Category Archives: Liverpool

The big chill

I had decided a few days ago that I wasn’t going to produce a report for the relegation playoff against Dublin. This was entirely because I wasn’t confident that I could maintain focus on events on the pitch in Walsh Park while events were unfolding hundreds of miles to the north-west in Anfield. I needn’t have worried myself on that score. Checking my phone at a couple of minutes past four, around the time things were beginning to unravel for Waterford,  I chuckled to myself that Liverpool had better be 1-0 up. Imagine my delight to see that they were, and things were to only get better. Alas, the same could not be said for the game going on in front of me.

While there were no other reasons for not taking notes other than that, there would be additional factors which made it a wise decision. The last time I didn’t keep track was against Cork in Fraher Field last year . Like then, it was absolutely perishing and gloves were definitely the order of the day. Anyone who wants to re-jig the season so that weightier Championship matters are played at this time of year needs shipping off to Antarctica. Then there was the programme. It’s been a long-running scandal that the Waterford County Board have the chutzpah to charge €2 for what is effectively a team sheet. The programme for the previous game against Dublin doubled up for both that match and the football game out in Carriganore against London. It was terrible value, containing an article for each game – both were perfectly fine, but you can get as good online for free, literally in the case of Tomás McCarthy – and the team sheets. The programme yesterday though couldn’t even claim either of those things, with no articles and lineups that were so inaccurate as to be worse than useless. Both sides had different starting 15s, which is to be expected at this stage. To add further, entirely original insult, Dublin started with players who were not even in the programme while Waterford had Tadhg Bourke and Noel Connors in the wrong jerseys. Trying to keep track of who did what would have been a pain, so it’s just as well I didn’t bother.

What of the game itself?  It’s fair to say that the optimism created by the first three games, containing a close away defeat and two fine wins, has completely evaporated after three soul-destroying defeats. Waterford had started well, rattling over five points in the first seven minutes and looking entirely like they had Dublin’s measure. A goal from a 21-metre free, correctly awarded, kept Dublin in touch but the lead had stretched back to a handy four points thanks to a goal from Darragh Fives, well set up by Seamus Prendergast. With Dublin having hit a string of horror wides while we had been a model of economy with our efforts, it was looking good.

Then came the red card for Shane O’Sullivan. It looked harsh from where I was on the terrace at the Keane’s Road end. He didn’t strike Michael Carton, but caught him as the opponent came at him quickly, so everyone in the ground was surprised when he flashed the red card. However, there’s no getting away from the fact that I was an awful long way from the action. I have no reason to suspect skullduggery on the referee’s part, and presumably he saw O’Sullivan raised hurley catching Carton way too high, in the neck-face area. Fine margins and all that, but if the action was dangerous then he had to go, however benign his intentions might have been.

Could we get lightning to strike twice and win with 14 men again? No, we could not. They kept in touch for the remainder of the half, and a late goal put an undeserved gloss on the scoreline to give Dublin a half-time lead, but it was clear early in the third quarter that Waterford were not going to salvage this. Dublin were amazingly over-elaborate as handpasses and short balls to find men in space were flung about to tantalise their Waterford opposite numbers, but it had the feeling of a team determined to try something experimental in a game they knew they had won. Maybe I’m seeing a plan that wasn’t there, but whatever it was worked out pretty well as two goals in the space of as many minutes gave them the breathing space they needed. Having watched Waterford implode so badly in the second half against Kilkenny last week, it is a small source of relief that this didn’t happen in this game. Dublin would probably have had an extra gear if it were requiredthough, and brains were well and truly scrambled in the Waterford team, something exemplified by the decision of Pauric Mahony to take a point when awarded a free close in with eight minutes left that had goal chance written all over it. All well and good if the intention was to keep the bare look off the scoreline, and there would have been a certain logic to that. But why did they then try to engineer goals in the remaining minutes from much less promising positions? A lack of joined-up thinking from someone in the Waterford panel.

