Fitting a quart into a gallon pot

I hope Dermot Keyes doesn’t think I’m picking on him for using a couple of his tweets as the hooks for this post. I do so, Dermot, because I’m a parasite. I mean, because I care. Yes, definitely the latter. Anyway, the release of the Waterford team for Saturday’s big game – very big game, it seems – had me thinking in the general and the particular. In general, it’s refreshing to see Michael Ryan announce a team in advance that we can be confident reflects his thinking on how Waterford are going to line out. Recently we’ve seen Liam Dunne put out mock teams, leading Dermot to observe:

‘Juvenile’ is the perfect word for it. Liam Dunne’s rant reminded me of an Aprés Match sketch where Risteard Cooper summed up the philosophy of Jack Charlton: “I’ll play who I like, when I like. And if I don’t want to pick a guy, I will, because I can, if I like. I think”. Someone should ask Dunne how many points his exercises in acting-the-maggot are worth to his team because it didn’t seem to do them any good last weekend. The idea that the opposition will be blindsided by a lineup stroke so brilliant that it can be the difference between winning and losing is ridiculous. Pick your 15 and adjust them according to circumstances on the day.

In particular, and as for our starting 15, Dermot had some exciting news:

How intriguing! What stroke was Michael Ryan going to pull that would have us all talking?

Stephen O’Keeffe
Shane Fives Liam Lawlor Noel Connors
Jamie Nagle Michael Walsh Darragh Fives
Paudie Prendergast Kevin Moran (capt)
Jake Dillon Seamus Prendergast Shane O’Sullivan
Jamie Barron Maurice Shanahan Brian O’Sullivan

Oh. Maybe I’m missing something here, but either they have backed away from a truly radical selection or they never intended to put one into place to start with.

The only selection here that is a surprise is that of Stephen O’Keeffe in goal. What did Ian O’Regan do so wrong in the Clare game that it invalidated the decision to select him for that game? There is no coherent strategy in this position, and Ian O’Regan really must love his county (© John Mullane) to put up with these slings and arrows and never rise up against them. As for the rest of the team, there can’t be many quibbles. Shane Fives is fit, so he comes in and we can be certain Darragh Fives won’t be faffing around in the corner.  Jamie Nagle is fit and will probably be fit to burst now that his status as a Championship hurler of choice has finally been cemented. So the injury news is positive in the backs, but further up the field it’s all negatives. Anyone who watched the Clare game in isolation would think it makes perfect sense for Maurice Shanahan to replace Pauric Mahony in at full-forward, but they’d want to be very isolated not to hear the howls of frustration that echoed around the county when Shane Walsh picked up another injury last Sunday. You can argue the toss over whether Brian O’Halloran or O’Sullivan is a better choice, but we are definitely weaker for the absence of Walsh.

Not that the absence of O’Halloran is insignificant, because it shows how we’re running on empty. It’s hard to see where Michael Ryan could have been radical, even if he were inclined that way. Pick Gavin O’Brien, perhaps? The team is picking itself for the most part, and the hope must be that, as Tomás McCarthy suggested in his Clare report, that we were a lot closer to victory that day than the final quarter suggested. If we’re not, I fear the knives are going to be out.