Despite their recent travails, Waterford United lie ten points clear of Longford Town in the First Division. Yet looking at their recent record against Longford in the FAI Cup – five defeats on the bounce – you just knew the Blues were in trouble last night and so it proved. This, to quote South Park’s Johnny Cochrane in his Chewbacca defense, makes no sense. Why should professional sportsmen, hard-nosed and unsentimental, be influenced by the accumulation of history? It was a far better Longford that won most of those matches, fuelled as they were by Flancare cash. Just go out, play the game, and you’ll win.
Yet players are influenced by history. To see the proof of that, you only have to look at, well, history. Professional sportsmen, while influenced primarily by the bottom line, like to convince themselves that they are part of the team. I remember watching the Blues play Bohemians at Dalymount back in the Tommy Lynch days. Waterford weathered an early storm to snatch a tremendous 1-0 win, and at the final whistle we saw Dominic Iorfa jump on the fence to milk the acclamation of those chanting “Iorfa for Ireland!”. All good fun, and deep down no one was being fooled that this was a long-term relationship. But for that moment, Dominic Iorfa probably bought into it as well. We all feel the need to belong, and inherent in that is adopting the baggage of previous incarnations of the tribe.
So while thinking Waterford should still win on Monday, it won’t be as easy as it should be against a team that failed to get out of Division Two of the League. We all remember 1998 and 2002, events that perversely carry more charge than our more recent 19-point trouncing of them in 2004. And if the likes of Chris Konopka can’t shake off the burden of history, can you imagine what it must be like for the Waterford and Clare hurlers, all of whom will have lived through those games and most of whom will have been at them. In the GAA, such memes make a lot more sense.