I never pretend to have an inside track into what is going on in Waterford hurling. The limit of my contribution to the grassroots of the game is buying a couple of tickets every fortnight for the club lotto, and even then it’s the nice man who comes to my door who does all the hard work. Incidentally, he’s a member of a genuinely famous Tramore soccer family. His heavy involvement in the GAA strikes me as being akin to apostasy and I’m dying to ask him what his story is. But I digress . . .
Knowing nothing about what goes on behind the scenes doesn’t make me incapable of interpreting what is out there in the open, but I’m questioning my ability to even do that now though after Derek McGrath made no fewer than six ‘last-minute’ (as if they were decided upon just before throw-in) changes to the team that had been published to play Galway. I had thought after the swift announcement of the team that he was eschewing the daft (in my opinion) habit of releasing what was effectively a dummy in the mistaken (in my opinion) belief that this might throw the opposition off the scent. I understand there were a few post-Fitzgibbon injury concerns, but six enforced changes seems improbable.
The upshot of the weekend just past is that, far from being a straight-as-an-arrow type that I thought he might be, Derek McGrath is just as sneaky as the rest of them. In addition, maybe these mind games are not as ineffective as I thought as Waterford swept to a wonderfully impressive win over a team who had gone nap in the previous round. It’s sobering to find out you know even less than the little you thought you knew. Thank goodness for the wonderfully impressive win to ease the pain, eh?
(originally posted on boards.ie)
Derek McGrath made six changes from the team he announced last week, with Iggy O’Regan coming in for Stephen O’Keeffe in goals, Tadhg Bourke for Barry Coughlan at corner back, Ray Barry for Jamie Barron on the right wing, Stephen Molumphy for Jake Dillon on the left, Ryan Donnelly for Maurice Shanahan at corner forward and Seamus Prendergast for Shane Walsh at the edge of the square.
On today’s performance, you would wonder if that forward line started last week would be now top of the league. However, the big difference was that Pauric Mahony’s radar from open play was in much better working order, as he finished up with five points from play as well as six pointed frees. In the process he gave Iarla Tannion a torrid time and was my man of the match.
Overall, this was a great team performance, with the players hunting in packs and working hard for each other. Playing against the wind in the first half, they worked their way out of defence very well with some good hand and stick passing and support play. However, at times they overdid the short passing and in the second half in particular, with the wind behind them, they might have used route one more often as Seamus Prendergast clearly had the Galway full back in trouble.
In the first half, despite having the wind at their backs, Galway were unable to take control of the game as Waterford defended really well and played some excellent ball into the forwards which on another day might have produced a couple of goals. Galway did have eight wides (to Waterford’s four) but, unlike last week when they were scoring for fun, today they were nearly always shooting under pressure. As it happened, Waterford had their own share of wides (five) in the second half and both sides ended up with nine wides apiece.
The key features of the first half, apart from Pauric Mahony’s roasting of Iarla Tannion, were Jamie Nagle’s marvellously skillful performance at right half back, a couple of great layoffs by Ryan Donnelly to create scoring chances for Mahony, and some great catches by Seamus Prendergast. The one time he got clean away he was taken down cynically just outside the large square. Overall, the exchanges were even enough, with Waterford going in at half time one point ahead, 0-9 to 0-8.
It took Waterford a while to impose themselves on the game in the second half but they gradually opened up a three-point lead which was cancelled out by Galway’s goal. Iggy O’Regan must take a lot of the fault as his attempt at a directed puckout went astray but even then Tadhg Bourke unluckily slipped as he went to cut out the through ball leaving Jason Flynn in the clear to fire home from close range.
However, this only served to spur Waterford to renewed efforts and, with Kevin Moran storming into the game at midfield and Ray Barry doing the needful on the scoreboard, Waterford controlled the game from there on in to finish comfortably ahead, despite missing some late chances. Waterford also appeared to lose their shape for a while as McGrath sent in several substitutes, including Eddie Barrett for Shane O’Sullivan, Jamie Barron for Brian O’Sullivan, Jake Dillon for Stephen Molumphy, Stephen Roche for Seamus Prendergast and Gavin O’Brien for Ray Barry. It has to be said that all the substitutes settled in right away and none of them looked out of place.