The high-octane nature of each game in the National League these days means we know a lot more than we traditionally expect to know at this stage, and it isn’t good. Three tough defeats means we are behind where we started, and there are no more chances to try and resolve it before the game against Cork at the end of May. Derek McGrath and co are going to have to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Get your rosary beads out.

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Forward planning

Awaking this overcast St Patrick’s Day morning, I scrambled to my phone to find out whether I had imagined yesterday’s events. Had there really been that avalanche of goals in the opposition’s back yard? Had the the recent better results proven to be an illusion, one shattered as superior scoring talent rolled forward in waves and inflicted a humiliating defeat? Yes, it was true. Liverpool had indeed walloped Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Oh yeah, and WaterfordwerebeatenbyClaremovealongnothingtoseehere

I haven’t seen the game, but in the light of my optimistic comments before the game it would be remiss not to provide some kind of follow-up, and the raw facts tell their own story: Clare possess dynamite up front. In writing about the Championship clash between the two teams last year, I referenced the arrival of Peter Duggan on the pitch, an old school mullocker in the style of Christy Heffernan brought on to soften up the Waterford backs. While Duggan would play a role in the turning point in that match and lead to a stream of invective in the comments that day and yesterday – curious how people with different handles and email addresses could have exactly the same viewpoint and style of writing – it was instructive that Duggan would play no role in the All-Ireland final victory or in the Cusack Park massacre. Who needs fixers when you have the likes of Shane O’Donnell and Podge Collins in your ranks, old school wristy forwards who terrorise defences with their brilliance?

It’s never nice to get a shoeing, and the short run outlook has turned grim as we have gone from being well placed for a League knockout appearance to needing to beat Kilkenny to avoid the relegation playoff (Update: probably. KevIRL on boards.ie has crunched the outcome numbers). The long run outlook hasn’t changed though. If we are going to prosper, we need to integrate the Minors into the Senior ranks. Easier said than done, but at least Derek McGrath can be under no illusions about the scale of the task ahead. And no team’s position is set in stone. If in doubt, just ask Man Utd fans.

Please release me, set me free!

The All-Ireland club championships are a joy to behold. I heard yesterday that Ballysaggart have 45 paid-up members. For them to find themselves in the field of dreams that is  Croke Park is the stuff of, well, dreams, and while it almost had a nightmarish end as they had to conjure up a late goal to avoid being left with thoughts of what might have been having let a nine-point half-time lead slip, they did themselves and the county proud with a tale of Hans Christian Anderson proportions. And it might have a happy ending yet…

Not for me though. I’m not from Ballysaggart. I’ve never been to Ballysaggart. I’ve could kinda give you directions – there’s a sign post on the road from Lismore to Ballyduff, just as you pass the golf club – but that’s the limit of my acquaintance with the place. Despite this, I was a nervous wreck following the game on Twitter and WLR. Quite apart from the pleasure to be had in seeing a Waterford team, any Waterford team, winning an All-Ireland title, I had followed their progress ever since they had tidily dispatched Tramore in the county final and want to see it through to the end.

That’s the explanation for why I was so concerned for Ballysaggart’s fate. It doesn’t make it any less deranged though. Economists like to assume that consumers make rational choices, i.e. they’ll choose the option that gives them the most satisfaction at the least expense. Following a sports team from home costs you nothing but it can still exact a ridiculous mental toll. In all the years I’ve followed Waterford, there have been only two occasions where the final game of the season ended in glory – the Under-21’s in 1992 and the Minors last year. Every other time you’d end up deflated as they came up short, no matter how well things had gone up until then. That’s the fate of almost every supporter as only a handful of teams can end the season on such a high, which makes following a team completely irrational. If it were a narcotic, government would be expected to regulate it to the point of quasi-illegality.

