A few years back I found myself in the surprising position of having to account for something that I had written, surprising because normally no sod reads any of it. This came about when I wrote a rather snotty report on the experience of watching Waterford United take on Roy Keane’s Ipswich Town in a friendly. While it was easy to be dismissive of the offensive comments and the abuse I got on BTID at the time, it was more difficult to do so with the response of FootballPress, a League of Ireland blogger around the time (his site is no longer accessible). He noted that the gist of my argument was that I’d have enjoyed myself had the surroundings been as plush as Anfield and the passing ability on show been to the level of Xabi Alonso. Harsh, but fair.
Now I find myself in a similar position after my thoughts on the abandonment of the Tramore v Bonmahon game on Friday evening seemed to strike a chord on Twitter. Unlike with the aforementioned Blues article, nobody went into meltdown at some event junkie blow-in passing comment on what was happening at a level of sport where everyone, unlike the ponces used to games at Anfield/Croke Park, was dedicated to keeping it real. The objections centred on two issues:
- The ref, who turned up fifteen minutes late, completely lost the plot. Abandoning any game after only three minutes is crazy.
It would have been helpful for the purposes of full disclosure had I noted that the game had started late. When the game threw in at 7.45pm, I immediately discounted it as the kind of thing that happens all the time at games not shackled by the need to satisfy television advertisers. I overheard after the game that he had been late because he had not finished an underage match taking place on the lower field. Whatever it was, you could conceivably make the argument that players were frustrated waiting for the throw-in, so the ref should have shown more discretion when the game erupted as it did. On balance, I don’t find this convincing. Players were not hanging around shivering in driving wind and rain. This was a reasonably pleasant early summer evening, ideal for hurling. They hadn’t been sitting in the dressing room getting increasingly agitated or whipped into a frenzy by a hostile crowd. There was no excuse for the instant outbreak of hostilities at the throw-in and the players would do well to accept responsibility for their own actions rather than deflecting it onto the beleaguered official. The radio silence from both clubs – at the time of writing there is no reference to the truncated game on the website or Twitter feed of either club – suggests they’re not comfortable talking about it either.
- These kind of bust-ups happen at Senior level too, so why pick on Junior hurling?
I had made the observation at the start of the post that I was fancying myself as Mr Waterford Sport for schlepping around venues as diverse as the RSC, Fraher Field, and now Tramore. It was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but in the few paragraphs it took to get to the bottom of the post I think I was starting to believe my own rhetoric, haughtily sneering at the contrast between the elan displayed by the likes of John Mullane and Kevin Moran the previous weekend and the club-wielding Neanderthals at Junior level. This was unfair. Brawls are hardly unheard of at the upper echelons of the game, a point reinforced by scenes at the Ballygunner-Roanmore game the following evening:
Appalling scenes at Walsh Park where all 30 players (Ballygunner/Roanmore) got involved in an early scuffle. No-one sent off.
In short, I’m not sorry for thinking the antics of the two teams at the Tramore-Bonmahon game were ridiculous. I am sorry for thinking this was somehow endemic to the Junior game. Now can we all be friends, like I am with the Blue ‘Til I Die crew?
(Update 13/5/13: follow-up article here.)
Last weekend one of my brothers had the bright idea of heading down to Dungarvan to see De La Salle play Ballyduff Upper in the county championship. We got to see two of the better club sides in the county – quite possibly in the country – serve up a tight affair which was in doubt until the last few minutes. It was hard but it was fair and we were able to watch the game without any of the stress that comes with being a partisan observer. Throw in a balmy early summer evening and the oft-charming surroundings of Fraher Field and it was well worth €10 of anyone’s money.
Having also taken in the Blues at the RSC the previous evening, another frustrating late goal denying us all three points against Longford Town, I was beginning to fancy myself as Mr Waterford Sport so when I saw on Twitter that Tramore were playing Bonmahon in the Junior county championship, it seemed like a very bright idea to go down and check it out.
Having negotiated the entrance to the pitch, where I seriously wondered whether the GAA in its wisdom might insist that every club game of any description should have a €10 entry fee, my Tramore-based brother and I settled down on pitchside cackling about how we’d probably have our heads taken off by a flying hurley. The brother, a decent player in his day (Sonny Walsh Cup winner) expressed his belief that he would never have been cut out for the rough-and-tumble of what we were about to see.
