We all know our malojan record at All-Ireland semi-finals, and curiously enough putting it together in such a stark format as the one above does not feel liberating. In fact, the creators of the Saw films would probably wonder what kind of sick mind could produce such villainy. Although if you want something even more twisted, feast on the Human Centipede post that is Stephen Long’s retrospective on the horror show since 1998. Don’t say you weren’t warned about the R rating.
Watching the Munster Under-21 final between Limerick and Cork on Wednesday – crikey, what a game; once again it made you grateful for the existence of TG4 and Nemeton – it struck me how important momentum was in a game. Early in the second half Cork found themselves six points down and you always felt they were going to struggle to overcome the deficit. Part of the problem in hurling when chasing a lead is that you discount in advance the possibility that the opposition will score themselves. A score in football is a hard thing. Even the most direct score from your own half will involve a half-dozen kicks and a lot of effort. In hurling you can score one hit after the puckout. Find yourselves six points down early in the second half and you might begin to view the gap as being as good as ten points because the opposition are bound to score four easy points at some stage. Panic sets in and before you know it the opposition only have to circle the wagons around the goal to keep that three point lead . . .
You may wonder what relevance this has to our semi-final woes, especially given the Limerick-Cork match ended in a draw at the end of normal time and Cork were ahead in extra-time. The thing is that Cork were always chasing the game and required a wonder point to snatch the draw, and extra-time was so short that it was a total crap-shoot. The lesson to be drawn for Waterford from the game is that it hammers home our failure in our various semi-finals. Unless I’m very much mistaken (ha!), not once in any of our seven semi-final defeats were we ahead in the second half. There were various heroic comebacks, not least in 2006 as described by Stephen, but ultimately the effort required to close the gap was not enough (like against Cork) or too much (like against Limerick; the effort to close the gap left nothing for the last five minutes).
It’s easier said than done, being ahead throughout the game. But keeping in touch and snatching it at the death isn’t working for us. We need to be like Mayo last week – in other words, repeatedly hitting them in their soft parts for most of the game might just lead to a stellar four-point win. If we find ourselves five points down midway through the second half I won’t be leaving Croke Park, any more than I left Páirc Uí Chaoimh when we were five goals down. It’ll be hard not to get downhearted though should we find ourselves behind at half-time. It’s a horror movie with which we will be all too familiar.
Update: predictably, I was wrong. DeiseHurling has pointed out to me on Twitter that we led early in the the second half against Cork in 2006 (RTÉ match report here). So as long as there are no Cathal Naughtons on the Kilkenny bench we should be fine, eh?