At least following GAA teams involves relatively concentrated highs and lows. The feeling is nothing compared to the sustained misery that is following a soccer team. Take the case of my addiction to Liverpool. Twelve days ago we – let’s just accept the collective pronoun applies in my case and leave questions of whether an Irishman can ever truly say ‘we’ when it comes to an English team to another day – experienced a spectacular high as the Reds walloped Everton in the Merseyside derby – I prefer the more accurate term ‘Liverpool derby’ but it’s an argument best left to another day. The high lasted all of five days as Liverpool stumbled badly against West Brom. Wind on six more days to yesterday and this time Liverpool were puttin’ on the Ritz against Arsenal, four goals to the good after just twenty minutes. It was great, but already the euphoria is tempered by the knowledge that there is another away games against another team in the relegation zone coming up against Fulham on Wednesday night. Should Liverpool screw up there, it’ll feel as if the mauling of Arsenal had never happened. It’s just not right to be leaving your sense of happiness open to something as capricious.

In case anyone insists on questioning the whole ‘we’ business, it’s very easy to transfer the feeling across to Waterford United. Just over three years ago, as I started out following the Blues in earnest, they pulled off a spectacular come-from-behind win over Shelbourne to secure a home tie in the playoffs. People who were there spoke of an atmosphere in the away end that would put the Kop or a terrace at a Munster final to shame. That’s lovely, except three nights later the Blues were  beaten by Monaghan United. It was shattering, and the sense of ‘we’ being for real can only make it feel worse.

I genuinely think I would be happier if I could be rid of this turbulent way of life, and while I’m too long in the tooth to change tack I wonder whether to inflict such neuroses on my son. In the midst of the ecstasy and the agony yesterday lay the Irish rugby team. I think I’ve gotten the balance right with them. I was delighted to see Chris Henry and co barrel over the line aganst the Taffs, but when they came agonisingly short against New Zealand recently, the sense of dismay faded with the hour. And the thought that the most balanced relationship is with the ruggers buggers is the most depressing one of the lot.

Peter Marshall, BBC Panorama, and their contribution to the search for Justice for the 96

shanklygates

I didn’t have high expectations for the latest Panorama documentary about the Hillsborough disaster. How many ways can you re-say the same thing? I’ll let you know when I cease updating this blog. On a less flippant note, the programme was mostly a good example of the genre – testimony of copper with a conscience here, revealing interview with interested-but-ultimately peripheral player in the scandal there, pointed reference to the lack of response from a key player everywhere. Workmanlike would be the appropriate description for most of it.

Except in one respect. The thing which has caused the outrage over Hillsborough to bubble under for two decades was not the disaster itself or even the subsequent cover-up. It was the decision by the coroner, Dr Stefan Popper, to impose a time limit on any evidence submitted to the inquest. As far as he was concerned, everyone who died was doomed after 3.15pm due to the extent of the injuries they had received so there was no point wasting the inquest’s time by allowing evidence after this time. Stated in such a blunt manner, the decision makes sense. If everyone was as good as dead by 3.15pm, why muddy the waters with anything that happened after it? In an interview a number of years back, Popper was belligerent in his defence of the decision. He had done the families a favour by not entertaining anything that had nothing to do with the deaths and those who were suggesting otherwise should be ashamed of themselves for using the grief of the families for partisan ends. The confidence he displays in his own decision and the forcefulness with which he expresses it would be very convincing to someone not disposed towards the families of the victims. If someone like me were to object, well, I would say that, wouldn’t I?

The problem with Popper’s self-congratulation is that it assumes that the assumption (so to speak) was correct. To put it in a more sinister context, anything which contradicts the correctness of the decision must be dismissed. How to address the testimony of Derek Bruder? He had told West Midlands Police that Kevin Williams was still alive when he attempted to revive him. Bruder was convinced that this was after 3.30pm but couldn’t be sure. Faced with this inconvenient statement, you can almost imagine the delight of the investigating police when he mentioned the arrival of an ambulance on the field. The inquest was told of his uncertainty about the time but his certainty about the arrival of the ambulance, because the official narrative had it that no ambulance had arrived on the pitch after 3.15pm. Anyone watching the programme would have seen Stefan Popper smugly dismissing his evidence in a 1994 documentary on the subject. 96-0 to the coroner.

