It was often said that losing at the semi-final stage of the English FA Cup was worse than losing in the final. There was a a sliver of validity to this notion in an era when playing at Wembley was a special experience but generally it was a comment made by pundits who couldn’t think of anything original to say. And the failure of yet another Waterford team at the semi-final stage doesn’t make it any more true. Given the beatings we’ve taken in finals, there might be a perverse relief to be had from De La Salle’s loss to Clarinbridge. Maybe O’Loughlin Gaels would have done unto DLS as Portumna did unto DLS in 2009.
Still, even putting aside the heart-breaking manner of the defeat, it’s disspiriting that we can’t seem to get over the semi-final hump. A Kilkenny contributor on AFR once ridiculed our efforts over the years on the basis that if you couldn’t even win semi-finals on a frequent basis you couldn’t claim to have come ‘close’ to winning the All-Ireland. This guy was a particularly vicious individual, the type of character who thinks that the excellence of his fellow countymen at hurling makes him a better person than anyone from Waterford, and would usually sprinkle his comments with asides on the moral fibre (or, as he saw it, the lack thereof) of the Suirside townies so it would be wise not to take his analysis too much to heart. But on this subject, he had a point. Nicholas Soames once observed that the Tories would not get anywhere while they persisted with their “mad obsession with gays, blacks and women“. It’s not the same thing of course, but the sentiment could be fruitfully rejigged for Waterford – we ain’t going anywhere fast if winning semi-finals remain a psychological barrier.
It was a happier weekend for the county teams, although if someone had said before Sunday that one team would win well while the other would squeak home, you would have put it down as happening to the hurlers and footballers respectively, not the other way around. One could charitably say that Wexford had their Oulart-the-Ballagh contingent back, but reading Giveitfong’s match report doesn’t inspire confidence. So let’s hear it for the footballers who stuck it to the team who beat them in the Division Four final and the Munster championship last year. The best result of the weekend coming from the big ball game. Who would’ve thunk?