Waterford 1-20 (23) Galway 1-10 (13)

Sean Daly, Galway, 1998

Har har. Out of all the counties in Ireland, I hate Galway the most. They won two All-Irelands in the ’80’s by deceptive means. Winning four matches should be enough to win one All-Ireland, not two. I always said (without much conviction) that given a chance we’d take them to the cleaners. And we did just that.

I went to the game with all the family and two friends of mine, one of whom has Galway roots. She confidently predicted a ten point win for the Tribesmen over a battered and dispirited Waterford. On the way to the ground, the first time I had ever been to Croker, I would gladly have chucked her in the canal if I had thought it would shut her up. My other friend was up for Waterford because we wore the same colours as Finland. She’s Finnish you see.

We were a desperately downbeat bunch when we got to the ground and the wretched mess between Offaly and Antrim didn’t help things. Yet I couldn’t help but notice that the ground was barely a third full and that most of the crowd were fellow Waterfordians. Could a crowd win a match?

Songs will be composed and fables will be told of Waterford’s entrance onto the field of dreams that day. The team will no doubt be remembered for having descended to the pitch on a cloud while the roar from the fans was heard on Pluto. The truth is only marginally less inspiring. The team raced onto the pitch, looking like men ready to do battle. The crowd went wild; rumour has it that the Hogan Stand trembled. Either way, the assembled media who predicted a Galway win were looking through their articles hoping they hadn’t said anything too outrageous. For once in my life, I knew we were going to win. This was Destiny.

Waterford went at the Tribesmen like starving piranhas. And like the cow of Far Side fame (write to me if you want to know what I mean) they were devoured. Each attack by Waterford seemed to produce either a score or a panic in the Galway defence. Waterford, surprisingly, only got one goal in the game and it came courtesy of our two best players. A hard-earned 65 from Tony Browne was brilliantly hooked to the net by Sean Daly. The impotent attempt to keep it out summed the day up.

By half-time we were seven points up and looking well worth it. Even Gerald McCarthy must have been grinning in the dressing room. It looked like men against boys and Waterford started the second-half determined to administer a right spanking. Some great points were scored and when the panicky Galwaymen scrambled the ball away for a 65, Tony Browne would dish out more punishment.

We only won in the end by ten points. I say ‘only’ because we were sooo much better. With a few minutes I glanced at the Canal End scoreboard. We had 22 cúilíní to their 9! We were past the 20 point mark before they were in double figures. A goal for them by Nobby Nobody threatened to take the gloss away but another TB special left us the last word. Which was “Yesss!!!”

The looks of wide-eyed euphoria from the Déise fans as they filtered reluctantly from the ground – the killjoy officials who would destroy the Offaly-Clare semi-final later in the year wouldn’t let us onto the pitch – said more than words ever could. But a few words are still needed. One supporter who I recognised encapsulated our feelings quite succintly: “Bring on the Kilkenny bastards!!!”. Amen brother.

Waterford: Brendan Landers, Tom Feeney, Sean Cullinane, Brian Flannery, Stephen Frampton (capt.), Fergal Hartley, Brian Greene, Tony Browne, Peter Queally, Dan Shanahan, Ken McGrath, Dave Bennett, Billy O’Sullivan, Anthony Kirwan, Paul Flynn.

Galway: Who cares!

HT: Waterford 1-10 Galway 0-6

Referee: Can’t remember

Post scriptum: the celebrations spilled onto the streets of the city centre of Dublin. A convoy motored along O’Connell Street to a crescendo of tooted horns and cheers from the pedestrians. Heady stuff. And what about the Galway-woman-for-a-day? The puss on her face was truly wonderful. It was all Cyril Farrell’s fault it seems. Excuses, excuses.