This week saw another abortive effort on the part of the County Board to stick their snouts into the Munster championship trough. About the best that can be said is that there is no direct sense of humiliation from the negative response, something that couldn’t be said the last time they tried it. Decision made, move on.
Ah, but where would be the fun in moving on? The situation contains much that is worth pondering, and a useful hook from which to start the pondering is this tweet from Brian Flannery:
If you added up all the monies spent on both Walsh Park and Fraher Field over the last 20 years you could have had a nice 20,000 stadium
— Brian Flannery (@BrianJAFlannery) November 21, 2013
In itself, it sounds right. The folly of splitting money for development of the two venues was surely demonstrated during the summer when poor light meant the Minor match against Tipperary came perilously close to being abandoned, and certainly would have been had it gone into extra-time. Meanwhile there was a venue twenty-something miles down the road with floodlights. The penny (pinching) had dropped when the venue for the match against Clare had been chosen, and presumably it’ll be quietly factored in for future evening throw-ins in Waterford, but the kind of farce we can do without after the Rhythm Fest debacle was avoided more by chance than design, and all because the Waterford County Board can’t decide on a primary venue for the county.
In fairness, there’s not much they can do about the attitude of the Munster Council. I can’t find any specific reason why the request to stage the Cork game in Walsh Park was turned down, although the RTÉ report above hints at capacity issues. Given our opening games in the Championship for the last two years against Clare have drawn crowds barely over 12,000 they are obviously putting a lot of faith in the idea that the Cork game next May will be what Hoganstand.com hilariously calls a “glamour tie“. There’s no way either of our venues will be brought up to the capacity that the Munster Council seems to think is typical of a Munster Championship match. Until that notional anticipated attendance changes, one that is currently more a reflection of their belief in the grandeur of the competition rather than the objective trend in these backdoor days, we can forget about having Munster games in Waterford. Unless Kerry return to the hustings. something that’ll only happen if they think they have a chance of beating us so we could probably cope without that.
However, that doesn’t mean that there’s no need for Brian Flannery’s 20,000 capacity venue in the county. Even a 10,000 capacity ground would be a worthwhile goal if it had one covered stand capable of keeping the rain off 3,000 people (without them having to huddle in the aisles) and three banks of stepped terraces around the other sides. The improvements to Walsh Park don’t come anywhere close to this level, so it’s still an open question as to which of the two venues would be best. A convincing case can be made for either ground. Walsh Park is closest to the largest section of the population while Fraher Field is at the geographical heart. Walsh Park is currently closer to an acceptable standard while Fraher Field has more scope for improvement – I can see issues with building a fully covered stand backing on the road in Walsh Park while there is space in Fraher for demolishing and starting again. What is required here is leadership. Someone to take a decision based on the merits of one or the other and give us something that we can all row in behind.
And this is where it gets depressing. Following comments around the web, it seems clear that there is an East v West divide on this issue. Any decision will be seen as a conspiracy from those lot on the other side of the county to drag us all the way to Waterford/Dungarvan. This is insane. No one is suggesting driving salt into ground at the venue that is not selected to be the primary one in the county, just that the lion’s share of any budget go to one venue while the other is maintained to its current standard. If it’s really impossible to choose because the factors governing which ground suits our collective best is so finely balanced, then toss a bloody coin! Just make a decision and stick with it rather than have this continuing malaise. But I fear that making the decision based on something as objective as that would not disguise the underlying problem – that there really is an East v West divide that doesn’t just affect the Walsh Park v Fraher Field debate but affects everything and, as a consequence, inhibits everything as decisions are made to ensure neither nose is put out of joint rather than what is better for the collective county. All these years I thought I was following Waterford. Turns out I was following Belgium all along.