This would turn out to be prophetic. Within the first minute one Tramore player got caught on the head with a hurley, then the Tramore centre-back took a wild hack when his opponent had put his hand down to pick up the ball. As the ref was trying to sort this out an almighty ruck broke out in the middle of the field. This was serious sabre-dancing, two players giving each other forests of timber. Had there been linesmen both would have been red-carded but there was no way the lone official could tell who had done what so he handed out a lecture and left it at that. The next flashpoint saw the Bonmahon centre-back plough into Tramore’s advancing corner-forward, a purely cynical tackle on a player half his size that caused the ref to snap. “None of ye want to play the game, so just forget about it”, he said and marched off towards the dressing room with the demeanour of a man who wanted to tuck his hand into the breast of his uniform.
It looks mad 24 hours after the event that the ref would abandon the game after just three minutes, so it’s important to emphasise how correct it felt at the time. You could understand, while not approving of, a game descending into anarchy as events unfolded. Conditions are poor, decisions are contentious, tempers fray, and all hell breaks loose. But this was two teams going at each other right from the throw-in, red of tooth and claw. And it wasn’t as if this was the Gaelic games equivalent of Galatasaray v Fenerbahce or Al Ahly v Zamalek. Tramore v Bonmahon, for Christ’s sake! If the coaches were sending out their teams with fiery speeches about socking it to that shower a few miles up the coast then they need to be locked up for the safety of the entire populace.
I’m guessing this game isn’t typical of Junior club hurling. An old school friend I spoke to after the game didn’t seen to think it was. Still, it’s irritating to see a pernicious stereotype about the GAA, that (to paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield) you would go to a boxing match and a hurling game might break out, being given form in such a dispiriting fashion. If it is typical, I think I’ll stick with games where there are multiple All Stars on the field.
Prior to this game I reckoned that even though the Clare/Cork first round game was a close and high-scoring affair, this did not mean that the teams were any good. While minor teams can blow hot and cold, Clare certainly looked a poor team last night, or at least were made to look poor by a Waterford team which played with a lot of confidence.
Waterford also had a lot of big men playing well in key positions. Clare, like Wexford, don’t seem to be producing any big players these days. They found it difficult to penetrate the strong Waterford half back line and, while it looked early on that their full forward (their one really big-sized player) might cause some problems, the threat never materialised.
After the sides swapped a couple of early points, Waterford established a hold on the game in the 10th minute when a long ball in from midfield broke behind the Clare defence and full forward Conor Gleeson was on to it in a flash, driving past his marker to finish strongly to the net.
With Cormac Curran winning ball after ball and Austin Gleeson lording it at centre back, Waterford were the dominant team but missed some good chances and, with the aid of the stiff breeze, Clare were just able to stay in touch, going in at half time 1-10 to 0-8 down.
Waterford got the perfect start to the second half when Adam Farrell flighted an excellent sideline across the face of the Clare goalmouth where corner forward Michael Kearney, standing on the end line, did really well to bat the ball down for Cormac Curran to drill first-time to the net.
Waterford followed up with two points but Clare then upped their game and began to win a lot of ball around midfield. They did tack on two points and if they had managed to get a goal at this stage who knows how the game would have developed.
Waterford introduced Stephen Bennett (looking somewhat overweight) in the 40th minute and three minutes later he blasted a penalty to the net after Patrick Curran was taken down going through. This put Waterford into a 3-13 to 0-10 lead.
Patrick Curran was unlucky not to raise a green flag himself when his shot after a great solo run was well saved by the Clare goalkeeper. Waterford added three more points and then produced the coup de grace in the 55th minute when Curran’s super pass allowed the inrushing Bennett to leave the defence in his wake and slip the ball expertly to the net.
The Waterford goalkeeper got little enough to do in general play, but his puckouts lacked length and were very unpredictable in terms of trajectory and where they landed. Given Waterford’s ability to win ball in the air around midfield, they really need reliable and predictable puckouts for maximum effectiveness.
The Waterford fullback Sam O’Neill (who also looks overweight) looked a bit vulnerable to low incoming ball early on but made a couple of great high catches late in the game as Clare resorted to route one in search of goals. In the right corner William Hahessy did fine but in the other corner Barry Whelan seemed to lack confidence and focus.
