced to the Munster championship and only once have they seized the crown. You ‘d think that experience would count for something, but looking at the teams who have beaten Ballygunner in recent years it seems the opposite is the case. Cratloe have only won two Clare titles, in 2009 and this year. Na Piarsaigh of Limerick, Ballygunner’s conquerors in 2011, have also won only two titles – like De La Salle, those first two titles brought two Munster titles. Then there’s Newtownshandrum, who twice knocked out Ballygunner in the Noughties. Their purple patch of four Cork titles in that decade led to three Munster titles and an All-Ireland.

All of this suggests that the shock of the new may be a better pointer to success in the club provincial championships than the experience of the old. Perhaps Ballygunner’s ‘experience’ is weighing heavily on them. Can you imagine them trying to put ’14-2-1′ on their training tops next year? Please note that I really wanted Ballygunner to win yesterday,eagerly/ignorantly hammering the refresh button on my Twitter feed while out for a meal with my in-laws in Liverpool. But it gives me one more reason for my usually-annual list on who I would like to see win the county title – skipped this year; rearing the 2038 Liam McCarthy Cup-winning Waterford captain is proving to be rather hard – to hope that neither Ballygunner or Mount Sion (sixteen appearances in the Munster championship, two wins) land the county title.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by deiseach - October 27, 2014 at 9:41 am

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National Hurling League fixtures 2015

I’ve been quite sanguine about the reality of being relegated. There are still some decent games in there, and you think we’d be more likely to see a couple of wins than in the top flight. What was the worst that could happen? Well, we could only have two home games and the matches against Wexford and Limerick, the most obvious rivals for promotion, would both be away from home.

14/02/2015Division 1BLimerick venueWaterfordLimerick
21/02/2015Division 1BWaterford venueWaterfordLaois
08/03/2015Division 1BOffaly venueWaterfordOffaly
15/08/2015Division 1BWaterford venueWaterfordAntrim
22/03/2015Division 1BWexford venueWaterfordWexford

Oh dear . . .

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by deiseach - September 22, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Categories: Hurling, National League, Waterford   Tags:

Our summer of discontent

21 Waterford v Wexford 19 July 2014

Stephen Bennett is the symbol of all our hopes and fears for the recent past, present, and near-to-medium-term future of Waterford hurling.

Before looking at that click-baiting statement in more detail, let’s look at our current position. By any objective measure, Waterford went backwards in 2014. After being hot favourites for relegation in each of the previous years of the six-team division format in the National League, we fell through the trapdoor just when people were hesitant about tipping us to fall through the trapdoor because we kept on refusing to fall through the trapdoor. We went out at the same stage of the Senior championship, but there was a difference between the manner in which we nearly picked Kilkenny’s pocket in 2013 and how we clung on to the coattails of a Wexford team who would have been knackered after their efforts against Clare in the previous weeks in 2014. There were striking parallels between the efforts of the Minors over the two years – won a titanic Munster semi-final, lost to Limerick after a replay in the Munster final, went toe-to-toe with Kilkenny for 60 minutes – but while it was certainly a valiant effort, it was still a step backwards overall.

Although not half as big a step as the Under-21’s. While mulling this over, I had the thought that the loss to Cork this year was worse than the 2011 Munster final, worse than the 2008 All-Ireland final, worse than the 1998 Munster final replay. Now that it’s come to writing it, I realise that is ridiculous. However, in each of those cases we went into the game with modest expectations, and while we found we had much to be modest about it helped dull the pain. We also had events that followed that lifted the spirit: a homecoming for the ages in 2008 and thumping wins over Galway in 1998 and 2011. There was no such backlash in 2014 for the Under-21’s, merely the added dismay of watching Clare demonstrate that Cork really were no great shakes. It has been a bad year, and subsequent results have only made it feel worse.

So what has all this got to do with Stephen Bennett? Each of his interactions with the three panels spoke volumes about where we are at and where we are going. His absence from the Minor team could be reasonably said to have proven fatal to their chances. I can hear the chorus line telling me that every county has to face up to the loss of most of the Under-18’s each year, but I say it as a positive, not a negative. Despite losing so many players, Waterford still put up a great show. While one Munster title and one All-Ireland isn’t a spectacular return for our five Munster final appearances, it has been a period of high competitiveness in the province, with Clare and Limerick both winning titles as well as ourselves. Even in 2014 there is great satisfaction to be taken out of lowering the Banner on two occasions, showing that a county that has gotten it so right at underage level as to win three Under-21 Munster titles in a row is not able to live with us at Minor level. We are clearly doing something right ourselves – the chairman of the Wexford County Board said as much – and it should be something to be excited about.