After much to-ing and fro-ing, the League format is settled for 2014. The provisional fixtures are out and using the magic of the intrawebs we’ll be able to update them as more information emerges (translation: at the time of writing, apart from the opening game under lights in Thurles, I’m guessing about the venues).
|15/02/14||Division 1A||Semple Stadium||Waterford||Tipperary|
|23/02/14||Division 1A||Waterford venue||Waterford||Galway|
|09/03/14||Division 1A||Waterford venue||Waterford||Dublin|
|16/03/14||Division 1A||Clare venue||Waterford||Clare|
|23/03/14||Division 1A||Kilkenny venue||Waterford||Kilkenny|
The internet is making it easier for me to get closer to that most nebulous of concepts – the real GAA man. Last Sunday I found myself checking Twitter to see not only how Ballinacourty were getting on in their quest to get crucified in the Munster final by Dr Crokes, but also to see how Tramore’s conquerors in the Junior county final, Ballysaggart, were getting on in the Munster club championship.
The notions of a rising force in Waterford hurling contained in my previous post may be a bit premature. It’s great that the Under-21′s can beat Portlaw, and any concerns that this might have been a shadow Portlaw outfit should be dispelled by assurances I’ve received that DJ Foran was on their team (be sure to vote for DJ for Goal of the Year on TG4′s website). On the flipside, Tramore’s Under-21 journey went the same way as the Juniors – a decisive defeat at the hands of the Western Board’s finest, in this case Brickey Rangers. Then there was the rude awakening I received when discussing Ballysaggart’s win over Tramore with my father. He spoke of a radio interview he heard with a Ballysaggart mentor where said mentor mentioned the population of his parish – 225! It’s an achievement to field an adult team, let alone beat a club whose catchment area contains (at the last census) a population of 9,508. A lot done, more to do.
Still, a lot has been done in Tramore. There’s still evidence of the excitement that was created by reaching the county final around the town with the banners exhorting people to attend the match and the flags fluttering all over – and they weren’t all put up for the county team. I don’t recall this kind of hoopla attaching itself to previous ventures, and given they were Intermediate as recently as 2010 (my Google-fu is lamentably not turning up anything more specific) they must have been in Junior finals in the recent past.
Things have changed, and for me the most important ‘thing’ is the manifestation of the increased muscularity of hurling in the county. Lots of people would have been caught up in the Minors run to All-Ireland glory and the club sensibly tried to tap into that crowd by advertising to them that there is a hurling world beyond Croke Park in September. Only a few of those people might maintain an interest beyond losing to Ballysaggart, but a few would justify the effort.
As a glorious year for hurling draws to a close, I’m allowing myself be a little giddy about our future prospects. Throughout the Noughties I would have been of the opinion that Clare’s glory era in the late 90′s had come to nought. Yet they now have three Under-21 All-Irelands under their belt in the last four years, not to mention some other gong won in September. A decade of boys and girls picking up hurleys to emulate their heroes reached boiling point in 2013, and the only place they didn’t win was at Minor level, thanks to an almighty hiding at the hands of Waterford. We even had a Tramore man playing for Waterford that day. And my new favourite club notched only our third win ever in the Munster Junior hurling championship thanks in no small part to some young Turk:
Munster Junior Hurling Quarter Final Result Ballysaggart 1-12 Grenagh 1-9 Stephen Bennett scored 1-11 (1-4 from play)
— Tomás McCarthy (@tomasmcc) November 17, 2013
Our time is coming.
*Cryptic headline explanation. Tramore is a seaside town, and the seaside retreat for the city of Rome is . . . ? I’ll get my coat.
I’ve been pretty much incommunicado for the last ten days. That’s not to say I didn’t have access to the internet, but the stately progress of the babee through England took priority over chewing the fat on recent events in Waterford GAA, even unto missing Tramore in the county Junior final where we, despite the presence of a large family delegation, took a bit of a hiding from Ballysaggart, losing by 1-18 to 1-9. As the lad said at the Minor homecoming, the seaside town is not renowned for producing hurlers, something that can not be said of Ballysaggart. The times, they are a-changing though. The Under-21′s defeated Portlaw in the Eastern Under-21 B final, and I was reliably informed when I went to see Tramore play Portlaw a few months back that there are more underage hurling teams at the club than football teams, so it might not be long before we will be able to take on the might of Ballysaggart and come out on top. Well done to Ballysaggart and hard luck Tramore. And well done to Tramore.