The Waterford defence was again massive today. Tadhg Bourke deserves great credit for an excellent performance in his first senior start for the county. He played with great poise and maturity, allied to a good brain and super skills, and didn’t allow the slip-up for Galway’s goal upset him. Of course, it was a big help that the other full backs, Shane Fives and Noel Connors, were both in top form, with the latter giving a master class of corner back play in the second half.
Apart from Jamie Nagle, Brick Walsh owned the centre back position and destroyed his opposite number (who was substituted) while on the other wing Philip Mahony also did the business. Shane O’Sullivan worked hard all through at midfield, while Kevin Moran really led the charge when Waterford took over in the final quarter.
Ray Barry had a quiet enough first half but really impacted on the game after the change of ends to finish with four points while Stephen Molumphy, as ever, was extremely effective on the other wing. Ryan Donnelly really impressed here, once he got up to the pace of the game in what was also his first start. He has great pace and body strength, and the ability to look around for players in better positions. Seamus Prendergast also had a really good game, but Brian O’Sullivan again had little impact.
When one thinks of the following list of players who didn’t play today, with most of them hopefully becoming available as the year progresses, one can see that these really are potentially exciting times for Waterford hurling.
Stephen O’Keeffe, Barry Coughlan, Liam Lawlor, Paudie Prendergast, Stephen Daniels, Darragh Fives, Richie Foley, Maurice Shanahan, Shane Walsh, Brian O’Halloran, Donie Breathnach and perhaps Stephen Bennett, Austin Gleeson and (hopefully) DJ Foran.
Waterford scorers: Pauric Mahony (0-11, 0-6 frees), Ray Barry (0-4), Seamus Prendergast (0-2), Kevin Moran, Stephen Molumphy, Ryan Donnelly, Stephen Roche and Jake Dillon (0-1 each)
Galway scorers: Conor Cooney (0-6, two frees), Cathal Mannion (0-3), Jason Flynn (1-0), Padraigh Brehony (0-2), David Burke and Niall Healy (0-1 each).
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||0||16||16||Tipperary||2||13||19|
|23/02/14||Division 1A||Walsh Park||Waterford||0||22||22||Galway||1||13||16|
|09/03/14||Division 1A||Walsh Park||Waterford||1||13||16||Dublin||1||10||13|
|16/03/14||Division 1A||Cusack Park||Waterford||Clare|
|23/03/14||Division 1A||Nowlan Park||Waterford||Kilkenny|
All-Ireland Minor hurling champions. How sweet it is. It’s a strange phenomenon, the way we can get so het up over what my mother-in-law described, innocently but perfectly accurately, as ‘the kids’. We’ve won an All-Ireland in my lifetime, gloriously so. And it’s probably fair to say that the All-Ireland for Under 18′s would not have the same resonance were it not coupled with the Senior final. However, there it is, and it’s telling about its stature that TV3 were quite happy to give it such lavish treatment. In short, it matters. And for 2013, it’s ours.
I was sceptical about our chances, feeling that the old hands like Mattie Murphy who have guided Galway to a further seven Minor titles since they beat us in 1992, would come up with a strategy to cope with what seemed like our lack of strategy based on the games I had seen.
Thinking of the final in 1992, it brings back memories of the summer drivetime show on RTÉ which was in the hands of a chap called Jerry (I don’t think it was Gerry) Foley. He was proudly Waterfordian and bigged up the city and county whenever he could, which was nice. On the Friday before the game, he asked the sports presenter who he would rather see win. ‘Galway’ was the answer, because wouldn’t it be great to see them win since it was a whole nine years since they had won the Minor All-Ireland. It was probably a generational thing, to see Waterford as the traditional power and Galway, who hadn’t won a Senior All-Ireland in all of four years, as the innocents abroad. Either way, Jerry got right huffy, justifiably so, pointing out that Waterford hadn’t won the Minor title since 1948. Jerry, wherever you are, you can be sure the sports presenter in question, wherever he might be, would have been cheering for the Déise this time around.
*****END TANGENT ALERT*****
Dermot Keyes was having none of this defeatism:
@deiseach I’ve seen the lads five times this year. They’ve won games in different ways. Lots of talent. I’m hopeful but it will be tight.
— Dermot Keyes (@DermotKeyes) September 7, 2013
A fair point, and we both agreed that Waterford had plenty of match winners. If they brought their A game, Waterford would win. My concern was that there wasn’t a coherent strategy to get the best of those match winners. Which team would turn up? The one that bulldozed Clare, or the one that flattered to deceive against Tipperary? The one that went toe-to-toe with Cork for 80 minutes in their own back yard and came away with a genuinely famous win, or the one that let slip an eight-point lead in the Munster final?