Austin Gleeson gave a powerful performance, especially in the second half while Tom Devine to his right, back in his favourite wing back position, was also excellent. On the other flank, Shane Bennett made some great runs out of defence in the second half, but he still allowed the man he was marking, Bobby Duggan, to notch 1-2 from play.
Playing at left half forward, Cormac Curran gave an exhibition of ball winning and good control (especially for such a big man). It beggars belief that he did not start in the game against Tipperary, especially given his performances for Dungarvan Colleges and Dungarvan CBS. His point in the first half, when he grabbed a Waterford puckout and drove the ball over the bar against the wind from midfield, was a highlight of the game.
On the other wing Adam Farrell had a very good first half, scoring three points, but seemed to fade out after the change of ends. In the inside line, Patrick Curran gave another sublime exhibition of skill, pace and score-taking, finish with five points from play, while in the other corner Michael Kearney also played superbly, with three points to his credit.
A further encouraging feature of this game was the impression made by the substitutes. Stephen Bennett bagged two goals, Christy Breathnach landed a great long-range point with his first touch, and Kevin Daly made an instant impact when brought in at corner back. DJ Foran (surprisingly a non-starter) won the ball repeatedly following his introduction, and better shooting would have given him a better return than the one point which he did manage.
Ten different players contributed to the Waterford score. Interestingly, Waterford got no points from frees, due simply to the fact that Clare committed no fouls within scoring distance (apart from the penalty concession). By contrast, Bobby Duggan converted five frees for Clare (and missed a couple more). The media made a thing of the fact that Duggan was the only scorer for Clare from the third minute on, but most of his scores came from frees which were mostly earned by other Clare players.
Okay, I did not see that coming.
We have an okay record against Clare at Minor level – after last night it’s Played 21 Won 9 Lost 12 – but on only two occasions in the past have we really gone medieval on their asses, a 23-point win in 1968 and a 28-point win in *cough* 1948.
That’s a slightly random observation, so how’s about this for a more telling, but still cheerful, statistic. The Minors have managed to win at least one game in each of the last five seasons. You could argue that plenty of teams in the past might have won games had they received a second chance having lost to Tipperary, but it demonstrates how competitive we’ve been in that time. Not once in the last five years have we had a fill-yer-boots win over Kerry, and second chances are only useful if you have the capacity to take advantage of them – between 2003 and 2007 we played at least two matches a year but only won two out of twelve, one of them a facile win over (natch) Kerry. When we got clobbered by Tipperary last year you couldn’t help but wonder whether this glorious era for Waterford underage hurling – and I don’t think that is too strong a term – was coming to an end. I know everything could come undone against Cork at the end of June, but for now let’s luxuriate in the thought that the answer is ‘no. Mmm, 1948 . . .
Having despaired at where football finds itself in my last post, it’s probably only fair to give a point of view that shows the beautiful game in a positive light, something that I find easy after this weekend for reasons that have nothing to do with Liverpool pounding Newcastle United into a fine powder on Saturday. Okay, it’s partially why I feel more cheerful about the game, but what impressed me most about the sport came on Friday night as I followed the exploits of Waterford United against Finn Harps on FlashScores.co.uk.
Some might find it curious how since the opening night of the season against Harps I’ve managed to come up with some reason not to visit the RSC, whether it being out of the country (Athlone), having other plans (Cobh), or the sheer inconvenience of the game being staged on a Saturday night (Mervue), but this is a positive post so take your negativity elsewhere, right? Besides, they’ll all be back in town soon enough. It was while keeping tabs on Waterford’s efforts on Friday night that it struck me how improbable it all was. Not the late winner, this was the third time in four games that the Blues got the winning goal in the last 20 minutes. No, it was following events on a website also featuring scores from places as diverse as Cameroon and Uzbekistan. When you consider that even the club had no-one to keep people posted about the scoreline on their Twitter feed, it’s incredible that the good people of FlashScores.co.uk were sufficiently public-spirited to give us the good news of Paidi Quinn’s late winner.
And if you believe they’re doing it as a public service, I’ve got a certain East River-based road span for you to buy. During the match each game is awash with calls to BET!BET!BET! using graphics so psychedelic that they would have made a teenager back in the Geocities era pause for thought. Despite the ‘.co.uk’ in the title, it seems unlikely that the results feed from Ballybofey bothers too many punters in Britain. Any interest is likely to emanate from gambling-obsessed south-east Asia, and anyone who read the article in the Christmas 2011 edition of The Economist outlining how corrupt football is in China would do well to be concerned by the possible impact such interest might have on the domestic game.