Anyway, I haven’t chosen to react to comments made in response to my most recent offering on the appointment of Derek McGrath as Waterford hurling manager. Not that it was a river of flame, but @TreabharO_C made this point on Twitter:
— Treabhar O C (@TreabharO_C) October 27, 2013
It’s a fair observation. Can anyone say with certainty that De La Salle have ‘regressed’ since Michael Ryan’s days based on one loss after extra-time? It’s a ridiculously small sample size and ‘Treabhar’ makes the further point that DLS were stricken by a number of injuries. It would be reasonable to assume that if the county championship were started again in the morning, DLS would be favourites, so it’s surely not fair to say that they have gone backwards under Derek McGrath.
Having said all that, any decision like selecting a new manager has to be based on variables, and when it comes to recent form the results produced by Peter Queally trumped those of Derek McGrath. Had the County Board decided to appoint Queally, everyone would have assumed that it was because he had taken ickle Passage to the promised land while Derek’s lot had gone from a whisker away from the All-Ireland final to crashing out at the quarter-final stages of the county title. You could argue this wouldn’t be fair, but you could justify it with a straight face. It all comes back to Harold Macmillan (and this time I’m going to spell his name right; cardinal sin for any political junkie): events have happened, and you have to react accordingly.
Which is why I think Derek McGrath must have had a barnstorming interview. And you know what? That’s great! I hope he went in and wowed the interview panel with a stunning vision for the future of Waterford hurling. A panel of selectors with a judicious combination of learned wisdom and disruptive genius. Fitness coaches and physios capable of keeping the panel in tip-top condition and able to peak at just the right time. Sensible ideas for blending the undoubted talent at underage level – in case you hadn’t heard, we’re All-Ireland Minor hurling champions – into the Senior panel. Peter Queally was good. Derek McGrath was better.
There’s a contrary narrative to this though that is all too common in sports administration in general and the GAA in particular – that the selection was made because his face happened to fit. Legend has it that an FAI official confessed to Eoin Hand that he had voted for him over Paddy Mulligan because said official believed that Mulligan had once thrown a bun at him. It’s pure GUBU, except for the Unbelievable and Unprecedented part. It wouldn’t be difficult to see the same kind of parish pump politics playing out in any County board, let alone the Waterford one. With all this in mind, I chose to believe that they made the decision based on the sound arguments I have outlined, and reading between the lines on the original Jackie Cahill story reassures me that this is the case.
The bunfight alternative is too appalling to contemplate.
Having often wondered whether I had missed a trick in not pursuing a career in journalism more aggressively, and harbouring an ongoing interest in the goings-on inside the Fourth Estate, imagine my delight upon discovering that one of my new work colleagues had been a correspondent for a proper national newspaper. Finally cornering them at a post-work session – all hail Lunchtime O’Booze – I eagerly set about mining them for information on the life I might have missed.
By the time we were finished, any lingering ambitions had been buried under an avalanche of reality. I knew the life of a hack was a hard and often lonely one, but I was shocked to discover just how hard it was. I blame Lou Grant. Having watched the titular TV show, I had this image of the journalistic life as centring on a newsroom, all chattering telex machines, legs propped up on desks, and shouting into phones. It was from this hive of activity that reporters would be dispatched to uncover juicy scandals for a grateful readership. Sure, most of the work would involve the grind of court reports and celebrity christenings – Lou Grant et al would be stuck doing bar mitzvahs – but ultimately the news would come to you. All you had to do was make it readable.