Despite not being in the Minor panel then – in fact, precisely because he wasn’t – Stephen Bennett casts them in a good light. The problems start when you move to the levels where is eligible. The most alarming thing about the Under-21’s and the Seniors is how both seem to be following the same strategy, i.e. keeping possession at all costs, exemplified by the effective abandonment of the full-forward line. Derek McGrath and Peter Queally were rivals for the post of Senior manager last year, and Queally (in)famously had little preparation time with the Under-21 panel. Given that, it would have been reasonable to expect him to adopt very different policies with regard to the team. Instead we had the Waterford Under-21 team run out in a game where they were warm favourites and proceed to stink the place out with the defeatist mentality that had characterised the Seniors, culminating in the horror show which saw a short puck-out intercepted by Alan Cadogan to allow him to bury the tie, only moments after we had had our hopes raised when Cork were reduced to 14 men. It’s a sound idea, having integration between the various levels of the game. We seem to be sharing ideas between the worst-performing levels though, while the best one stands in glorious isolation.

Compounding all this was the curious use of Stephen Bennett – yep, I’m finally getting to the point. At half-time in the Under-21 game, my brother and I were casting our eyes over the panel when our collective short-sighted eyes squinted their way towards the name of Bennett on the bench. With Gleeson, Kevin Daly, and M’s Harney and Kearney all making the step-up from the All-Ireland winners, it was a surprise to see the star of the team on the bench. It’s always possible that he hadn’t impressed in training or was jaded after the long slog of a winter with Ballysaggart. But that wouldn’t explain why, when Waterford were seeking a Clark Kent to explode out of a phone box, it was Bennett to whom they turned. And as if the parallels in terms of strategies between the two adult panels were not enough, Bennett was also kept under wraps by Derek McGrath until the situation was at its most dire against Wexford. Both changes reeked of desperation, and it’s surely a bit unfair to heap so much pressure on those young shoulders. Successfully blending the new talent into the Senior panel is essential to our future, and in fairness the performances of Messrs Gleeson, de Búrca and Dunford suggest it’s not all doom and gloom on that score, but the first steps for Stephen Bennett have not been the stuff of inspiration.

The message from the last couple of years are clear. We’re going gangbusters at Minor level and making a total hash of it at Under-21 and Senior level. That’s where we’re at. Where are we going, and how can we get to where we want to get? That’s for another day.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by deiseach - August 28, 2014 at 7:10 am

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Waterford 2-15 (21) Wexford 3-15 (24)

I’ve seen this play before. A traditional hurling county, after a long period of underachievement, suddenly (to those not reading the signs) hits their stride. A raw young team engages in series of matches where they repeatedly dominate their opponents only to repeatedly struggle to put said opponents away. They thrill the neutral and energise their own county, so long used to mediocrity or worse. Yep, Wexford 2014 are comparable to Waterford 1998.

Where that leaves Waterford 2015 remains to be seen.

As a long-standing advocate of the back door, this game typified what is best about the system. It gives counties who rarely get the chance to play each other an opportunity to do so in a venue appropriate to the occasion. It was a real pleasure to see the stand full to the rafters at Nowlan Park. Such pleasure quickly evaporated when it became clear that the Wexford faithful outnumbered us by a factor of probably 3:1. A cynic might question the use of ‘faithful’ there as there can’t have been many of these people present this time last year in Thurles when each Wexford score when they ran Clare to extra-time – another play I’ve seen somewhere else – last year was greeted with barely a ripple. You might think that. I, on the other hand, couldn’t possibly comment.

