When writing the last proper post for the proper website, I expressed a sickened frustration at the prospect of a lifetime – I’ve always got three-score-and-ten ahead of me, no matter how old I am – of being subjected to the trauma of constant updates on the fate of Waterford teams the length and breadth of the land. In retrospect this was a rather maudlin way of looking at it, unworthy of Modeligo and Cappoquin asterling performances in their respective Munster championships. The truth of the matter is that interest in a particular competition will ebb and flow according to the prospect of Waterford success. It’s a logarithmic progression, so when (for example) the Waterford ladies football team are a hot prospect at Senior level, interest in them rockets. Let their standards slip, even a little, and interest drops right back down again. This isn’t something that is peculiar to myself or Waterford folk. Stephanie Roche will be able to tell you all about the phenomenon as she hangs up her fancy frock and pulls back on a self-laundered shirt.
With that in mind, could interest in the Waterford footballers be about to rocket? While forlornly keeping tabs on Modeligo and Cappoquin’s ultimately unsuccessful tilt at All-ireland glory, what should happen but the footballers only go and beat Cork then win the McGrath Cup. I can hear the scoffing at the notion that winning the McGrath Cup or beating Cork on the way to it means anything in the wider scheme of things, and it’s fair to say it won’t mean much if it doesn’t translate into success at bigger dances. Still, we’ve met Cork many times since the last win over them in 1960. On many of those occasions it would have been a small-time fixture with Cork at one of their habitual low ebbs – the Rebels only seem to have two modes: steely-eyed assassins or in-fighting riddled rabble, with no points to be found in-between. Yet despite that, Cork won every one of those fixtures. So for Waterford to beat them then close out the competition with a win over the Sigerson Cup winners does indeed count for something.
Waterford football has always been an enigma. It’s not unfair to say that, in the course of my lifetime, we have been the worst county in the land. Yes, I know Kilkenny have been worse, but given their notorious scorched earth policy towards the big ball game, that’s not setting the bar very high. It’s not as if the raw materials for some manner of competitiveness are not present. Large swathes of the county are dominated by football, and it’s strange to contemplate that those people who are so committed to the game can’t get their act together to the point where they can give Clare, Limerick and Tipperary a goon a frequent basis. This is particularly true now the back door is in place. The prospect of being whaled upon by Kerry and Cork, even when the latter would be in-fighting riddled rabble, would have justifiably put off many a generation of Waterford football talent from making the necessary investment to compete at the highest level. Once the back door was introduced though, you would have expected a better showing. Even if progress through Munster only ever ended one way, you could then draw a fresh new challenge from up the country and have a reasonable expectation of beating any of the counties that tend to move between Divisions Three and Four of the National Football League. That’s not how it has worked out though. They gave Galway an awful fright a few years back in Salthill, and the high-profile scalping of London was noteworthy, giving us all a good chuckle at seeing it on Sky Sports News. Other than that though, the back door has proven to be just as barren as the provincial championship, and losing last year to Carlow, the Carlow beaten by 28 points in the Leinster championship , the Carlow undergoing much internal angst over the rise of hurling at the expense of football, suggested that Waterford football was going nowhere fast.
Could Tom McGlinchey be about to change all that? No, of course not. The infrastructure impediments that see underage teams thrown together at the last minute and the sense of inadequacy that plagues Waterford teams at all levels in all codes are not going to removed overnight. It doesn’t all have to change though to get better. Any improvement is better than none at all, and they might well have taken that first step in such a journey.