In retrospect, I hadn’t a clue. Where did I think ‘the newsroom’ was getting the stories, from the news fairy? My new colleague made it clear to me that it was the reporter who got the story, and the only way to get the story was to continually plámás everyone who might conceivably be able to provide them with the scoop when it happened. Woe betide the hack who missed a story because the source was cosier with Phil Space than to Philippa Column. A hard life. Way too hard for a 9-5 wannabe like me.
The reason I mention all this is to explain the air of confidence with which Jackie Cahill pronounced that Derek McGrath might be about to stage a spectacular come-from-behind victory over Peter Queally in the quest to become the new Waterford hurling manager. The gushing nature of the article does not suggest that it came from McGrath and/or his camp, but from someone on the interview panel who liked the cut of McGrath’s jib. And thus it has come to pass. Who says you can’t believe everything you read in newspapers?
What to make of it all? I would have gone for Queally. It’s all very well saying that you shouldn’t put too much weight on recent events when deciding who is best qualified to be manager. Had De La Salle gotten a late winner and avoided an extra-time defeat to Ballygunner, it might be Derek McGrath who is the coach of the county champions rather than Peter Queally. But the fact is that that didn’t happen. Just as we judge politicians on Harold
McMillan’s Macmillan’s famous events and how they react to them, surely we should judging coaches on their results rather than what might have been. On the face of it, De La Salle have regressed in the last couple of years, and here we are replacing the man who presided over the more illustrious DLS era with the man who presided over the regression. Factor in how Queally’s failure with the Under-21′s has looked better with time – no-one gave Clare a bigger rattle than we did – and my take on it is that the County Board have made the wrong choice.
That’s my take anyway. I don’t have access to all the facts and, après Jackie Cahill’s column, it would be fair to assume that Derek McGrath went in for the interview and, to use a metaphor appropriate to this time of the sporting year, knocked it out of the ball park. There’s a lot of approving chatter on Twitter about the quality of the out-of-county choices in William Maher and Frank Flannery, and I can even give a little bit of insight into the new physio, Conor McCarthy (Jackie Cahill didn’t get everything right). He was the physio to the Irish Olympic boxing team last summer which is a pretty good thing to have on your CV (Update: might not be that Conor McCarthy – one to watch). Then there’s Dan. If Dan were the coach I’d be in hysterics right now, but he’s a selector where his penchant for (ahem) straight talking should be an asset. So there is much to be optimistic about going forward. It’s certainly been a bold choice, not going for the ‘obvious’ candidate. Not that it’s setting the bar very high, but let’s hope they know more about it than I do.
While reading around in the build-up to the county final last Sunday, I was mildly surprised to discover that the last time Passage played on the big day was in 1997, also against Ballygunner. ‘Surprised’ because I was at this game and in an ongoing reductive assessment of my own relationship with Waterford GAA, I assumed that game must have been after 1998 because hurling didn’t exist before then, did it? I’m not as bad an arriviste as I had assumed.
These thoughts came up as I hoped that Passage might somehow turn back the tide of history. The loss in 1997 was their third in five years in the county final and while the current Ballygunner vintage might be a little more vulnerable than that team, for whom the win was their third win on the trot, even an arriviste would be able to see who were favourites. A prior engagement with the future Waterford All-Ireland winning captain meant I wasn’t going to make it but I wasn’t likely to miss much. Casting my mind back to the slaughter two years ago between the Gunners and Tallow and I was almost grateful to be missing out.
Well, damn it. What a game, what a finish. Things can change quickly in club hurling. The last team to win the county title for the first time are now the team to beat in Waterford, while that three-in-a-row Ballygunner team must wonder where they went wrong in bequeathing a legacy robust enough to appear in thirteen of the last fifteen finals but win only five of them. Maybe in a few year’s time we’ll be looking at Passage as the team to beat. Maybe it’ll be an outlier in a series of disappointments for them. But the first time will always be the best, and it can’t be taken away from them.
