One of my favourite television memories came in November 1987, when coverage of the Bulgaria-Scotland game in the European Championship qualifiers went back to the RTÉ studio after the final whistle. Michael Lyster – the fact that Michael Lyster was the presenter in my memory suggests that my memory is faultier than Waterford’s shooting, but it is my memory – claimed to have prepared a list of all the occasions that Ireland had gone close to qualifying for a major tournament but come up heartbreakingly short. John Atyeo, Jan Ceulemans, the 1965 qualifier against Spain (although Lyster couldn’t have known at the time just how lurid that last one was) – all would have gotten an airing.
Then Gary Mackay intervened and we had the joy of watching Lyster ceremoniously tear it up. I really hope I didn’t imagine it,
I had an experience like that yesterday as Offaly raced into a seven point lead lead against the wind inside the first 15 minutes against Waterford. It was just like last season, seeing a promising start to a National League season evaporate in a blizzard of scores. It may not have been as crushing as John Atyeo’s goal was for Philip Greene, but here was another step on the road to hurling oblivion. Cue more infighting, defenestration of managers without any regard for what comes next, and defeats to counties where hurling is marginally more popular than Louis Kilcoyne would be among Shamrock Rovers fans. And yet, by the end of it all I was able to tear up such miserable thoughts, or at least park them for another day.
Giveitfong’s match report suggests that the early crisis was completely misleading. The gap between the two counties is far greater than the scoreline would suggest and the problem for Waterford is at the other end as a scary 22 wides were racked up. A curious facet of yesterday’s match seems to be the crowd, or more precisely how Waterford supporters were a disproportionately large presence in what was an admittedly small attendance. A sign of the wisdom of crowds, that we collectively think that Waterford are heading in the right direction? I should be able to tell more when Waterford roll into Walsh Park for the only time in 2015 next weekend, where there are unlikely to be many Gary Mackay moments.