It was into this breach that Peter Marshall has stepped. Having established this official position on-screen Marshall, in a breathtaking few minutes of forensic television, drove a coach-and-four through it. He shows the three ambulances on video at 3.37pm, confirms from the ambulance driver that the police were quite explicit in their understanding of when this third ambulance arrived, then reports that this fact was never revealed to the inquiry. We then see Derek Bruder arriving at Kevin Williams, exactly when he said he had, and the viewer now knows that his timing of the ambulance’s arrival was correct. It’s an Istanbul-style comeback for the truth.

Some people online have been griping that this would have been better revealed decades ago, how the BBC had all this footage and never revealed it to the world until now, and of course in an ideal world we wouldn’t be seeing this with Anne Williams gone to join her Kevin. But let’s look at what Peter Marshall and the Panorama team have accomplished here. They had the footage and they had Derek Bruder’s testimony, but they had no way of knowing if the former would confirm the latter. It was the journalistic equivalent of looking for a needle in a haystack when you couldn’t even be sure the needle was there. I dread to think of the hours of analysis of the footage from eight separate cameras they must have ploughed through to find the few seconds of film they needed. Yet find it they did. Peter Marshall and his colleagues on Panorama have done a great service to the truth. Hopefully they’ve brought us one decisive step closer to justice for the 96.

A sport eating itself

What a depressing weekend. While Waterford United were trying and failing to break down 10-man Cobh Ramblers, Seán Maguire was getting off the mark for West Ham United. That’s the West Ham ‘development squad’, and the juxtapositioning of Maguire’s exploits on his first start for the Hammers against the travails of his former club is a poignant one. And by ‘poignant’, I mean it’s a proper pain in the arse. While nostalgia for sport in days of yore must always navigate the rapids of racism, homophobia, misogyny and indentured servitude, you have to wonder at a modern-day system that has a club like West Ham able to keep a talent like Maguire in the cold storage that is the Under-21 League, a competition with precisely zero history, while the Blues can only ponder on what might have been.

This isn’t to criticise Maguire for taking the soup. It’s an expression of exasperation at a system that will go through dozens of Seáni Maguires on the off-chance that they might produce one player capable of performing at the highest level, and the levels lower down can go to Hell, aka the Airtricity League First Division. Watching the preview of the recent Ireland-Austria game, we saw highlights of another 2-2 draw between the countries back in 1968. It showed Eamon Dunphy crossing the ball for Johnny Giles to strike a shot against the post, and the rebound was tucked away by . . . Alfie Hale. I don’t think my wife believed that the man whose name is above the door of a pub on Main Street in Tramore had played football at the highest level, yet here it was in (grainy) black and white. The contrast with Maguire’s career path is stark. Hale would have gone to Aston Villa with the intention of making a stab at the first team and when it didn’t work out he went to other clubs where he was a success before returning to Waterford. Quite apart from the improbability of Maguire ever returning to Suirside, it would be much less galling to see him playing in the lower divisions in England than in some makey-uppy league that no-one cares about and will probably be dispensed with come the next round of meddling to try to produce a system where English youngsters can pass the ball to each other.

As if that wasn’t enough, we then had the utterly mental sight of Luis Suarez biting Branislav Ivanovic. Even writing those words, it doesn’t seem possible that anyone other than a hyperactve child fueled up on on Coke and Wham bars would be engaging in this kind of behaviour. In the week which saw the death of Anne Williams, someone who paid the heaviest price imaginable for someone’s interest in Liverpool FC, it’s demoralising to see an employee of the club lower himself in such a fashion. Only once in the past have I thought that supporting Liverpool wasn’t worth it, when Craig Bellamy attacked John Arne Riise with a golf club, an act that caused me to wonder why I’d put my happiness in the hands of someone so juvenile. Okay, you might have children, but at least they grow up. Yet how do you put manners on someone who is rich enough not to care?

What the cases of Messrs Maguire and Suarez show is how football is governed by the economics of the madhouse. West Ham can afford to take players away from the likes of the Blues without a second thought. Just another brick in the wall. At the other end of the scale, Liverpool can’t afford to get shot of Luis Suarez, not just because he’s the best player at the club, but because he’s a £20+ million asset. If they were to try to sell him, every club would realise that he is damaged goods and offer peanuts as a transfer fee. Please note as well that just about every club in the world would come sniffing around, thus making a mockery of any high-minded comments by the supporters of other clubs. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, we all know what football clubs are, we’re just haggling over the price. They can get away with this because football fans are not rational consumers, but as this former Cardiff City fan shows, even the greatest addict has their limits. Surely football can’t go on forever with this habit of biting the hand that feeds it (sorry).