The last time I used the National League tag for a post, I had this to say about the prospect of the League being changed to accommodate the freshly-relegated Rebels:
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Headquarters will be pleased to see that no one is safe. Maybe they’ll respect the integrity of the process. I’m happy to be proven wrong, and it’s why I’m hoping Clare beat Cork. If this happens and Cork are banished to the quicksands of Division 1B, I’ll be delighted to hold my hands up and say I misjudged those who run the association and their motivations. Should Cork lose though and the League is rejigged to keep them in the standards to which they are accustomed, I may find myself donning a tinfoil hat with all the other kooks claiming that those making the Championship draws don’t rattle those balls/hurleys in the pot with sufficient vigour.
While I was very confident about them at the time – no less an authority than SBB on Seó Spóirt said (as Gaeilge) that Limerick must be hoping for a Clare victory so the League would be changed – all through the summer I was conscious that I might have to eat those words. What would be an appropriate point at which to issue a mea culpa?
(And yes, I have used this gag before.)
I had a great big wedge of text about why this is wrong, but the Wexford County Board chairman Diarmuid Devereux says it far better. Now excuse me while I don my tinfoil hat.
The current standoff in the United States is a source of angst to anyone who doesn’t want to see the world’s wealthiest country implode, not least among them being the President and his supporters. However, the law of perverse consequences means that there is some good news for the Democrats. With the fallout from the clash dominating the headlines, teething problems for the health care reforms known as Obamacare are not getting the attention from the enemies of the reforms (i.e. the people causing the shutdown) that they might otherwise have done. The shutdown is effectively providing a smokescreen under which the law that the shutdown is being staged to prevent can be implemented successfully. The irony is delicious.
Here in Waterford, we should be grateful for the ongoing back-slapping operation created by the thunderous finish in the All-Ireland final replay to what was already the most thrilling season of hurling that I, or anyone else of my acquaintance, can remember. You know something special has happened when even Fleet Street newspapers like the Guardian are piling on the love. Hopefully by the time the fuss has died down, we’ll have papered over the cracks exposed by the need to search for a new manager.
For what an embarrassment it has been. Four names emerged from the process, none of them likely to inspire either the supporters or the players who took such exception to Michael Ryan. We can say this much with certainty about the attitude of the players towards one of those names because he was Michael Ryan. While my sympathies lay with him throughout this, it’s a relief that he has withdrawn his name. No manager can hope to function when the whole world knows the players have no confidence in him, so while you can understand his stubbornness in carrying on it was never a starter.
Then we had DJ Carey. A truly great hurler, enough to get a fawning article about him printed in the Observer back in the day (and speaking of embarrassment, the less said about the writer of the article, the better). But what has DJ done as a manager to deserve being fast-tracked to inter-county management? Little enough that even he wasn’t interested. So names were being bandied about of people who didn’t even want the job in the first place. As I said at the top, thank God this wasn’t all happening during the hurling silly season.
As of today, this leaves Peter Queally and Derek McGrath. They’re both solid choices with lots of coaching miles on the clock and, all other things being equal, being from Waterford is an advantage. But both are coming off the back of frustrating defeats – Queally for the Under-21′s, a defeat that felt like a missed opportunity even before Clare romped to Munster and All-Ireland glory, and McGrath seeing his De La Salle team fall to Ballygunner when everyone was already marking them down as county champions. Neither of these defeats fatally undermines the case for them. It means that neither makes a decisive case for their appointment either. Passage winning the county title might tip the scales in Queally’s favour, but that’s a huge ask. The County Board have insisted they are not limiting themselves to those two candidates. We should hope this is the case, if only so it doesn’t look like McGrath/Queally won the role thanks to the toss of a coin.
