Non, je ne regrette rien

Not Páirc Ui Chaoimh

Confession time, folks. Due to a prior commitment, a wedding at the above location on Bastille Day, I won’t be attending this year’s Munster hurling final. At least, I’ve been told that the wedding is at Mont Saint-Michel, I’m afraid to ask for confirmation in case it transpires that it’s close to Mont Saint-Michel or in the same department as Mont Saint-Michel. Either way, it’s definitely in France on the 14th of July so I won’t be in Cork on the 15th of July.

I’m wishing now that I had mentioned before this that I wouldn’t be going to the Munster final because now it’s going to look like a boycott. Would I have gone to Páirc Uí Chaoimh? Probably, but it would have been on the terrace because I couldn’t endure the kneecapping I got in the seats last time around. How bad is a venue when you’d rather be standing up than sitting down? And how did we come to this pass that better venues are being ignored?

It’s almost heresy to say as much in GAA circles, but I don’t blame the County Board for this debacle. Some people have been asking why they didn’t trash this out when the venues were discussed back at the meeting on June 7, but you can be certain that if they had done so they’d have been lambasted for their presumptuousness that Waterford were going to be in the Munster final and reminded of the hames they made of the attempt to get the Munster final switched in 2010, ironically from Thurles to Cork. In the end they listened to their constituency by asking for a switch and been rebuffed in the name of neutrality by the same people who staged a Waterford-Clare match in a neutral venue that’s a couple of hundred yards from the Clare border. There was no way Frank Murphy et al were going to give up a Munster final payday. We’re just going to have endure those bad seats and traffic jams from hell.

Or are we? Sports administrators proceed on the basis that supporters are not rational consumers. Like any junkie, we need our fix and are willing to do anything to get it. Prices for matches like Sunday week last are pitched at a level that will maximise revenue, not attendance. Yet even the skankiest of dope fiends has their limit, and I wonder whether a perfect storm is about to hit attendances at the Munster final. It’s a day  has completely lost its novelty for Waterford supporters. Including replays this will be our eleventh match at this stage in fifteen seasons. And while much is made of supposed bad karma from going to the venue of our beating last year – “the scene of last year’s humbling at the hands of Tipp” according to Hogan Stand – that’s only a small part of the story. To be asked to stump up a lot of money where you are likely to be hammered, all in the name of being a proper fan, is one thing. To be asked to endure endless traffic jams, terrible parking, crap toilets, dangerous tunnels, seating designed for Lilliputians, only a handful of covered seats during the worst summer in living memory, and all with the likelihood that we’re going to be hammered . . . it might well be too much to bear.

This is my prediction. If the Minors win tonight the plain GAA people of Waterford will gird their loins and prepare to have their loins girded by the seats in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Minor matches are not yet a novelty – while this would be our fourth appearance on the bounce as well, we hadn’t made an appearance at this stage before this period since 1996 – so to snub two teams would be churlish. But if it’s just the Seniors, who we’ll most likely get to see in Thurles again in a few weeks anyway, muintir na nDéise will take a chance that we’ll be ridiculed as fair-weather fans and stay away in their thousands. This farce of using a venue that was never fit for purpose has got to stop. Someone has to stand up so we don’t have to sit down in those Fisher Price seats again.

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