06 Waterford v Wexford 19 July 2014

The early exchanges didn’t suggest that the Wexford support had called this one right as points were quickly exchanged between Shane Walsh and Podge Doran. What they did suggest was the Waterford support who had thrown their hat at it in exasperation at the tactics being employed by Derek McGrath and co were justified as the short puckouts that were such a blight on the midweek game against the Cork Under-21’s were quickly in evidence and quickly causing grief as Wexford pounced on the looseness for Paul Morris to slot over.  A cheap free won from a sideline ball allowed Pauric Mahony to level matters but Wexford, while occasionally guilty of over-elaboration, were getting possession and over-elaboration isn’t so bad when it leads to a score as it did for a fine effort by Conor McDonald. Waterford were already having to shoot on sight to compensate for the all-too-frustrating lack of bodies in the full-forward line, Austin Gleeson slashing aimlessly at one effort from distance while Mahony was unlucky to see an even longer effort also go wide.

Not that Wexford were immune to poor shooting. History tells us that it’s a curse down there, and it was well punished by Waterford as Jake Dillon did land one from distance. Wexford worked another point for McDonald and then had all the time in the world to put Paul Morris in the clear for simple tap-In goal. It was sign of the alarm in the Waterford ranks that when Colin Dunford’s great solo run ended in him being hauled down for a penalty, there was never any question that Waterford should go for anything other than goal. We were surely going to need it. Gleeson’s effort was poor, visible even from the other end of the ground, and it felt like a good result that it was knocked out for a 65 which Mahony duly converted. Not long afterwards Shane Walsh was called ashore. Given the litany of injuries he has had, one wonders whether we have seen the last of him, which added another downbeat layer to our papier-maché model of misery.

23 Waterford v Wexford 19 July 2014 Action 1

While Wexford were cocky – their fans around us seemed so, at least – and Waterford’s negativity was given our support gas, the game had yet to ignite. If Wexford couldn’t ram home their advantage then Waterford still had a chance. There was a glimmer of a chance on the break for Waterford which led to a Wexford back committing a professional foul rather than let anything in and Mahony was able to reduce the gap. Then Liam Lawlor went on a fine run but his pass to Jake Dillon asked way too much of him and Wexford were able to clear. The next Wexford attack was immensely frustrating for Waterford, repeatedly spurning chances to clear and Wexford were eventually able to score and keep the goal lead. It was only at this point that the penny dropped with me that Michael Walsh was playing in the midfield and Kevin Moran at centre-back. There’s me complaining all year about dodgy line-ups and then I miss a move like this. What was it in aid of? It wasn’t wrong in the style of playing Walsh at full-back in the 2011 Munster final, but it didn’t add to the team, akin to swapping your bishops before a chess game. It could have been either player who teed up Mahony with a super break, and it could have been any one of the Waterford forwards who shot weakly wide.

It did indicate a way out for Waterford though – stop shooting from distance, start having the backs and midfield get forward and squeezing the Wexford backs who were having it so easy up to this point. Getting more in their faces allowed Gleeson to pounce on a loose ball to cut the gap to one,  then he benefited from a run from deep by Shane Fives to slot over another score to level matters. It required a lot of the backs, something that would be significant later, but for the moment it was an amazingly quick turnaround, especially when a Mahony free left Waterford ahead, almost completely against the run of the play in the first half hour. A stunning long-range shot from Dillon showed Waterford were now on top.

11 Waterford v Wexford 19 July 2014

This is probably unfair on the management, but it looked as if it were the players, particularly Walsh and Moran, who had wrought this change, talent reacting to changing circumstances. Wexford got one back but Walsh and Moran immediately combined to release Gleeson for another score. You could see Waterford tails were now up, Noel Connors making life miserable for Liam Óg McGovern and forcing him to hit a poor wide. The capacity for self-destruction was still there though for Waterford. The ref picked up on a jersey tug when it seemed like Wexford were going nowhere, and Waterford literally put most of the team back on the line for the free so Wexford were happy to take the point. That was as nothing compared to those goddamn bloody insane maddening short puckouts, and Waterford were once again caught out to allow Wexford to level matters.  Then again, what was the point of hitting the ball long when Gleeson, upon winning the puckout, had to go backwards to the corner-back? There’s only so many times you can drive forward like Waterford were doing and right at the end of the first half, disaster struck. I was convinced that Lawlor had his hurley tugged as he approached the dropping ball. Whether it was that or a moment of lost concentration, Wexford were right in around the back and Conor McDonald could score with ease. Now it was Wexford’s turn to have their tails up, and we had reason to be grateful for a couple of shocking wides that there was just a goal in it at half-time.