One of the lessons that must be learned from the current pickle is that the business of ‘consulting’ squads on the status of the manager is a fudge. The players effectively have a veto over who the manager is. Spare us any flannel about how they never said they were unwilling to play under Michael Ryan. You can’t seriously ask a group of people for their opinion then behave as if that expressed opinion is enough in itself. Maybe it is a good thing to consult the players. There’s something to be said for getting any grievances out in the open rather than letting them fester. The problem is that the players don’t have to deal with the consequences of their actions. You can see people already lining up to lambast the County Board over the new manager even though they weren’t the ones who brought us to this situation.
It’s not something I like, but if we are going to insist on this consultation then we should formalise the players veto. At the end of a manager’s term, whether that be two or three years, the players get the chance to express no confidence in the incumbent. This way, they have their fingerprints all over the decision rather than being able to vote no confidence while at the same time claiming that they weren’t really dissing the current manager. It might soften the players cough if they realised that they are owning their decision in the eyes of the public. And who knows? They might be really good at making these calls and we’re all better off as a result. At least we’d be able to assess this with a proper sample size rather than lurching from one crisis to the next, never heeding the warnings from history. Isn’t that right, Mr Obama?
Oh, cruel world! With the All-Ireland finals being staged in the second and fourth Sundays of September this year, it means that, should the GAA revert to the more traditional and recent habit of playing them on the first and third Sunday, we will be only able to lay claim to the Irish Press Cup for fifty-one weeks. Life just ain’t fair.
So it’s important we make the most of it. Up the Déise posted an image from the semi-final win showing DJ Foran setting off towards goal with over 25% of the Kilkenny team in hot, futile pursuit:
A great image on its own merits, and credit where credit is due to the photographer. But it was this comment that really captured the moment:
And so say all of us.
I always fret that I make too big a deal about the success of the Minors, so it was reassuring on the day to see the lavish coverage served up by TV3 – what a step-up from the days when the game was an interruption of the analysis of the Senior game – and Seán Power’s post-match emphasis on how big a deal this was. A lot of planning and effort has gone into Waterford hurling since the nadir of Division 3 in the 1980′s, and it would be fair to say that a healthy club scene is a positive thing in itself. Still, the battle for hearts and minds is about more than just giving people the opportunity to play the game. We want everyone in Waterford to support Waterford. To put things into context, check out this house in Tramore:
Admittedly this wasn’t taken on the day of the Minor final, but on the 22nd of July when Clare steamrollered Galway in the Senior championship. And there’s nothing wrong with a family supporting their native county even when living ‘abroad’, right? No, there isn’t. Not intellecutually, at least. But this family are not from Galway. Nor are their parents from Galway. One of their grandfathers is from Galway. Yet they support Galway at all levels, even unto playing against Waterford. When you consider all the Cork (ahem), Kilkenny and Tipperary-supporting families in our midst, it’s borderline miraculous that we have anyone supporting the county team. Winning All-Ireland titles, even at Minor level, can only help hold back the tide.
The match went off swimmingly, and the trophy came across the Suir for only the third time ever. As the MC on the night of the homecoming pointed out, imagine how many times it went through Ferrybank on its way to Slieverue and Glenmore, pausing only to mock the Redmond/Rice bridges – named for men from Wexford and Kilkenny; we’re way too tolerant. But now it was on The Mall to huge roars from the delighted crowd. The heroes of the night strode from the bus with the grace of Apollo . . . bloody hell, they’re only boys! Whether it be watching them live in Walsh Park or on the telly in Croke Park, the lack of other points of reference means you look at them in much the same way you would an adult team. Looking at them now though, trouser arses around their knees and flinging themselves at the cameras with youthful abandon, it hit me that the team I had been following so eagerly all summer were, quite literally, young enough to be my children. I’m not saying it was a bad shock, just that I never gave any head space to the concept before that moment. Hopefully I’ll have plenty of opportunities to get used to the idea in the future.