I needn’t have worried. Two years ago I expressed angst about the powder-puff nature of our underage teams. It was clear against Kilkenny that there was nothing fragile about this Waterford team as they repeatedly burst onto to loose balls and drove the play up the field. On two occasions during yesterday’s game TV3 showed a statistic about the amount of puckouts won. On both occasions they showed Galway were ahead. On both occasions I thought ‘so what?’ The team had picked up where they left off against Kilkenny, brushing off Galway markers with ease and powering forward. But for some tremendous goalkeeping by Cathal Tuohy we could have had two goals from such teak-tough play which might have broken Galway there and then in the first half. As it was it took a spectacular point from DJ Foran with the last puck of the half to give us the three-point lead we deserved. Having cut out the alarming propensity for giving away frees in the Kilkenny game, it was looking very good indeed.
I’m the world’s biggest worrier, especially when watching games on the telly. I’m always convinced the viewer is being deceived, that something is happening stage left that is about to ruin your day – the decisive moment in the game would typify this idea, although in this case it wasn’t our day that was about to be ruined. So when someone like me was watching and not having a complete nervous breakdown, it was a sign that Waterford were on top. Even when Galway put together four unanswered points to draw matters level, I didn’t feel . . . okay, I was very nervous, a couple of tough free chances being missed not helping. But no decent team, and Galway Minor teams are always decent, is going to be completely bereft of periods of dominance. A lot of energy would have been expelled in that period and it was so obvious enough that even I could see Waterford still had the winning of this. We were soon back in the groove, stretching the lead back to four points and keeping Galway on the back foot.
Then came the moment. It happened off-screen as the director showed the replay of a Waterford point, although kudos must be given to Mike Finnerty for keeping up with the action on the field rather than concentrating on his monitors, so we missed Patrick Curran brilliantly dispossessing the Galway back from a short puckout. We didn’t miss him bearing down on goal and finally ramming one past Tuohy. Jesus. It was about to happen. Waterford were going to win the Minor All-Ireland. Sure, you couldn’t help but recall the implosion in the Munster final, but there was less time for Galway to come back, momentum was now decisively with us, and there weren’t 20,000 Tribesmen in the stands giving them a gee-up. It would have been the comeback to beat all comebacks for Galway to save this and the team gratifyingly kept the boot down on maroon necks to ensure that there was a not-particularly flattering eight-point margin of victory when Cathal McAllister blew the final whistle.
All-Ireland winners in Croke Park. There were times when I thought I wouldn’t see the day, which is a terrible thing for a 36-year-old to say. And in case anyone in Waterford was worried that too much weight is being put on the success of a team of chisellers, the post-match interview with Seán Power would have soon put them right. He was in no doubt that this was a Big Deal, emotionally spelling out just what this means to a county like Waterford. Even during this period of sustained competitiveness for the county, the season has always ended on a downer. You win things during the season but come September you always look back at what might have been. Not this year. For only the fourth time ever (the 1929 Minor final was not played until February in 1930) we can look back on the last Championship game and say “we did it”. The future is bright too, with so many players looking the real deal. But as chief Vitalstatistix said, tomorrow never comes. Today, we’re All-Ireland winners and my own little chiseller, barely two months on this planet, gets to see an open-top bus down the Mall this evening. Not that he’ll appreciate it; I’ll have more than enough enthusiasm for two of us. Final word today to the ever-dependable Dermot Keyes:
I’ve been at a Ryder Cup, I saw fat Ronaldo score a hat-trick at Old Trafford, I’ve seen Munster win two ERCs. Nothing tops this. #Deise
— Dermot Keyes (@DermotKeyes) September 8, 2013
I managed a small essay about the Senior final. This is going to barely amount to a big paragraph about the Minors. This isn’t an indication of what I care about the most. All my energies for tomorrow are focussed on throw-in at 1.15pm. But it’s hard to say anything original about them. Never stopped you before, sez you. Shut up, sez I, I’m not in a playful humour. Of two games I have seen, Waterford were soundly beaten by Tipperary and came out on top after a white-knuckle ride against Kilkenny. I think the talent is there to take home the Irish Press Cup – it’s curious how that name has stuck with me since the days when the Press was the paper of choice in our house; the in-house-style guide meant all references to the paper, even in the context of the Minor trophy, were in upper case. Pompous enough for any blogger. Anyway, I fear that while the talent might be there, the game plan is not. ‘Go out and play, lads’ might have worked fine back in the day when teams were thrown together between sessions for study for exams and sessions with a bag a cans, but to see a team play in such a freeform manner against Kilkenny, their seventh outing together this year, was mildly scary. Galway, on the other hand, are old hands at this. They are likely to have too much for us. We’re going to have to hit them so hard that by the time they know what’s happened, it’ll all be over. Say a little prayer…