We had had our moments, but could we get goals? There were hopeful signs in the early exchanges in the second half, Matthew O’Hanlon brilliantly cutting out a long pass in the first attack and Dillon hesitating when he had a small opening and was blocked by several defenders who managed to get back. Wexford showed no such hesitation at the other end as Doran lashed a puckout straight over the bar, then David Redmond galloped down the middle of the field unopposed to drill home Wexford’s third goal.

What a shambles. Surely the benefit of being negative is that you don’t have to worry about being sliced up like that? I was seriously worried at this stage that this was going to be a complete bust, and had Wexford scored with their next effort on goal it might well have done, but O’Keeffe somehow flung himself to his left to keep out the goalbound effort. Two changes immediately after a poor Mahony wide from a free, including the obvious arrival of Seamus Prendergast, showed the sense of desperation. It had the desired effect though. Mahony got one from a free and then Waterford managed to get that elusive goal. It was a cracking piece of play from Kevin MoRAN, as the presenter on Sky Sports News would refer to him, playing a pinpoint ball across to Dunford to score. Seamus teed up Gleeson to trim the gap to two, and after Wexford hit a 65 Dunford really gave them a right kick in the crotch, emerging with the ball after a magnificent pileup in the square and unbelievably we were ahead.

24 Waterford v Wexford 19 July 2014 Action 2

What an effort, but that was the thing – the effort. Are Waterford not prepared properly, or are they not good enough to the extent that they had to burn through 70 minutes of energy to keep in touch after 50? Wexford reacted quickly with two points to regain the lead, the first of the efforts a goalbound effort that was deflected over for a goal. Dunford kept up the good fight by drawing a foul, but Mahony could only send another free wide.

At the other end Noel Connors was left exposed and had to give away a foul. This drew a yellow card from the ref and rather crass cheers from the Wexford fans. Anything I say about the Wexford fans will be dismissed as sour grapes, and that’s the reader’s prerogative. The huge Wexford crowd was part of the story here though, so I think I’m entitled to some latitude. There sure is something to be said for the wisdom of crowds, and the size of the Wexford one told us that they could see something was a-brewing with this team, which is great after so many years in the doldrums. Still, did they have to bring everyone in the county who had never attended a GAA match? It seemed like every wide was greeted with a big cheer, a breach of rule number one: don’t celebrate the score until you see the green/white flag. Was I imagining all this? Possibly, although the loon who had been necking a bottle of Jägermeister throughout the game picked up on it too, yelling “YEESS!” at a particularly inappropriate time to chuckles from everyone around. He did it again moments later. There were no laughs. Tough crowd.

16 Waterford v Wexford 19 July 2014

Such blather prevents me from facing up to the reality. It was a one score game, but Waterford were shot. Wexford stretched the lead to three when a sniff of a chance was pounced on by corner-back Liam Ryan who roared down the field to set up the point and lift every yellow belly in the ground, veteran and ingénue alike. Stephen Molumphy showed the benefit of fresh legs with a flying score, but it was going to take something improbable to save us. Stephen Bennett certainly fits into the subset of those capable of the improbable and he came on just as he had in the Under-21 game, so much pressure on such young shoulders.

A little luck also helps, as the ref played a ridiculous advantage when Wexford would probably have looked for the free and the ‘advantage’ ended up hitting the outside of the post. We were going to need oodles of it, and got some more when O’Keeffe stepped past a dropping ball and the defence somehow kept it out. Even more luck came in the form of some abysmal Wexford shooting. The game had completely broken down at this stage and it meant that there was a slim chance we could pick their pocket.  Molumphy and Bennett each had half-chances but Wexford managed to close them down and force the wide. As the game ticked into the last couple of minutes Bennett had better than half a chance, but Ryan was there again to block and clear. A late chance to drop it in drifted wide and with that they finally got to the finish line with us still clinging to their coattails.

Seven minutes into the second half and seven points down, I really feared a pounding like we had endured against Cork. It didn’t happen, and for that we have reason to be relieved. The loss to Cork at Under-21 was far more grievous. And while I couldn’t help having a wry cut at Wexford above, it was gratifying to see them enjoying a win over Waterford with such gusto. We ain’t dead yet. We might be soon, but we ain’t dead yet.