The old home town looks the same – but doesn’t feel it

05 Liverpool v Fulham 22 December 2012

The first observation I’d like to make after Liverpool’s 4-0 win over Fulham yesterday is what a 24-carat clown Mark Clattenburg is. In primary school our principal, a prominent figure in the schoolboys game in Ireland, would delight in ‘evening things up’ in the most trivial of intra-school matches. If you were 3-0 up, you could fully expect to be hit with a series of inexplicable decisions that would only stop when the score was back to 3-2. And it felt like that yesterday as Fulham benefitted from every 50:50 decision going. Nothing concrete, of course, and you would be perfectly justified in putting it down to partisan paranoia. Justified, that is, until a decision late in the game that took your breath away for its chutzpah. Liverpool earned a free right on the edge of the box and the Fulham wall was clearly not 10 yards back. So Clattenburg started pacing out the distance. As he did this, I joked that he was going to move the ball back. And to hoots of derision of the entire Kop that’s just what he did! There’s no way that’s what they teach you in referee school – “make sure the wall is in the right place then adjust the position of the ball accordingly”. When trying to stay within the bounds of reason when it comes to referees I try to put myself in the position of the official, which is why (for example) I was able to rationalise the decision to award a controversial penalty for handball awarded against Joe Allen a couple of weeks ago against West Ham. The only way you could justify this performance from Mark Clattenburg was to assume he was on the wacky backy that was so noticeable by its fragrance around Anfield after the game.

Anyway, enough bitterness. What struck me throughout the game was how little enjoyment I was getting from being at the game. Okay, it’s always nice to be stuffing someone, and there were some delightful vignettes such as the reception given to John Arne Riise (splendid response from him, bowing to the Kop) and standing up for the 96 (my wife told me afterwards that the Fulham fans leapt to their feet as well, which is a tremendous tribute to them and their club). But I didn’t enjoy being there.

If that seems a little obtuse, let me explain. I’ve been Anfield 97 times – yes, I have counted – and no matter how bad the result, and having seen them lost to Barnsley at my second game results were often very bad indeed, there was always pleasure to be had from attending the venue that Stuart Hall (are we allowed mention him?) would refer to as The Colosseum. The sights, the sounds, the smells – they never got old no matter how often I went. It’s been a long time since Liverpool were the club of choice of the bandwagon-jumper,  yet their allure to new fans remains rock-solid, and part of that is because of the mythology surrounding the club and the venue. Liverpool FC is cool, and even the presence of a dour son of Antrim GAA at the helm can’t change that.

And yet I felt little of the previous bonhomie at Anfield last night. Instead the overwhelming feeling was one of irritability that I had paid over €50 for such an uncertain evening’s entertainment. When we went to see Mumford & Sons last weekend it was with the near-certainty that they would be fantastic, and they were even better than that:

Obviously is was worth it all in the end yesterday as Liverpool ran Fulham ragged for 90 minutes and won by four goals at a game at which I was present for the first time in eight years and 28 attempts. Heck, Stewart Downing scoring a goal and providing an assist, both superb pieces of football and one more instance of each than he managed in the entire League campaign last season, was worth the admission fee along. But following a team has got to be about more than winning all the time. No one other than Kilkenny fans would follow hurling if that were the case. There was something missing last night, and I’m speculating that the fault lies with Waterford United. Even after losing to Dundalk in the playoff I walked out of the RSC with my head held high. The team who I had spent so much time following through the season had fallen short, but someone has got to lose and I had gotten great pleasure from their endeavors and at a fraction of the cost in terms of money and effort that it takes to follow Liverpool.

