The Waterford United squad for 2013 is beginning to come together at around the same time that the Waterford hurling squad for 2013 is beginning to resemble Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. Having already elaborated on reasons to be cheerful for Waterford, it’s appropriate to explain why I’m feeling the same way about the Blues. This is especially noteworthy in the context of the Jeremiads undergone at the end of last season, and I can’t pretend that I know whether any of the players that the Blues have signed are any good. However, this is the first time in the three years that I’ve kept tabs on events in the RSC that we can look forward to a season where there is no obvious promotion contender – had we managed to hang onto Seáni Maguire then I’m certain that that team would have been the Blues. While one must assume that the two Galway teams and the new arrivals from Cobh, who surely have had a few potential issues waved away in the rush to get someone, anyone, into the First Division, are going to be whipping boys, it would be tricky to pick a top two from the other five teams. The thought that this could be a long, topsy-turvy season is an exciting one, and something to applaud in a world where people don’t seem to think there’s anything wrong with Barcelona stomping all over and sundry in Spain.
Thinking further on this, it helps that I don’t have high expectations for either Waterford team. I remember when the hurlers were crap, so it’s a case of easy come, easy go. I remember when the Blues were pretty good, when the likes of Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians were regular visitors to Kilcohan Park, but I didn’t ever go to the matches so I don’t have a benchmark for what a quality regular match day experience should be like. And it puts a bit of context into the poverty-stricken attendances at the RSC. In my very first post about Waterford United on this site, I noted that there is:
no shortage of ‘soccer people’ in Waterford to follow the Blues yet they don’t seem to think they are worth following, so why should someone who has not a single soccer player anywhere in his family worry about the local League of Ireland team.
And as we saw against Dundalk, they are out there. There must be a few of them of an older vintage who feel aggrieved that their club is so low and can’t bear the thought of going in to see them when they can remember better times. As recently as 1986 Kilcohan played host to a team managed by a man who would go on to the win the World Cup. And no, in case you don’t click on the link that’s not some canine World Cup, that’s the World Cup as won by Aime Jaquet, manager of Bordeaux when the Blues played them in European Cup Winners Cup. It’s understandable that some people who would identify themselves as Blues would not feel up to the prospect of going to the RSC when the best you can hope for is drawing some heavyweight in the FAI Cup. Okay, you could argue that it’s because they stay away that we can’t aspire to the top table any more, but despite what Alan Quinlan might have us think when he blithers on about a fan’s “responsibility“, it’s not unreasonable for a supporter to do a Popeye and say he can only stands so much and he can stands no more. There’s an entertaining season in prospect in the First Division – but only if you have a particular concept of what constitutes ‘entertainment’.
Closing the circle of expectations, what are the hurlers chances in 2013? They’re going to lose every game. We were stuffed by Kilkenny, Tipperary and Cork in each of the respective NHL games last year and there are no signs that is going to any different this year. We edged out Galway by the minimum, and while it could be argued that they will have their eyes focused on next September they won’t want a repeat of their buttock-clenchingly tense relegation joust with Dublin so I’d expect them to take it seriously. And then there’s Clare against whom we start our season on Sunday. All-Ireland Under-21 champions Clare. Munster Minor champions Clare. Waterford Crystal Cup winners Clare. We are, in short, screwed. Expect a divergence in the tone of commentary about the hurlers and the Blues in 2013.