Ah, the future. A poster on the GAA Discussion Board on Monday afternoon was of the belief that it was important to “keep their feet on the ground and Waterford may reap the benefits 5, 6 years down the line”, and looking at the bumfluff-clad faces later on I could see his point. However, if the team were getting any notions of grandeur they would have been swept away by the middle of the week as the reality of club hurling hit home:
Minor Hurling Results: Div 2. Sacred Heart 1-18 St Olivers 3-12; Naomh Brid 7-12 Brickeys 7-10. Cappoquin 2-16 Passage 0-18.
— Thomas Keane (@ThomasKeane1973) September 11, 2013
Minor Hurling Results: Div 3. Portlaw 10-10 Tramore 5-5.
— Thomas Keane (@ThomasKeane1973) September 11, 2013
Looks like every teenager in the county had been on the beer. Except the players themselves. I spoke to someone who had been at the Portlaw-Tramore game and he said that DJ Foran scored seven of Portlaw’s goals, and Barry Whelan scored three for Tramore and could have had three more. The kids will be all right. The cup will hopefully be in Tramore before too long and we should all get our photos taken in the forty-nine weeks it’ll be here before some young git climbs the Hogan Stand to take it away from us. Unless, of course, we win it again. Feet on the ground, feet on the ground . . .
After the Lord Mayor’s Ball of the Minors triumph – and don’t think that party is forgotten about as far as this blog is concerned – it’s the back-to-work hangover that is the county championship. For the second year running the defending champions were felled at the quarter-final stages, De La Salle’s exit giving a headache to those who blithely assumed that Michael Ryan’s uneasy abdication could be swiftly followed by the coronation by acclamation of Derek McGrath. All that is neither here nor there to me at the moment. This year has seen a renewed interest in the goings-on in Cumann Lúthchleas Gael Michael Mac Craith, and the presence of Barry Whelan suggests there might be life in Tramore hurling yet – an old friend of my brother who was at the linked Portlaw game was of the opinion that Tramore is inexorably becoming a hurling club, with more hurling teams at underage level than football teams. Until that day arrives though, my interest in the Senior county hurling title is purely academic. And by ‘academic’, I mean ‘riddled with prejudice’. In short, who should a supporter of the county team want to see win? As always, the criteria are:
- how long have you waited? The longer the better. A string of close misses in the recent past helps
- have you undergone a rapid rise from the Intermediate / Junior ranks?
- a slight bias towards counties from way out West to counteract the perception that the city is too dominant
- Mount Sion will always be last. If that ever changes, we’ll know Waterford hurling has undergone radical change
The semi-final lineup looks like this:
Ballygunner v Abbeyside
Passage v Mount Sion
With De La Salle out, the Big Two from the city loom large, winners of forty-seven titles between them and fifteen in the last twenty years. The Monastery men may not be the force they once were but old habits die hard, not least when hearing the tale last Monday at the Minor homecoming from an Erins Own man who was my mother’s neighbour in Poleberry, of how certain members of their alone-it-once-stood Harty Cup win in 1953 were ringers (money quote – “I asked him when Clover Meats became eligible to play in the Harty Cup”). Yes, I realise it was a very long time ago and I really should grow up about such a story rather than getting a perverse delight in it. Still, I’m not in the humour to grow up just yet, and it’s not really a tie-breaking story. You’d want to be a right killjoy to be neutral and wish ill on Passage (county titles: 0). The same is true of the other semi-final. It has to be Abbeyside all the way (county hurling titles: 0). When you look at the spread of clubs represented in the Waterford team in Croke Park on Sunday week last, it would be an affirmation of the robust strength of hurling in the county should we have new names on the county cup.
Given the criteria established above, it would look like Abbeyside would be the favoured choice of the neutral. Since Lismore won the title in 1993 the trophy has only once gone out past mid-county, to Ballyduff Upper in 2007. It would be nice to see that rectified. However, there’s one caveat to that – football. Abbeyside have had plenty of success in the guise of Ballinacourty, and there’s no one telling me that they are different clubs. So let’s all hope and pray for a Passage win. And prayer is what they’ll need, for with my imprimatur they are surely doomed.