A Minor inconvenience

Alas, work commitments mean I won’t be able to see the Minors take on Dublin tomorrow in Croke Park. Were I not working, I would have thought nothing of spending half of my precious weekend traipsing up to Dublin and paying €40 to see a team of kids. No, it’s the work thing all the way. No doubt about it.

There seem to be two schools of thought as to why the GAA chose to schedule the Minor match with the Dublin Senior semi-final rather than that of Waterford: utter contempt for the Déise or utter devotion to the Jackeens. The first one is easy to dismiss. Come on, why would the GAA authorities hate Waterford? There may be a few embittered Kilkenny folk who would happily lose both their legs if they thought it would deny someone from Waterford a wheelchair, and with two of the last ten Uachtaráin hailing from Kilkenny they seem to have a disproportionate status in the Cumann. My father always cackles with delights at the heartbreak constantly endured by Paddy Buggy who once bewailed how, as a resident of Newrath, he went to bed one night in Kilkenny and woke up in the morning in Waterford. But the rest of Gaeldom yearns for a Waterford All-Ireland triumph as reward for all the entertainment over the last decade or so, even if only at Minor level.

The other idea, that the GAA loves the Dubs, has more merit. Colm Keys, writing during the week about the €6 million that has been spent on development of the sport in Dublin, referenced the idea that Dublin is ‘different’ to everywhere else:

Yet the perception away from the capital is that Dublin hurling is the GAA’s ‘pet project’ and that anything that can be done to make it succeed will be done. The money issue rankles in places like Wexford, a county which has felt the heat of much stronger Dublin teams across all levels in recent years.

Their argument is that if the same resources were put into Wexford hurling that have been put into Dublin over the last number of years, the same results might accrue.

But that ignores the wider argument that every GAA member must embrace. If the GAA loses the battle in Dublin, where almost 30pc of the country’s children are now born, then it could eventually lose the war.

It seems plausible then that Dublin are indeed treated as a special case, and the scheduling of their Seniors and Minors adds to this idea. Considering the difficulties they had finding their way to Thurles for the football quarter-final a few years back, we don’t want to make it too hard for the little darlings, eh?

Despite all that, I’m inclined to believe there’s a third factor at work which tipped the GAA’s hand. Everyone commenting on the outrage has taken it as self-evident that making Waterford travel twice trumps all other considerations. Yet there are other considerations. Dublin fans will be expected to pony up for not only the football semi-final in a couple of weeks – don’t sneer, if Waterford were there we’d be bringing it up too – but for the Under-21’s as well. How many seperate matches are we expecting the hardcore Dub to pay for? Then there’s the fact that of the four teams playing from Waterford/Dublin/Senior/Minor, only one are the provincial champions. Making the schedule suit them makes sense, as to do otherwise would be to effectively punish them for winning their province.

I wouldn’t totally dismiss the possibility that there’s a committee of moustache-twirling fiends in HQ laughing maniacally at the misfortune they are visiting on the denizens of the Gentle County. Actually, I would. The GAA found themselves with a scenario where someone had to disappointed and in this case we were the unlucky ones. Their reasoning was sound though and it would be better for our long-term sanity if we did something we’ve done quite well in recent times – building a bridge and getting over it.

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2 thoughts on “A Minor inconvenience

  1. John Barry

    The following comments are not meant to be critical of any Waterford Minor or Senior player. I just hope they may spark a discussion which may help the country get over the remaining hurdles.
    The Dublin minors though very skilful were physically stronger. They were built like tanks. The Waterford minor team has some brilliant hurlers. However at senior intercounty level players will need to bulk up.

    Looking at Waterford inter county hurling teams in general there has been a major problem with defensive play for many years. Waterford defenders tend to do too much ball watching whilst ignoring the positioning of their immediate opponents. In the Munster Senior Hurling final Tipperary forwards were allowed walk through the Waterford backline. Waterford backs at minor and senior though skilful tend not to use the shoulder. Now contrast this with Kilkenny, Tipperary and Dublin. Forwards running at the defence should be upended by a fair shoulder charge. Sacrifice a yellow card but lay down a marker at the start of the game-“Thou shalt not pass”.
    Waterford backs need to become a little more physical but within the rules. Skill on its own is not sufficient. In training more emphasis is required on blocking and hooking.
    The great Tipperary team of the 50s/60s had a famous full backline of John Doyle, Mick Maher and Kieran Carey. It was known as Hell’s Kitchen.
    It was an apt name. They were there to stop you scoring. They used their physical power.
    Now of course the great Waterford 1959 team destroyed that defence by scoring 9-3 against it in the Munster Championship. It used skill and SPEED and DIRECT hurling. That particular team also used ground hurling to great advantage.

    Waterford teams need to play more direct hurling. What has become of ground hurling at inter county level? It seems to have died out in Munster.
    Also speed of striking of many Waterford players tends to be a little slow. It think that can be ironed out as follows:
    Players should do some work in ball alleys.
    A mentor should count the number of strokes made by the player in one minute. The player should progressively increase the number of strokes per minute over the next few days and weeks. This can be done striking from the left and right hand sides. Overhead striking can also be practiced in a ball alley.

    I think Waterford intercounty forwards at all levels can improve in the following facets of the game:

    They need to be more proactive: By this I mean that they must be in motion (rather than being static) and prepared to take a pass from a forward who is being tackled. Just look at Lar Corbett. He appears to be in perpetual motion and always alert to the breaking ball. The ground shot on the edge of the square is the bête noire of any goalkeeper. Waterford needs to use more of that.
    The tactics used by the Dublin Seniors and also by Kilkenny -whereby they pack the centre of the defence- can be counteracted by driving the ball to the wings and stretching the defence. Using this approach Waterford can counteract ruck and maul hurling.

    The function of a forward is to score and make scores. In addition half forwards need to blunt the opposing half backline and prevent it becoming a launch pad for attacks. Forwards need to keep backs guessing. Pick the ball on some occasions but strike on the ground at other times. Alert half forwards move TO the ball. They do not wait for
    it to come to them. Half forwards must vary tactics sometimes delivering ground ball to the full forward line and on other occasions picking the ball and shooting for scores.

    Too much picking of the ball in the vicinity of the goalmouth slows down play and favours the backs.
    In short Waterford forwards in general -in my view- need to use much more VARIETY in their hurling and need to be more alert to the half chance. Moves need to be executed at speed.

    In addition it is necessary for forwards to practice shooting for points from all angles and distances at SPEED. More emphasis should be placed on this in training. This will increase accuracy.
    Hopefully others can come up with more suggestions.

  2. John Barry

    Since I posted my first comment here I have been speaking to Maurice O’Brien a Waterford supporter resident in Dublin. He has isolated a major fault in Waterford back play. Waterford backs are too slow off the mark and run after the forwards with the hurley out. They tackle from the back and foul. Increased speed off the mark ensures the back can tackle from the side shoulder to shoulder. This would go a long way to solving Waterford’s defensive problems.

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