Some people will argue that any interest is nice. On a less flippant note, the League of Ireland certainly doesn’t feel bent. The two teams may have generated more heat than light in their fixture on the opening day, but it all looked and felt totally above board, 22 players trying their hardest to win because, well, that’s what they do. When Mervue came to the RSC at the tail end of last season the match was a dead rubber for them, but they kept trying because that’s how footballers are wired. They want to win every game. It’s to the credit of the sport, and definitely a reason for giving it further support.
Of course when Longford Town scored a 93rd-minute winner against Salthill Devon on Saturday night, it was clearly the work of the Triads. Someone call Interpol.
What a depressing weekend. While Waterford United were trying and failing to break down 10-man Cobh Ramblers, Seán Maguire was getting off the mark for West Ham United. That’s the West Ham ‘development squad’, and the juxtapositioning of Maguire’s exploits on his first start for the Hammers against the travails of his former club is a poignant one. And by ‘poignant’, I mean it’s a proper pain in the arse. While nostalgia for sport in days of yore must always navigate the rapids of racism, homophobia, misogyny and indentured servitude, you have to wonder at a modern-day system that has a club like West Ham able to keep a talent like Maguire in the cold storage that is the Under-21 League, a competition with precisely zero history, while the Blues can only ponder on what might have been.
This isn’t to criticise Maguire for taking the soup. It’s an expression of exasperation at a system that will go through dozens of Seáni Maguires on the off-chance that they might produce one player capable of performing at the highest level, and the levels lower down can go to Hell, aka the Airtricity League First Division. Watching the preview of the recent Ireland-Austria game, we saw highlights of another 2-2 draw between the countries back in 1968. It showed Eamon Dunphy crossing the ball for Johnny Giles to strike a shot against the post, and the rebound was tucked away by . . . Alfie Hale. I don’t think my wife believed that the man whose name is above the door of a pub on Main Street in Tramore had played football at the highest level, yet here it was in (grainy) black and white. The contrast with Maguire’s career path is stark. Hale would have gone to Aston Villa with the intention of making a stab at the first team and when it didn’t work out he went to other clubs where he was a success before returning to Waterford. Quite apart from the improbability of Maguire ever returning to Suirside, it would be much less galling to see him playing in the lower divisions in England than in some makey-uppy league that no-one cares about and will probably be dispensed with come the next round of meddling to try to produce a system where English youngsters can pass the ball to each other.
As if that wasn’t enough, we then had the utterly mental sight of Luis Suarez biting Branislav Ivanovic. Even writing those words, it doesn’t seem possible that anyone other than a hyperactve child fueled up on on Coke and Wham bars would be engaging in this kind of behaviour. In the week which saw the death of Anne Williams, someone who paid the heaviest price imaginable for someone’s interest in Liverpool FC, it’s demoralising to see an employee of the club lower himself in such a fashion. Only once in the past have I thought that supporting Liverpool wasn’t worth it, when Craig Bellamy attacked John Arne Riise with a golf club, an act that caused me to wonder why I’d put my happiness in the hands of someone so juvenile. Okay, you might have children, but at least they grow up. Yet how do you put manners on someone who is rich enough not to care?
What the cases of Messrs Maguire and Suarez show is how football is governed by the economics of the madhouse. West Ham can afford to take players away from the likes of the Blues without a second thought. Just another brick in the wall. At the other end of the scale, Liverpool can’t afford to get shot of Luis Suarez, not just because he’s the best player at the club, but because he’s a £20+ million asset. If they were to try to sell him, every club would realise that he is damaged goods and offer peanuts as a transfer fee. Please note as well that just about every club in the world would come sniffing around, thus making a mockery of any high-minded comments by the supporters of other clubs. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, we all know what football clubs are, we’re just haggling over the price. They can get away with this because football fans are not rational consumers, but as this former Cardiff City fan shows, even the greatest addict has their limits. Surely football can’t go on forever with this habit of biting the hand that feeds it (sorry).
