The internet is making it easier for me to get closer to that most nebulous of concepts – the real GAA man. Last Sunday I found myself checking Twitter to see not only how Ballinacourty were getting on in their quest to get crucified in the Munster final by Dr Crokes, but also to see how Tramore’s conquerors in the Junior county final, Ballysaggart, were getting on in the Munster club championship.
The notions of a rising force in Waterford hurling contained in my previous post may be a bit premature. It’s great that the Under-21’s can beat Portlaw, and any concerns that this might have been a shadow Portlaw outfit should be dispelled by assurances I’ve received that DJ Foran was on their team (be sure to vote for DJ for Goal of the Year on TG4’s website). On the flipside, Tramore’s Under-21 journey went the same way as the Juniors – a decisive defeat at the hands of the Western Board’s finest, in this case Brickey Rangers. Then there was the rude awakening I received when discussing Ballysaggart’s win over Tramore with my father. He spoke of a radio interview he heard with a Ballysaggart mentor where said mentor mentioned the population of his parish – 225! It’s an achievement to field an adult team, let alone beat a club whose catchment area contains (at the last census) a population of 9,508. A lot done, more to do.
Still, a lot has been done in Tramore. There’s still evidence of the excitement that was created by reaching the county final around the town with the banners exhorting people to attend the match and the flags fluttering all over – and they weren’t all put up for the county team. I don’t recall this kind of hoopla attaching itself to previous ventures, and given they were Intermediate as recently as 2010 (my Google-fu is lamentably not turning up anything more specific) they must have been in Junior finals in the recent past.
Things have changed, and for me the most important ‘thing’ is the manifestation of the increased muscularity of hurling in the county. Lots of people would have been caught up in the Minors run to All-Ireland glory and the club sensibly tried to tap into that crowd by advertising to them that there is a hurling world beyond Croke Park in September. Only a few of those people might maintain an interest beyond losing to Ballysaggart, but a few would justify the effort.
As a glorious year for hurling draws to a close, I’m allowing myself be a little giddy about our future prospects. Throughout the Noughties I would have been of the opinion that Clare’s glory era in the late 90’s had come to nought. Yet they now have three Under-21 All-Irelands under their belt in the last four years, not to mention some other gong won in September. A decade of boys and girls picking up hurleys to emulate their heroes reached boiling point in 2013, and the only place they didn’t win was at Minor level, thanks to an almighty hiding at the hands of Waterford. We even had a Tramore man playing for Waterford that day. And my new favourite club notched only our third win ever in the Munster Junior hurling championship thanks in no small part to some young Turk:
Our time is coming.
*Cryptic headline explanation. Tramore is a seaside town, and the seaside retreat for the city of Rome is . . . ? I’ll get my coat.