As the clock counts down to the second Sunday in September, you may have been under the illusion that the winner of the Irish Press Cup will be determined by which team is better / plays better on the day. Well more fool you! The Hawk Eye fiasco in the Limerick-Galway semi-final on Sunday has completely changed the dynamic. The result now will be entirely dependent on the outcome of Limerick’s appeal. That doesn’t mean we know who is going to win, but all the discussion post-match will focus on the impact the appeal and subsequent replay, or lack thereof, had on the result. For your convenience, I have prepared The Come on the Déise All-Ireland Minor Final Hawk Eye Appeal Results Matrix™ so you can better appreciate where the talking points will be coming from:
What was that? Maybe they’ll award the match to Limerick because had the point been awarded then, all other things being equal, they would have won the match in normal time? Nah, that would be stupid!
Miracles never cease. For once, the National Hurling League finds itself not having to defend itself against charges of unfairness/irrelevance/pointlessness/boredom/all of the above as the fate of nearly every team went down, quite literally, to the last puck of the final round of matches. Had Waterford or Cork conjured up late goals in their respective games then the table would have spun like a top. As it was, there is some slight irritation to see the All-Ireland, Munster and Leinster champions in the top three places, giving an unfair impression of as-you-were. But overall it has been a rollercoaster contest, and given the usual denunciations of the League format for being all of the above, the authorities have much to be pleased about.
Sadly for them, and happily for those of us who like to be disagreeable for the sake of it, it’s never that simple. Each team’s performance will only be properly assessed in September. No doubt there was some pundit somewhere who wrote a preview of last year’s All-Ireland final and opined that Galway’s playoff torment last year when they only got past Dublin after a replay was really a blessing in disguise as it toughened them up for what was to come. Clare and Cork will be hard pressed to see those advantages from their current perspective. Then there’s Waterford, the only team without a game between now and the Championship. Will we be better off for coming into the Clare game fresh, or worse off for not having another game in which to iron out the kinks? No sod knows, but that won’t stop experts rushing in to fill the vacuum of knowledge with their considered opinions.
While I may scoff at the meanderings of pundits, all the while hopefully giving off a sense of awareness of the irony of a blogger scoffing at the meandering of pundits, there is ultimately no damage done by their retrospective know-it-all attitude to the League. More serious is what happens next. Not at the top of the League where Tipperary, Kilkenny and Galway will trip over themselves to downplay its significance, all the while skirting around the challenge provided by whoever emerges from the Limerick-Dublin promotion playoff, a team that will be as high as a kite from the relief of escaping the abyss that is Division 1B. No, the serious business is the result of the Clare-Cork relegation playoff.
I’m not one for conspiracy theories. It’s always amusing how people rub their chins in a told-you-so fashion about how they predicted the draw for the Championship, particularly the qualifiers, before it happened. Note that these predictions are never revealed until after the draw was made. It’s not as if you would need to put your prediction in a sealed envelope with a postmark on it or take a photo with the newspaper from the day the prediction was made for it to be a verifiable vision of the future. All that’s needed is to put it on a message board and viola! the corruption of those in positions of power is laid bare. Maybe those making these self-evidently foolish accusations of corruption are plants designed to distract from the true seers and their plaintive cries, lost in the wilderness of obfuscation. It’s genius, I tell you, evil genius!
Okay, that paragraph went off on a tangent too far. The concern from the Clare-Cork game is simple. If Cork get relegated and they change the format of the League then all suggestions that the GAA is hard-wired to bow to the needs of the Big Three will have found a solid example from which even the loopiest of conspiracies can claim validity. Despite the thrilling 2013 season, the current League format is not without problems. Tom Dempsey got a lot of stick from Waterford supporters for blithely talking around us on RTÉ’s Sunday Sport programme as if we don’t exist, but anyone who listened to him a lot through the spring will have heard his repeated objections to the one-up-one-down format of Divisions 1A/B, and he’s right. It’s simply not fair that Limerick should have to enter a playoff against Dublin to see who gets promoted, just as it was unfair last year that Galway had to playoff against Dublin last year despite winning two games to Dublin’s none, and finishing ahead of Waterford on points difference but losing on the head-to-head - they might feel some small sense of satisfaction that it was us who lost out to them on the head-to-head this year.