It was gratifying to see there was a modest spike in hits yesterday evening as people came looking for information on the postponement of the Waterford-Clare Minor match in Dungarvan. Or maybe they were looking for a cure for insomnia. Either way, I wasn’t at the game so can’t give any peculiar insight. I spoke to a work colleague this morning who goes to all the games and usually gets there in plenty of time for a good seat. As it happened, she was delayed by the stop-go system just before the junction for the Military Road which meant she arrived at the entrance to Fraher Field at 6.35pm as they were taking down those ratty signs with the price. It came as no surprise to hear that the evil weather in Tramore (see above) was replicated 25 miles down the coast so nobody was complaining that the match was called off. The only surprise was that took so long for the penny to drop, which meant some patrons – is the GAA the only sporting organisation to use this figure of speech for supporters? – had already paid to gain access and have now lost their money.
Should they have called the game off earlier to avoid this fiasco? Yes. Could they have done anything to repay these ‘patrons’? No, or at least not given the fact that none of the patrons would be able to produce a ticket. You could argue, as several contributors on the subject on boards.ie have done, that a receipt of some description should be given on entry to the ground. But this strikes me as being an unnecessary level of complication to the match-going process. People want to get in and get out for matches like the one last night, and if someone were to propose lengthening that process by even a handful of seconds in preparation for the rare event that is a match being postponed after the gates have opened, you can be sure people would vote on that proposal with words of the blue variety. This is galling for those who paid to gain admittance. Even if you get to the rescheduled game there’ll be a kernel of grievance that everyone else is getting in for free. But the fact that no-one in the Munster Council didn’t see anything worthy of concern about 100km per hour winds doesn’t mean the GAA must now introduce an extra layer of bureaucracy to the match-going experience.
As an aside, the rescheduled game will give us the results to an experiment I’ve being dying to stage. You always hear complaints about the price of every GAA match, and underage games at €10 a pop are no exception. I’ve said in the past that prices are too high because it is too great a burden on the regular matchgoer who is meant to at the at the heart of the Association (along with everyone else), but that no-one should expect a boost in attendances. I expect that there will be a bigger crowd at the rescheduled game, but not so large as to demonstrate that there is a hunger for hurling that would be sated if only it were much better value. And you can’t say there’s better value than free. Speaking of which, I’m going to commence charging for this blog. Cures for insomnia don’t come cheap.
Why is 7pm in mid-April considered a good time to stage hurling matches? I have a theory that is, as usual, constructed on an edifice of anecdote and supposition. The late and much-lamented Dougie Partridge of Tramore was notorious for the vagueness of his timing for evening training sessions. An inquiry as to when training would start would be met with the Delphic utterance, “after tea”. To Dougie, a product of a time when dinner took place just after the first Angelus of the day and tea just after the second one, this was all the answer that was required. You’d head off to training after the last slurp of tea went down your gullet and not one second before. And I can’t help thinking that mentality persists. Throw the ball in at 6.30pm? How could one be expected to linger on mopping up the yolk of your fried egg with the heel of the loaf if you had to charge out the door just after the passion and cross were brought to the glory of his resurrection, through the same Christ our Lord? Better to be playing in pitch darkness than have that horror visited on Gaeldom.
So it was that Waterford and Tipperary’s Minor hurlers pitched up in Walsh Park with one eye firmly on the sky. While I may lament such things that the GAA does wrong, there was much to be pleased about with the team sheets as the Waterford team featured an astonishing thirteen different clubs. We must be doing something right to not be picking from a handful of city teams as you might instinctively expect, and it was one of the stars of Dungarvan Colleges’ All-Ireland colleges triumph who opened the scoring with an early free. The remainder of the full-forward line took up the next play when DJ Foran played in Michael Kearney but he hesitated when there seemed to be an opening to bear down on goal and by the time the chance was lost he was in a worse position than he had been to begin with ans his effort drifted wide. A cheap foul at the other end allowed Josh Keane to level matters from a free. He was out of position so a quick puckout was a good idea but the ref whistled it back. Never mind though, the puckout was expertly fielded by Adam Farrell and slotted over to restore Waterford’s lead.
