They say you’re only as good as your last game, and given the manner in which I oscillate from giddy excitement to maudlin despondency based on the previous result, you can tell I’m inclined to agree. So what to make of a draw where we had the winning of the game but were relieved to survive a late siege and now have to do it all over again? The answer from me, and based on the reaction on boards.ie it’s a view shared by most Déisigh, was a decisive win for excitement (notwithstanding efforts to excavate the manner of Michael Ryan’s removal).
What accounts for the feeling of optimism? There’s the gif above, for starters. Expectations were pretty low, a combination of a poor end to the League campaign, a Championship last year that despite the heroic effort against Kilkenny saw our earliest exit since 2003, and a list of injuries and absences that a county with our resources can ill-afford to have to absorb. We all went hoping for a respectable showing, and we got a lot more than that.
No one is thinking this is the precursor to a tilt at the All-Ireland itself though, and none of the above accounts for the shoulder-shrugging that took place with respect to the loss of what should have been a winning position. Usually you’d have someone decrying the Waterford disease that always seems to prevent us from seizing the day, yet such talk was conspicuous by it’s absence.
If I may engage in a little pop psychology, I think what has happened here is that our worst fears have not been realised. There must have been a feeling of dread in Offaly as they sought to take on Kilkenny in the Connacht football championship. Like Waterford, expectations would have been low. Unlike Waterford, the worst fears have been realised. It’s not an entirely fair comparison. If we had a high chance of playing Kilkenny every year we’d be in a pretty grim place too. However, there was a time when we were that soldier, losing six-on-the-bounce to the Rebels between 1974 and 1989. It was a run that included some fearsome beatings, most notoriously the 5-31 to 3-6 massacre in the 1982 Munster final. I tweeted about it last night, a throwaway comment after a fine result for the footballers:
Footballers get a result in Clare and someone concedes more than 5-31. A great day for #WaterfordGAA!
— Niall Howard (@deiseach) June 7, 2014
A half-dozen-or-so retweets later, it was clear it struck a chord. That result is still branded on the soul of every Waterford supporter, even those too young to remember it (I was only 5 at the time). There is still the capacity for something awful to happen today, but as long as there is also the capacity for performances like that a fortnight ago, it’s easy to keep the faith.