It is surely a sign of an increased sense of swagger in Waterford hurling that comments earlier on in the week ridiculing the propensity of Waterford fans for attending matches have passed seemingly without any sense of outrage. But never let it be said that this blog misses an opportunity to react to slights, or is burdened by any sense of irony about lashing out at criticism of our match-going habits having not gone to the match myself. I was kidnapped by a bunch of Brits. Yes, they are to blame for everything.
The comments came from Munster Council chairman Jer O’Sullivan, who reacted to a perceived poor attendance at the Waterford-Clare match by saying:
[If] you look back through recent years, Waterford, with all due respect to them, wouldn’t have brought massive crowds to games and the attendances would always be around 15,000 or 20,000.
Gee, I’d hate to see what he would say if he would trying to be disrespectful. The thing is, I saw the crowd while frantically hammering away at my Twitter feed over here in England and thought a crowd of 19,715 wasn’t that bad. Vague memories of checking the attendances as I researched the results archive would suggest these kinds of crowds were the rule even in the days before the back door, not the exception. With ‘all due respect’ to Waterford, Clare and Limerick, none of those counties is a particularly big draw in the way Cork and Tipperary would be, something that is confirmed by the attendance at the last Clare-Limerick clash all of 12 months ago, which could only muster a crowd of 21,493 for the respective All-Ireland and Munster champions of two years previous.
Further proof of concept is provided by the statistic that “Waterford feature in six of the 10 worst attendances in the Munster senior hurling championship since 2010”. I don’t know if this came from Jer O’Sullivan or the writer John Fogarty, and in fairness to the latter there is the caveat that the Waterford crowd “made up a sizeable proportion of the Thurles attendance on Sunday”. Whatever the source, this is a dig at Waterford supporters and one that, on its own merits, is grossly unfair. Think about it. Ten matches involves 20 teams, so if Waterford made up six of those teams then the other 14 are divvied up between the other four counties. Even distributing those figures evenly (which is unlikely) that means two counties each contribute to four of those not-many-shows. Hardly a statistically significant figure.
I know in the broader scheme of things it doesn’t matter, but it’s irritating to see the head honcho of the Munster Council peddling such nonsense. What we have here is an organisation determined to defend its relevance in an era when the provincial titles are no longer the gateway to All-Ireland glory. The statistic of how the Munster champions have not won the All-Ireland in a decade pops up in the unlikeliest of places, a stat just as useless as the one about Waterford’s frequency in the most-sparsely attended games. Did you know of the three counties to win the Leinster Championship in the last decade, only one has gone on to win the All-Ireland? You see how this works? The most effective way for Waterford to flick the bird at such slights is to win the All-Ireland, but that doesn’t mean we should let blatant disinformation pass unchallenged.