For all of my bleating about the light, or potential lack of it, in every other respect these were perfect conditions for hurling – dry, no wind and no sun in your eyes (ahem) – and the forwards were clearly going to make hay. Waterford nearly made a whole bale in one go when Colm Roche intercepted a clearance and sent the ball back into Foran who managed to wriggle his way into a goal position. Unfortunately his shot his the post when perhaps it should have gone nowhere near it, although that was nowhere near as unfortunate as Curran’s failure to react quickly enough to it, slashing ineffectually at the ricochet with the goal at his mercy. Still, he showed commendable calm in the face of that disappointment when Brian Hogan in the Tipp goal ran the ball out of the play and Curran scored from the 65. It was a reasonably satisfying outcome, but if anyone felt that way about the interception that led to it all, it soon evaporated as Austin Gleeson at centre-back gifted two points to Tipp with two intercepted gaffes of his own, the first allowing Colm O’Riordan to score and the second rammed over the bar with a vengeance by Seán Ryan. With Curran knocking over a free in between after his run had been ened rather abruptly, we have seen seven scores in the first seven minutes. Clearly it wasn’t going to be a war of attrition.
The ridiculous openness of the game continued, Keane stroking over a long range point after a chop on one of his teammates to level matters, Curran responding immediately with a lovely catch-and-strike, then O’Riordan providing an indentikit score at the other end from the puckout. Quick as you like Waterford were back on the attack and Kearney drew a free to allow Curran to put Waterford back in front Sport is usually better when there are more scores, but this was like a basketball game and (dare I say it) was a little bloodless as a result.
Then again, you could live without the excitement generated when a Waterford player gets caught out in the manner goalie Seán Clancy was when Keane managed to nick the ball off him as he advanced from his goal to clear. There seemed nothing between the Tipp forwards and the Waterford goal but the backs did just enough to put the Tipp forwards off, or someone screwed up mightily. Either way the ball was went wide, most likely from a boot, and we could all breath again. Waterford made good use of that let-off as Tom Devine pounced on a loose clearance – can you spot a pattern emerging here? – to open up a two point lead, then Mark O’Brien benefited from some tidy forward play down the right to give us a three-point lead. When Curran drew yet another foul to get yet another free for yet another point to leave us four points up, it was looking very good.
Alas, that was as good as it got for Waterford up until (literally) the last puck of the half. For all of the points we had scored we looked more open to breaks behind the full-back line and were relieved when Conor Lanigan was hustled out wide when a more direct route to goal was available. Brian Hogan’s puckout is clearly a weapon available in this regard and there was snow on a effort from the 45 that was cleared by Waterford but in trying to emerge from the back line Cian Leamy stumbled and touched the ground with the ball in his hand. We knew this because a Tipp know-it-all behind us said so. In fact, he said it at least five times to the assembled Déisigh whose vocal groans of exasperation demonstrated that they clearly didn’t know the rules of the game. Thank heavens he was on hand to educate us all. Keane slotted the ball over the bar, then did the same for a much longer effort after Kevin Daly had swung around the neck of O’Riordan in a foul so blatant that even us townie ignoramii didn’t need to be told.
It might look at this stage like Josh Keane was just taking frees, but he was popping up everywhere in much the manner Seamus Callinan did a few weeks back. The Waterford full-back line were living on their wits and Keane almost got in around the back again only to hesitate - can you spot a pattern emerging here? – and be crowded out. Moments later he was the ball again under the stand, tied his marker in knots, and was unlukcy to see his effort drift wide. He then put Ryan in the clear where he was fouled and Keane knocked it over. More carelessness in the Waterford back line followed and there was a sniff of a goal in the chance before Shane Hennessy drilled it over to level matters.
And it was about to get a whole lot worse. A wild pull by Shane Bennett on a ball that was dropping nowhere near him typified how rattled Waterford seemed to be, and what seemed inevitable – Keane getting behind the full-back – happened as inevitable things do, Tipperary sweeping up the field after some loose play by Curran. Leamy did what he had to do, dragging Keane down as far out as he could. It looked to me to be outside the area, but the ref indicated a penalty and you couldn’t complain given the blatant nature of the foul. He duly dispatched the penalty to the net with the minimum fuss and almost immediately followed it up with a magnificent effort from way out right to stretch the lead to four. We were listing alarmingly, so it was just as well that there was time for one more attack. Austin Gleeson drove a long ball into the corner which was expertly gathered by Foran. He popped the ball to Kearney who eschewed previous hesitancy by driving a superb shot over the crowd of players between him and the goal into the top of the far corner of the net. It was a cracking score, just the tonic for Waterford right on the stroke of half-time.
