Last Saturday we did something we have been long planning: we went to Mount Congreve. I’ve seen and heard a lot of hype about it over the years so my expectations were high and am happy to report it was even better than I could have hoped. We’ve been to many stately piles in these islands with grand gardens attached over the years and this was a match for any of them, a perfect marriage of nature and artifice in a glorious setting, I couldn’t help but feel a shiver of local pride as I gazed across the Suir at the relatively uninspired countryside opposite. This was what Tolkien must have envisaged when he pictured Aragorn looking from Caras Galadhon at the lands surrounding Lothlórien.
Unfortunately that was as good as the weekend got for Co Waterford as the hurlers sank to a crushing defeat at the hands of the denizens of the aforementioned uninspired countryside. Like Orcs they are, Orcs!
The numbers tell their own tale. The 20-point defeat slots comfortably into the top ten of hidings we’ve ever received in the National League, and you have to go back to the 1988/9 season to find the last time we shipped beatings of ten points or greater in two successive League matches. You often see Waterford supporters bemoaning narrow defeats as if they are as bad as batterings – no more moral victories etc – but these last two results demonstrate the folly of such nihilism. If you consistently keep the scoreboard tight then occasionally you’re going to come out on the right side of results. When the opposition are regularly able to run up scores in excess of thirty points, you can forget about snatching games every now and again with a late surge or a last minute goal.
And the numbers don’t even tell a fraction of the tale. I missed the first half – I know, I’m a jinx – and was treated to an absolutely ghastly second half on TG4. On a couple of occasions early on a Waterford forward managed to put the head down and set off towards goal only to be easily dispossessed by the Kilkenny backs. At the other end the goals had a horrible inevitability to them, forwards pirouetting around backs and leaving Stephen O’Keeffe totally exposed. By the time the third goal went in heads went down all around the pitch, and if Kilkenny had been so inclined it would have been far worse than the NHL nadir back in 1957. At least it wasn’t a 23-point defeat to Kilkenny. That would have really got tongues wagging.
It can get much worse too. Again, you’ll probably have people saying that Division 1B isn’t so bad, that we could regroup and notch up a few victories a year against weaker teams, and I think it’s fair to say that, in itself, life in Division 1B isn’t that bad. There are enough decent teams in there that it isn’t the dropdown that falling into an eight-team second division might be, and it might be nice to freshen up the array of teams that we play each year after several years of painting-the-Forth-Bridge efforts against the likes of Kilkenny and Tipperary. There’s a potential pincer movement at work here though. After several near misses you can imagine Limerick would be well up for showing us who was boss, Wexford seemed to have bottomed out, Laois are definitely on the way up . . . in fact, they’d all see us as vulnerable. There probably wouldn’t be any 20-point massacre, but we can forget about a quick return to the top table. Thankfully we’ve snatched a home draw against the Dubs but there are testing times ahead for Derek McGrath and company. Perhaps a soothing trip to Mount Congreve in advance of the game is in order?