Eamon Dunphy is not someone you would ordinarily look to for wisdom, but comments he made during the World Cup and the last European Championships sprang to mind when watching all the losing provincial football finalists implode to various degrees throughout yesterday. Dunphy, when assessing Paraguay’s chances of going all the way in the competition, was gently dismissive. His point was that a country like Paraguay aspires to get out of the group stages. Anything after that is a bonus, and having invested all their physical and emotional energy in the goal they can only go to those particular wells so many times before they find they’ve run dry.
So it proved, and if you think that this is reading too much into Paraguay’s bad luck against Spain – missing a penalty at 0-0 – then consider the fate of Turkey at Euro 2008. They equalised in the semi-final against Germany with a minute to go, only to watch Philipp Lahm charge down the other end and score the winner for Germany with their very next attack. The bould Eamo sagely – yes, I know – observed in analysis that Turkey were happy to hunker down and get to extra-time. Germany, on the other hand, were of the philosophy of giving it one last lash. Had the roles been reversed and Turkey had just suffered the sucker punch of a late equaliser, it would have been hard to see them adopting such a devil-may-care attitude.
Looking at the floundering of Monaghan and Louth yesterday, and the pounding Sligo received suggests we can bracket them in the same category, you can see a correlation between their fate and Dunphy’s analysis. Monaghan in particular invested an awful lot in the notion that they could land the Ulster title for the first time in 22 years, and to be so mercilessly stripped of their hopes by Tyrone must have been a tremendous shock to the system. It certainly wasn’t the old canard about playing only six days after that cost them. Kildare, after all, are playing for the fifth weekend on the bounce and looked fit and able to go for a sixth weekend if necessary.
Where does this leave Waterford? I’m certain that the players are going to be feeling the fear of failure as August 15 approaches, the gnawing concern that teams who have been knocked out of the provincial championships are going to have learned more and come back to beat us then ridicule us for our failures sneering at our inability to build on the Munster success what a shower of bottlers they are in Waterford everything they’ve won counts for nothing . . .
For inspiration, we should perversely look to Germany. Their record of closing out major tournaments is surprisingly modest, with 6 wins from 13 final appearances. Yet no one accuses them of being bottlers. If we keep getting to semi-finals and finals, the win will come. And in the meantime, we have secured success that the likes of Monaghan, Sligo and Louth would kill for. Our time will come? Our time is now.