It’s early days with this new feeling. Maybe it’ll pass. Maybe I was just tired and cranky after getting up at five in the morning to travel. I’m certainly way too long in the tooth to give up on Liverpool FC. There are the best part of three decades worth of memories bound up with their exploits and the not-insignificant figure of Mrs d in my life who was thrilled to experience the too-rare pleasure of taking her seat in the ground. Still, not enjoying something that you’ve always enjoyed . . . it has to be significant. Hopefully Our Brendan will be so brilliant that we’ll never find out where it might lead.

He’s soccer crazy, he’s soccer mad

Always nice to get some compliments from whatever source:

Thanks very much, gormacha, but surely I didn’t use the ‘s’ word that much, did I?

Oh. Four times in the first paragraph. That’s a lot.

The sensitivity of supporters of association football to the name of their sport is a curious phenomenon. At first glance you might be inclined to think that this is a reflection of a chip on the shoulder on the part of followers of the League of Ireland, resentful that the biggest sport in the world is playing second fiddle to a sport in Ireland that calls itself ‘football’ but is really catchthrowpunchfootball. But there are two problems with this analysis. At the risk of looking like this is an exercise in mutual backslapping, anyone who has read gormacha’s posts on BTID would know not that they are not a bitter, resentful person. Secondly, my wife feels the same way. When I speak of gaelic football as ‘football’, she will arch an eyebrow and say “I presume you mean that other sport and not proper football?” It’s interesting to see how even someone from a culture where football is totally dominant gets irked when it is referred to as anything other than football and other sports steal the title.

What explains this seeming over-sensitivity? I think it’s down to the dominance of another culture – that of America. We’re saturated with American culture, and a big part of American culture is their version of football. Americans are very proud of gridiron, the rootinest tootinest shootinest sport on the planet against which all others are hopelessly lily-livered, mind-numbingly low-scoring, or – in the case of soccer – both. The fact that no-one else cares does not shake their messianic confidence that American football will take over the world, and it antagonises the heck out of association football fans, who feel the need to confront any misuse of the word ‘football’ wherever they find it, whether it be bombastic Yanks or Irish people who view soccer as the garrison game.

For my part, I never set out to make a Nationalists (note the capital ‘N’) point by referring to association football as soccer on this blog. I made a conscious decision that the blog would exclusively refer to gaelic football as ‘football’ and association football as ‘soccer’ because it was a GAA blog. References to association football as ‘football’ would be found in the columns for Shankly Gates because they were not, strictly speaking, of this blog. It wasn’t meant to be a political statement.

Okay, maybe it was a little bit.

But that neat dividing line is breaking down. Reading back through the post after gormacha’s comment, the repeated use of ‘soccer’ came across as forced. In my private life I will effortlessly swing between football, gaelic football and soccer according to the circumstances. Conversations in Liverpool would be pretty short if I used ‘soccer’ all the time. Why shouldn’t that be reflected in my blog? So from now on, I’ll be referring to ‘soccer’ only in the GAA-related posts. I’ll just have to believe that people will have the wit to realise the distinction without being prompted. Oh dear, this is going to cause trouble, isn’t it?

Hillsborough – still having the power to shock

I thought I knew everything about the Hillsborough disaster, or at least everything that it was possible to know. The police had screwed up. They had failed to respond correctly to the crush that developed at the Lepping Lane turnstiles by opening the gate onto the terrace and closing the gates into the already-full central pens. When faced with what was happening, they were caught like rabbits in the headlights and basically did nothing for the best part of an hour. And when it became clear the consequences of their inactions, they closed ranks as all big organisations do. Deny they had anything to do with it and spin against those who might contradict it. Don’t deviate from the party line – if we don’t hang together, we’ll hang separately.

And the latest report into the Hillsborough disaster shows all of this to be correct. What I did not expect was the industrial scale of the cover-up, the sheer effort that went into preventing the truth coming out. Much of what I described above, while not right or fair, is at least understandable. We saw a small example of it from the England-Ukraine match on Tuesday night. A Ukrainian player engaged in a ludicrous piece of diving which led to the free being awarded rather than Jermaine Defoe’s goal. Yet rather than blame the player for cheating, the ref was blamed for not being able to see that there had been no contact. You never know when you may need to behave as if it never happened yourself. Likewise, the police will instinctively defend each other. It’s human nature, and I expected it would all be reiterated in repetitive detail in the new report.