21 Waterford v Wexford 19 July 2014

Waterford: Stephen O’Keeffe,  Shane Fives, Liam Lawlor (Stephen Bennett), Noel  Connors, Darragh Fives, (Stephen Molumphy, 0-1), Kevin Moran, Tadhg de Búrca, Michael Walsh (capt), Paudie Prendergast, Shane O’Sullivan, Pauric Mahony (0-7, 0-6f, 0-1 65; Martin O’Neill), Austin Gleeson (0-3), Colin Dunford (2-1), Shane Walsh (0-1; Gavin O’Brien), Jake Dillon (0-2; Seamus Prendergast)

Wexford : Mark Fanning, Liam Ryan, Matthew O’Hanlon (capt), Keith Rossiter (Willie Devereux; Ian Byrne, 0-1),  Andrew Shore, Eoin Moore, Ciarán Kenny,  David Redmond (1-0; Garrett Sinnott), Lee Chin, Paul Morris (1-6, 0-3f), Podge Doran (0-2), Harry Kehoe (Diarmuid O’Keeffe, 0-1)  Jack Guiney (0-1), Conor McDonald (1-2), Liam Óg McGovern (0-2; Rory Jacob)

HT: Waterford 0-12 (12) Wexford 2-9 (15)

Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork)

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by deiseach - July 21, 2014 at 10:40 pm

Categories: All-Ireland, Hurling, Match Reports, Waterford   Tags: ,

Waterford v Wexford, 19 July 2014

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by deiseach - at 8:46 pm

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Counsel of despair

Among all the Senior, Minor and Under-21 Championship & National League matches that I have seen Waterford play live, last Wednesday’s Under-21 loss to Cork was the most disappointing result of the lot.

It’s often said that Waterford perform at their best when they are underdogs. This is despite us usually losing games where we are underdogs because, well, it’s correctly assumed before the game that we’re not as good as the opposition. What people mean when they say we perform better as underdogs is that the tag of favourites brings with it expectations that are very hard for Waterford to fulfill. And against Cork, that hit us with a vengeance. A combination of factors before the game suggested this might be Waterford’s day after four successive first-game knockouts at Under-21 level. We were at home, we had shown last year against Clare that we could compete at this level against the eventual All-Ireland champions, and we had a formidable combination of players with Senior experience and Minor All-Ireland-winning flair. To hell with the tag of underdogs, the time had come to embrace the tag of favourites and play like it.

Now there was a plan of battle that didn’t survive contact with the enemy. The worst thing is that the enemy was the one within. The first half showed that Waterford could certainly compete on a man-to-man basis. The outstanding performer on the field was Alan Cadogan, but this was not unexpected. Austin Gleeson wasn’t far behind and the Waterford backs were well on top. So on top that we were wondering why they felt the need to play with such a defensive lineup. Yep, in an example of that BS phrase so beloved of management gurus, Waterford were engaging in some vertical integration between Senior and Under-21 levels. Forwards dropping off to win possession and playing short passes around the back to keep that possession. Most players were competing well, the depredations of Cadogan being the exception and sometimes you have to accept your punishment in the manner other teams had to cope with John Mullane. It felt like gilding the lily to persist with these tactics when simply trusting the players seemed a more optimal plan.

And in one horrible second-half minute the gap between the expectations generated by the talent on the field and the reality of their application was brutally exposed.  In fairness the game was probably already slipping away by the time Cork went down to 14 men, the umpires spotting a straight-red swipe on Gleeson. There was a five-point gap with only 18 minutes to go and Waterford hadn’t shown enough of a goal threat to suggest they might turn that around. But having seen the game against Clare last year slip away thanks to a red card, here was a reason to hope we might be the beneficiaries of such a decision this year. Cue the bad karma of that short passing game, particularly the evil of the short puckouts. Goalie hits the ball to back, back has his pass across the field intercepted, Cork pounce for a goal, the optimism generated by the red card is immediately snuffed out, and a county that have played in five provincial Minor finals in six years finds itself unable to produce a result at Under-21 level for the fifth year on the bounce.

