Caught on the upbeat

I was the subject of a most grevious tweet during the week:

UPBEAT! Them’s fighting words. Are we not meant to dismissive of our chances at all costs? Are we not at our best when we are underdogs, having retreated deep, deep into the long grass?

Well, I would argue that we are not. The sample size of when we are at our best is so small, i.e. when we’ve contrived to win matches, that I would dispute the idea that underdogs status is a good thing. We’re usually underdogs because we’re considered to be the weaker team, and weaker teams invariably lose. In fact, talking teams down is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You could see the pincer effect of one team being burdened down by history while another was buoyed up by the same history in Paris yesterday as a French team that have been mostly a rabble throughout this year’s Six Nations came perilously close to spoiling Brian O’Driscoll’s farewell party. Ireland got there in the end, but it was way closer than an objective assessment of the teams before the game might have suggested.

With respect to the Dublin game, I was upbeat because Waterford were bloody good. Now, I have a tendency to be overly effusive after any Waterford win because they all feel so precious. Anyone who read my report on the thrilling win over Tipperary in the League last year would think Michael Ryan and his charges were poised on the verge of a glorious new era of unending success. It didn’t work out that way of course, and I’m not suggesting that we’re on the brink of a McGrath Reich either. If nothing else, it’s all too close in Division 1A for anyone to suggest they’re on top of the rest. Dublin’s win over Kilkenny last night would have told us that.

This was much more promising than the win over Tipperary though, or anything else we accomplished in the League last year. While it was great to win close games in the manner we did over Tipp or Clare, or the way we hung in there for that pulsating draw with Cork, this was better because we were so superior to Dublin. The scoreline did not reflect how our 14 men squeezed the life out of them. The frenetic last few minutes were not indicative of what had gone before, and it spoke volumes that the large crowd were streaming towards the exit in injury time despite there only being a goal in it. The expectation was that we would hold out, and we duly did. Had Waterford been expected to do that for another 70 minutes, you’d have been confident the result would have been the same. It was not a win born of being fortunate enough to be a point ahead at the final whistle. They had thoroughly deserved it, hence the upbeat mood.

It could all fall apart today as we take on Clare in their own backyard today. Out of the ten matches played in Division 1A thus far, only one has been won by an away team, and while that is probably not a statistically significant number of games there is also the small matter of them being the All-Ireland Senior and Under-21 champions. For now we’re in a good place though, and have been for the last week. And when you consider all this was done without any input from our own All-Ireland Minor champions, why shouldn’t we be upbeat?

Feel free to blame me personally for jinxing the team today.