I noted earlier how bloodless it had been, something I put down to the Munster championship setup which effectively sees the loser barely worse off than the winner, so it was surprising to see multiple digs being put in as they went off. It’ll be a poor day when matches between Tipperary and, well, anyone don’t matter. So it was great to see the Waterford County board introducing the low farce into the occasion that makes us cringe about the GAA but is what we love all the same. On came a deputation from Kilcohan Park with what the gentleman with the microphone referred to as “a fine baysht”. Echoes of the late Mick Lally’s gloriously batty turn in Oliver Stone’s Alexander where he referred to “a baysht fit for Philip of Macedon!” No disrespect to greyhounds, but this ‘baysht’ was no Bucephalas. Still, the dog night is in a good cause (the training fund). And it’s certainly a lot more worthwhile than Alexander.
A soft free for a foul on O’Riordan allowed Keane to pick up where he had left off in the first half, while Waterford seemed not to have shaken off the funk that had enveloped them like the dusky gloom over Walsh Park. A player I couldn’t identify was fortunate to get away with a tackle around the neck on Tipp midfield Willie Connors and while Keane showed feet of clay when dropping the ball short Waterford were fortunate again to get a free out when Kevin Daly could just as easily have been done for steps as he emerged with the ball. Given the conditions, the game was not that hard to referee which made the odd decisions Jer O’Connell made look even odder. On two occasions he had to throw the ball in and proceeded to fling the ball past everyone near him like he was road bowling. Maybe we’ll see him in Fenor in a couple of weeks.
Meanwhile the cracks in the back line were being barely patched up by Waterford, with Conor Lanigan getting the freedom of the park to open his account. We were still carrying some sting at the other end though, Foran winning the puckout and teeing up Farrell who got a garroting of his own and allowing Curran to get one back. Lanigan had a chance to strike back but it was almost as if he had too much time and his shot drifted languidly into Clancy’s lap. His clever quick pass to his corner-back set Waterford right back on the offensive which ended with substitute Conor Gleeson scoring on the run and when Hogan directed one of his monster puckouts out for a sideline, you began to hope that the spell that had seen Waterford go from four points to four points down was behind us. When the ref inexplicably ignored a Waterford player scything the legs from under a Tipperary player who was about to catch the dropping ball, you began to feel this might be our say, a feeling reinforced when Waterford nimbly cleared a ball out of defence with some close passing and a ‘foul’ on Farrell gave Waterford a free that gave the Tipp fans collective heart attacks and Curran the chance to level matters.
Ah, don’t ever get yer hopes up, because then you have further to fall. Another poor effort by Lanigan seemed to be bouncing harmelessly wide, or at least that seemed to be what Clancy thought i nthew Waterford goal. But instead it stayed in and William Hahessey had to go and collect it. It’s hard to tell whether he fell over or was pushed by Josh Keane. The ref clearly thought the former and that’s how it looked to me. Either way, Keane was suddenly in acres of room and made no mistake with the goal from point blank range. Even the Tipperary supporters seemed too shocked to celebrate, so abrupt was this turn of events.
Not that Tipp rested on their laurels, with Connors scoring a point of almost impudent ease from the puckout. Curran managed to pull one back from a free after, as is his wont, drawing the foul but Tipp wer eclearly on the front foot. When Seán Ryan had a shot charged down Willie Connors steamed straight onto it and smacked it over the bar. Austin Gleeson was lucky to get away with some extremely loose play when Lanigan picked the ball off the ground when it seemed easier to use his hurley.
It was probably fortunate for Waterford at this stage that the game settled into a messy period when the ref could have whistled up for fouls on numerous occasions but instead opted to ‘let the game flow’. It’s a man’s game, doncha know. This had the effect taking a little of the wind out of Tipp’s sails and when he did decide to whistle up it was for a foul on Mícheal Harney from which Curran did the needful to keep the gap at a manageable three. Another Keane free soon took the gap back to four but we were still in this and when a long-range free dropped into the mixer there was a moment when Tipp were finding to so hard to clear that you thought it had to end up with a goal. More and more players were sucked into the maelstrom and there was the bizarre sight of the best part of 20 players hacking away in the Tipp square before they finally cleared the ball and, in a game of few goal-scoring chances, Waterford’s hopes went with it.