It’s unfair, but no one in authority cares as long as it’s only the grunts who count their All-Ireland successes in single figures that fall into its clutches. So you can well imagine the hysterics that will erupt in Croke Park should Cork find themselves in Division 1B next year. When Cork failed to fulfil fixtures in the 2008 NHL, their only penalty was to have the games awarded to the opposition, one of which happened to be against Waterford. There was understandable fury in Wexford as Waterford were effectively gifted two points while Wexford played and lost to a full-strength Cork. Had it been the other way around, and Waterford ended up losing to Cork in a playoff to see who got into the knockout stages, it would have been Waterford who ended up in Division 2 for 2009. Every action that was taken was designed to accommodate Cork – God forbid that they might be penalised for distorting the competition in the manner they did – and we were the lucky beneficiaries of those actions. With all that in mind, can you see the GAA accepting the status quo should Clare beat Cork and the Rebels find themselves slumming it with Antrim and Laois/Westmeath next year? Yerra, the League will seem ripe for another restructuring and the success of Division 1A in providing so many thrills and spills in 2013 be damned.
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.
(originally posted by Giveitfong on boards.ie)
In the first half yesterday I thought Waterford showed all the symptoms of a team which was unable to handle the new level of expectation which had been placed on them after the win over Tipperary. For the first time they were being widely expected to win this game, and the weekend papers devoted acres of space to the new pretenders.
You could even see in the prematch warm-up that Galway meant business, and they got stuck in right from the throw-in, playing with confidence and drive. Waterford, by contrast, had the jitters. Their first touch was desperate, their decision-making was poor and they made loads of mistakes. Watching the replay, I counted nine Galway scores (and four missed chances) which came directly from Waterford errors.
Fair dues to the management who got the team’s heads right at half time, and they played much better hurling in the second half. Unfortunately, playing against the wind made it difficult to land scores from distance, while Galway crowded the goal area to snuff out goal chances, as Waterford persisted with long balls into that area.
While it is true that Galway probably would have won the game more comfortably if Joe Canning had been even half his normal self, the fact is that Waterford also missed a lot of good chances. The referee’s eccentric refereeing didn’t help their cause either. I counted eleven incorrect decisions that he made which went against Waterford. Most of these came in the first half when Waterford could have made better use of the frees they should have got. I was amazed to read in today’s paper that Stapleton gave Waterford thirteen frees in the second half and Galway just one. I presume someone let him know at half time that he hadn’t been exactly fair to the home team in the first half.
While Waterford’s skill level is high and their attitude has been top-class, they need to go beyond this if they are to be serious contenders. The supply of ball going into the forwards throughout the league has generally been poor. This is particularly important when you have a lot of small forwards who find it hard to gain possession in one-on-one situations. They need early, low, ball played into space and not to players.
If they are going to play a ball-winner at full forward then the ball needs to be played into him and he needs support players to feed off breaking balls or hand passes. When Waterford had the gale force wind against Cork they were playing only one or two players in the full forward line. Last week against Tipperary when playing with the wind they put Seamus Pender in full forward but wouldn’t send the ball into him. I remember at one point yesterday when a long ball was played in and Pender had four Galway defenders in attendance while there was no other Waterford player within 30 yards.
One of Waterford’s potentially greatest attacking assets is the way Kevin Moran is able to break forward from midfield. However, very little ever seems to come from these sorties, with Moran either running into trouble or out of ideas. The management need to work on making the most of these situations, with support players running alongside Moran, or moving into designated places to receive through balls. Alternatively, once Moran breaks the line in midfield, he should find the spare man when the next defender comes up to face him, rather than taking him on too.
The management surely must also realise that placing Maurice Shanahan at full forward is a waste of time, and you can see that he is just not comfortable in that position. I thought he did much better in the half forward line in the second half. There were also signs of improvement in Pauric Mahony’s play when he came on as a sub. I think that our championship team should have Shanahan, Prendergast and Mahony in the half forward line – three tall men who will cause opposing half back lines a lot of problems.