The despair in Walsh Park was palpable, something you can see in the bleakness on boards.ie. It can’t have been a coincidence that both Derek McGrath and Peter Queally are adopting this dispiriting, demoralising, and borderline unforgivable mode of play. Barring an astonishing volte-face on the part of management, one for which Wednesday night is evidence of why it should happen and evidence of why it won’t, Waterford are going to go through the same motions tonight. Set against stories of Wexford selling out their (stand) allocation, we have veterans like Giveitfong talking of not going for fear of what might befall us thanks to the “crazy and self-destructive tactics”. I’ll be there, but after Wednesday night hope is on life support.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by deiseach - July 19, 2014 at 8:08 am

Categories: All-Ireland, Hurling, Waterford   Tags: , , , ,

Waterford 2-17 (23) Limerick 3-14 (23) – Minor – Giveitfong’s view

(originally posted on boards.ie)

This Waterford minor hurling team should be called the “Comeback Kids”, as in each of their games to date they have saved the day with a late scoring surge. However, if they have any ambitions of winning titles they will have to produce more consistent high intensity throughout their games.

In the first game against Clare they played second fiddle for 50 minutes and if Clare’s shooting hadn’t been so wayward they would have been out of sight before Waterford finally roused themselves. In the second game against Clare Waterford were played off the pitch by 14 men for 20 minutes in the second half but the lead they had built up in the first half meant that Clare were within reach when the late surge came.

Yesterday in Cork they were seven points behind when the surge began, but it still took a goal in injury time to get the draw. If Limerick had converted even half of their nine second-half wides there would have been no way back. While the overall wide count was similar for both sides (Limerick 11; Waterford 10) a lot of Waterford’s six first-half wides resulted from balls being overhit with wind assistance and running harmlessly out over the end line – in other words they were not clearcut scoring chances like the ones Limerick missed.

Waterford have shown in patches in all three games that they can play excellent hurling. However, they have to gain possession first, and that has been their problem. At half-time yesterday I said to my companions that Waterford had the hurlers but not the required intensity. Limerick were sharper, more alert and quicker off the mark all over the field. They were also more physical both in tackling and taking tackles.

However, when the alarm bells started ringing with ten minutes to go, Waterford finally raised their game and took control all over the field. It may be that Waterford were simply fitter, but my own guess is that, due to their earlier lack of application, they had more left in the tank in the closing stages while Limerick’s earlier exertions left them unable to contain the Waterford surge.

The Waterford defence also seemed to be upset by the constant interchanging of the Limerick forwards and at times the players did not seem sure who was supposed to be marking whom. There was also a lot of confusion over puckouts, several of which went straight to unmarked Limerick players. Waterford players were making runs expecting balls which never came. There also seemed to be a concentration in the second half on hitting puckouts to Shane Bennett which wasn’t working out (just as there was an overconcentration on targetting Cormac Curran against Clare in Dungarvan which also did not work as it was too predictable).

Last year Limerick unexpectedly moved their freetaker Ronan Lynch from full forward to centre back for the replayed Munster final and it proved a master move as Lynch was the dominant figure in the Limerick victory. While Lynch also played at centre back in this year’s semi-final against Cork and was named in this position for the final, he actually played in midfield where again he had a major influence on the game, scoring three points from play.

I thought Waterford’s decision to start two physically small players with similar styles (Darragh Lyons and Andy Molumby) in midfield was the wrong mix – even though both players did a lot of good work – and Conor Gleeson seemed to have a substantial impact when he was switched to the midfield area.

However, the key switch was that which brought Cormac Curran to full forward midway through the second half. Curran actually started at full forward but was unable to gain possession from several high balls which were sent in to him, and he was then switched out to wing forward where he improved somewhat but was still not imposing himself on the game.

I have always felt that full forwards actually do better when playing against the wind as the incoming ball holds up giving the target recipient more of a chance to get in position to challenge for it (and even if the ball is missed it is not inclined to run over the end line). When Curran did move back to the edge of the square he did really well in gaining possession or otherwise causing panic in the opposing rearguard. He scored the goal which launched the comeback. Although he missed the high incoming ball, Patrick Curran was right behind him and did really well when he dived to get hold of the bouncing ball near the ground and then hand-pass back to the inrushing Cormac who finished to the net.

Patrick Curran got his injury in this incident when his marker fell on him, driving his knee into Curran’s back. First reports indicate that the injury is not severe, and hopefully he will be okay for the replay.

