Known unknowns

I’ve been pretty much incommunicado for the last ten days. That’s not to say I didn’t have access to the internet, but the stately progress of the babee through England took priority over chewing the fat on recent events in Waterford GAA, even unto missing Tramore in the county Junior final where we, despite the presence of a large family delegation, took a bit of a hiding from Ballysaggart, losing by 1-18 to 1-9. As the lad said at the Minor homecoming, the seaside town is not renowned for producing hurlers, something that can not be said of Ballysaggart. The times, they are a-changing though. The Under-21’s defeated Portlaw in the Eastern Under-21 B final, and I was reliably informed when I went to see Tramore play Portlaw a few months back that there are more underage hurling teams at the club than football teams, so it might not be long before we will be able to take on the might of Ballysaggart and come out on top. Well done to Ballysaggart and hard luck Tramore. And well done to Tramore.

Anyway, I haven’t chosen to react to comments made in response to my most recent offering on the appointment of Derek McGrath as Waterford hurling manager. Not that it was a river of flame, but @TreabharO_C made this point on Twitter:

It’s a fair observation. Can anyone say with certainty that De La Salle have ‘regressed’ since Michael Ryan’s days based on one loss after extra-time? It’s a ridiculously small sample size and ‘Treabhar’ makes the further point that DLS were stricken by a number of injuries. It would be reasonable to assume that if the county championship were started again in the morning, DLS would be favourites, so it’s surely not fair to say that they have gone backwards under Derek McGrath.

Having said all that, any decision like selecting a new manager has to be based on variables, and when it comes to recent form the results produced by Peter Queally trumped those of Derek McGrath. Had the County Board decided to appoint Queally, everyone would have assumed that it was because he had taken ickle Passage to the promised land while Derek’s lot had gone from a whisker away from the All-Ireland final to crashing out at the quarter-final stages of the county title. You could argue this wouldn’t be fair, but you could justify it with a straight face. It all comes back to Harold Macmillan (and this time I’m going to spell his name right; cardinal sin for any political junkie): events have happened, and you have to react accordingly.

Which is why I think Derek McGrath must have had a barnstorming interview. And you know what? That’s great! I hope he went in and wowed the interview panel with a stunning vision for the future of Waterford hurling. A panel of selectors with a judicious combination of learned wisdom and disruptive genius. Fitness coaches and physios capable of keeping the panel in tip-top condition and able to peak at just the right time. Sensible ideas for blending the undoubted talent at underage level – in case you hadn’t heard, we’re All-Ireland Minor hurling champions – into the Senior panel. Peter Queally was good. Derek McGrath was better.

There’s a contrary narrative to this though that is all too common in sports administration in general and the GAA in particular – that the selection was made because his face happened to fit. Legend has it that an FAI official confessed to Eoin Hand that he had voted for him over Paddy Mulligan because said official believed that Mulligan had once thrown a bun at him. It’s pure GUBU, except for the Unbelievable and Unprecedented part. It wouldn’t be difficult to see the same kind of parish pump politics playing out in any County board, let alone the Waterford one. With all this in mind, I chose to believe that they made the decision based on the sound arguments I have outlined, and reading between the lines on the original Jackie Cahill story reassures me that this is the case.

The bunfight alternative is too appalling to contemplate.

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