Although things didn’t go well for Ray Barry, he still showed signs of having something to offer. He took up a lot of good positions and showed on occasion that he could win his own ball. Anyone who has seen him play for Waterford under-age teams and for Lismore will know that he is a very talented and versatile hurler.
I was amazed after the match when someone remarked to me that he didn’t think Darragh Fives had much of a game. I thought watching the game “live” that he did very well, and after seeing the replay on TV I would say he was possibly Waterford’s best player on the day. His constructive use of the ball is a key feature of his game.
Despite being a super wing back and then centre back for the county minors, and being a star centre back on two winning UCC Fitzibbon Cup teams, I suspect that yesterday was the first time that Fives started a competitive game for Waterford in the half back line. He had the misfortune of starting off with Waterford two years ago as a corner back when they were stuck and then, when he did well there, was left there. He is the kind of player who would play well anywhere, but playing him at corner back was a waste of his talent.
The same fate befell Jamie Barron who started off with the county minors at corner back when he was 16 and was then kept there for two more years. Last year he was still there with the under 21s, despite being the top scorer in the county at senior level with his club.
I also think Stephen Daniels has more to offer Waterford in the half back line than at corner back. His strength, drive and ball-winning ability are perfectly suited to wing back. With Shane Fives doing an excellent job in one corner and Noel Connors now available for the other, I think a half back line of Darragh Fives, Brick and Daniels and a midfield of Shane O’Sullivan and Kevin Moran would give us a unit in this sector of the field better than most other counties.
I remember the day of my cousin’s wedding shindig last August because it was the day of the Mayo-Dublin football semi-final. Or was it the other way around? Either way, the particular set of cousins from which she hails have no interest in the GAA but between the jigs and the reels we ended up seated with my father’s cousins family who were very interested in the GAA, so the conversation was punctuated by periodic hammering of refresh buttons to see what was happening in the big game. And there was much rejoicing when the news came through that the Jackeens had gone down. It was good to see that even the much-garlanded Rebels were motivated by base pettiness like that rest of us.
The conversation eventually turned, as these kind of hearty, good-natured exchanges between like-minded Gaels always does, to Waterford. Or, or specifically, to Waterford’s failure in recent times to win the ultimate prize of the Liam McCarthy Cup. One of them said to me, without being either unkind or patronising, that it was a pity that Waterford had not won the All-Ireland. My response, and I’m proud to say I didn’t skip a beat in saying this, was to say that in the last 10-15 years we’ve experienced riches beyond our wildest dreams. I said it because it is true, but I’m pleased that I said it without any unconscious if-buts-or-maybes. They all nodded with the understanding of people who knew instinctively what I was talking about – for Waterford supporters, the last fifteen years have been a glorious time, and no-one from Cork is in a position to say otherwise.
All of this was said in the aftermath of another cruel defeat, coming up short against Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s Cork when it looked like we had them over a barrel, and I felt our glory era was about to go the way of silent films and Marathon bars. Yet here we are seven months on and even if the improbable worst happens and Waterford end up being relegated, we have at least demonstrated that reports of the death of Waterford hurling have been greatly exaggerated, much to the delight of headline writers and Mark Twain-enthusiasts everywhere.
I know hope is a dangerous thing. Morgan Freeman and John Cleese have both said as much, so it must be true. But hope is usually born from events that inspire hope, and those events are good things in themselves. This year I saw Waterford draw with Cork and beat Tipperary, games that looked hopelessly lost with only a handful of minutes remaining, so it’s perfectly reasonable to feel energised by those events. I’m not going to be at Walsh Park today and it’s great to be able to say that I’m disappointed at not being able to go, because back when the League fixtures were announced I was expecting to view this game as a chore. All too often in our history that is what attending Waterford games has been like, and it’s important that we enjoy those moments when it is not. Go out and give them hell, Waterford.
Update 1710: so we survived, if not without a few hairy moments as we loitered on the wrong side of the three point handicap right up until the last minute and Kilkenny and Cork flirted with a draw for all of their game. It’s a disappointing end to the campaign, particularly when you review a second quarter shocker where we didn’t manage a single score with the wind. But we can at least look forward to doing it all again next year. Either Clare or Cork can look forward to playing, shall we say, less exciting opposition next year. Forgive me if that thought puts a warped smile on my face – if not one on the face of the Cork cousins.