Cormac Curran then set up the equalising goal when he superbly flicked an incoming ball to Shane Ryan on his right, with the team captain finishing expertly to the net. Cormac had previously been unlucky when, after Shane Bennett’s 20 metre free was blocked out, he got a great flick on the loose ball only for someone on the line to somehow keep it out. Bennett, who played amazingly well given his recent hand injury, deserves great credit for the way he nailed a late free from out on the right sideline (after Patrick Curran got injured) to reduce the deficit to three points paving the way for Shane Ryan’s equalising goal.

While the overall team performance was rather uneven, I thought that Michael Cronin did well at left corner back and Colm Roche had a good second half at centre back. Andy Molumby, Peter Hogan and Aaron O’Sullivan all paid their way with two points apiece. For the replay I would be inclined to move Shane Bennett back to wing back where he was so effective last year. I think Eddie Meaney is due a start in the half forward line, perhaps with Conor Gleeson moving to midfield and Darragh Lyons to centre forward (with a roving role). Meaney could also come in at midfield, where he did well in a recent challenge against Dublin.

There is a lot of quality in this team and they definitely have what it takes to win the replay, but they need to hit the ground running and to stay running right to the end.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Giveitfong - July 15, 2014 at 5:52 am

Categories: Hurling, Match Reports, Waterford   Tags: , ,

A week is a long time etc

How good are Wexford? It’s a question that throws up a lot of variables after their thrilling 180-minute brawl with Clare. The amount of times they had to go to the well and still came out ahead of the All-Ireland champions tells us that this was no fluke. They are back-to-back Leinster Under-21 winners for a reason, and will take some beating next Saturday.

On other hand . . . what the hell was that?! When Waterford were trying to make the breakthrough back in the late 90’s, it often felt like we needed to be four or five points better than the opposition just to break even. Wexford’s performance against Clare was this mentality turned up to 11. In both matches they found themselves with twin advantages that you’d normally expect to be decisive, ten points and a man up in the first game in Ennis and two men up yesterday in Wexford, and on neither occasion could they make those advantages stick. Even the satisfaction of finally getting over the line having played 15 v 15 in extra time should be tempered by the reality that the Clare dirty baker’s dozen were really dirty, really knackered after a quite Herculean second half had seen them somehow cling on to Wexford’s coattails. Liam Dunne routinely displayed a curious contempt for Waterford in his newspaper column over the years, always seeing us a soft touch to anyone looking for a morale-boosting win. Having dispatched the All-Ireland champions Wexford will be favourites, but if Derek McGrath isn’t drumming into his panel that these guys are more brittle than a poppadom lacework, he’s not doing his job right.

Before then, we have the underage teams attempting to keep alive the dream of the last county who have a chance of winning an All-Ireland hurling treble, a statement that manages to be both totally factual and utterly meaningless at the same time. For the second year running the Minors enter the lions den of a match against a Limerick team who will be bolstered by the presence of a large contingent following their Seniors. It’s always hard to predict with Minors, the teams being so different from one year to the next, but that quasi-home advantage still applies and the sense of injustice that is surely still smouldering in Limerick over the Hawk-Eye debacle can also be transmitted from one set of young fellas to the next. While the day has not yet arrived where we can blasé about a Munster underage title – seven hurling cups in our entire history – the fact that defeat today wouldn’t be the end of the road does take the edge off proceedings. More interesting is the prospect of a tilt at the Under-21 title. Having given the eventual Munster and All-Ireland champions the biggest rattle they received last year, and with the chance to incorporate a smattering of last year’s Minors, is it too much to hope for that we might get it right after such a woeful record in recent times? Probably, but that won’t stop me hoping.

A final thought before the trouble begins. In order to clear the decks for televised coverage of the Clare-Tipperary semi-final, the Under-21’s of Waterford and Cork were initally due to play on Thursday. This meant the game was only two days before the Seniors were due to play Wexford. In a shocking outbreak of cop-on, the Under-21 match was brought forward 24 hours. You can imagine that, if they had been so inclined, Cork could have made it very difficult for this change to take place, a change that obviously benefited Waterford. Fair play to them for their sense of fair play. And that’s the last time you’ll ever read me saying that.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by deiseach - July 13, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Categories: All-Ireland, Hurling, Waterford   Tags: , , , , ,

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