Jer O’Connell then got walloped by a passing sliothar leading to treatment, some cruel chuckles in the stand, and a throw-in which this time he got right. From the resultant play Waterford got a free and Curran once again took the point. It was a fantastic display of deadball play, and given the woes we’ve experienced over years with freetakers is very encouraging for the future. In the here and now it brought the gap back to three but there was never a feeling that we were going to get on top of them and so it proved. The Tipp know-it-all said from that they “need one more to win” so it was a great surprise that when Keane scored that “one more” he didn’t get up and head for the exit. Chance would have been a fine thing. Still, it felt like an insurance score and with news coming through Cork’s win over Clare thoughts began to turn to lowering the Banner next week. Tipperary were now cocky enough for Keane to knock a free short to Lanigan to score and he rounded off the day with a score on the run when he might have taken it on for goal had he been so inclined. In between those scores Waterford had a free from Stephen Bennett saved, and it’s a bit chasteningto think we were relying on some miracle effort from him when he’s not meant to be fully fit. Our very own Lionel Messi, eh?
If the game had ended at half-time due to bad light, this would have been a vintage Waterford performance. In the cold light of day (ho ho) though, we need to question why Waterford barely turned up in the second half. They relied almost entirely on Patrick Curran for scores, which isn’t a bad tactic in itself but you’re going to need more variety from the forwards if you’re going to win matches. In a ma game of many mistakes and much cavalier play, it’s to be hoped that Waterford will learn a lot from this. They’ve only got six days though, and Clare’s underage record is more formidable than ours in recent times. They’d better learn fast, before the lights get turned out on the Minors for another year.
Waterford: Seán Clancy, William Hahessey, Sam O’Neill, Cian Leamy, Kevin Daly (capt; Cormac Curran), Austin Gleeson, Mícheal Harney, Mark O’Brien (0-1; Conor Gleeson, 0-1), Tom Devine (0-1), Shane Bennett, Colm Roche, Adam Farrell (0-1; Stephen Bennett), Patrick Curran (0-11, 0-9f, 0-1 65), DJ Foran, Michael Kearney (1-0)
Tipperary: Brian Hogan, Austin Tierney, Jason Ryan, Darragh Peters, Barry Heffernan, Ronan Maher, Tom Kirwan, Tom Fox (capt), Willie Connors (0-2), Seán Ryan (0-1; Fionan O’Sullivan), Colm O’Riordan (0-2), Shane Hennessy (0-2), Conor Lanigan (0-3), Josh Keane (2-8, 1-6f), Mark McCarthy (James Mackey)
HT: Waterford 1-9 (12) Tipperary 1-10 (13)
Referee: Jer O’Connell (Cork)
When Ireland won golf’s Dunhill Cup in 1988, their success came only after their semi-final against England had to be suspended on the Saturday after Nick Faldo objected to poor visibility. With the Jocks never being slow to put the boot into the Sassenachs when the opportunity arose, Faldo came back the next day to his ball to find students displaying a banner saying “CAN YOU SEE THIS, FALDO?”
This incident came to mind yesterday evening when Brian Flannery tweeted about the inky murk enveloping Waterford city 24 hours before the Minor match against Tipperary:
Very dark tonight by 8pm in Waterford .... can't understand 7pm start tomorrow for minor game in Walsh Park no lights? @
As is the nature of Twitter there’s a lot of going back and forth with more heat generated than light (pun unintended), but the Munster Council were not taking this lying down, firing back:
@ @ @ For the record, 3 Munster Minor matches were played on April 14 2012 with a 7pm throw-in
They clearly were not concerned, and they could probably also point to us playing Clare in the 2010 Munster quarter-final on April 28th in Walsh Park. I don’t recall any issues with the light that evening. And as it happens, at the time of writing (about an hour before the throw-in) the sun is shining brightly over Waterford so it might all be a moot point.
Still, I can’t shake the feeling that Brian Flannery has it right here. You can see the difference between the light levels at the start of the game and the end of the game in 2010 below. There’s nearly a three week difference between the 11th and 29th of April, amounting about 15 minutes of daylight of difference each week. Add in extra-time, and it conceivably makes the image below on the right an hour earlier than where we will be at the end tonight. Perhaps I won’t be writing tomorrow about a stirring game of Minor hurling, but about yet another tedious example of officialdom not thinking things through, akin to those who chose Nick Faldo to be Ryder Cup captain.