What was unexpected was the sheer scale of the cover-up. For no fewer than 164 police statements to be doctored, there must have been a conspiracy of epic proportions. It couldn’t have just been a few bad apples. They all must have known. South Yorkshire police, West Midlands police, the Police Federation, even South Yorkshire ambulance service engaged in an industrial level project to deny the truth and smear the victims. And for the report to reveal it all was quite breathtaking. The pithiest quote came from Trevor Hicks: “When you get the chief constable sitting down with his trade union to cobble together a solid story, then you know we’ve reached a new depth of depravity.”

In the lead-up the report, I would have been inclined to dampen down expectations. The chances of a smoking gun being found were slim. Surely any doctored statements would have found their way into a shredder a long time ago. The best that the families could hope for was a public airing of all the available facts so no reasonable person could dispute the culpability of the police and a half-hearted ‘lessons have been learned’ apology from someone high up the chain of command. There were two things I didn’t reckon with. The statements didn’t find their way into a shredder. Initially I thought this might reflect a Stasi-like desire to hoard paperwork, but that comparison is too hard even on the South Yorkshire Police. More likely it was a reflection of what Jack Straw has referred to as “culture of impunity” in the Stormtrooper-like police force that had been encouraged under Thatcher – anyone who has studied the miners strike would know that’s not being too hard on the police. The attitude about the doctored statements would have been to not care. If anyone tried to look at them, they’d redact them. And if someone did get to see them, they’d shout loudly that the statements were edited for ‘clarity’ or to remove ‘ambiguity’. They could always rely on their friends in the media to have The Truth spread halfway around the world on while the truth was still deciding what length of blade to use for lower limbs. So the statements survived, ticking away in the filing cabinet of some Humphrey Appleby, waiting for their moment to explode.

The second thing that no-one could have anticipated was the diligence of the independent panel and the ease with which they were able to get their report out. It runs to nearly 400 pages but it’s a masterclass in clear writing and layout. Click on a heading and the information is all there. What’s more, they didn’t have to go through the press to get their message across. Can you imagine the hammering the pre-Milly Dowler Murdoch press would have given this assault from the Bishop of Liverpool and his pinko friends on the thin blue line? The Mirror and the Guardian may have pushed back, but any attempts to be reasonable would have been swamped by the noise from Wapping. Instead everyone was able to analyse it at the same time and it took all of five minutes to get to the explosive parts. If David Cameron were contemplating giving the police a get-out-of-jail-free card in the form of an even-handed apology, he soon would have been disabused by the forensic nature of the panel’s report. The truth was out, and no-one was putting it back in its box.

So what now? As the excellent Joshua Rozenborg points out, this is going to drag on for years yet. The nature of the revelations is going to require a wide-ranging investigation and there are going to be significant frustrations along the way – watch out for a sudden epidemic of ill-health among policemen in south Yorkshire which will put them beyond the reach of any internal police investigations. There will be a backlash of sorts. Watching the news and reading the papers, there has been complete unanimity on the scale of the travesty, which has been great to see. It can’t last though. It won’t be long before the bleating starts about how every bobby is being tarred with the same brush, even if no-one is saying that at all. The residual contempt for Scousers will eventually find some mode of expression. Old habits will die hard. And any trials will be deeply distressing as the accused will be entitled to employ to dredge up any story, no matter how discredited and designed as a smoke screen, in their own defence.

For all of that, the narrative has changed utterly. The truth is now at the heart of the story, not something that needs to be explained in excruciating and defensive detail every time it gets brought up. Watching rats like Kelvin MacKenzie and Irvine Patnick scamper from their sinking ship of lies is a grimly satisfying sight. Simply put, the enemies of the truth are now on the run. No effort must be spared in making sure that becomes a rout.

Giving it 110%

From August 2001 to May 2002 I attended thirty-four Liverpool matches, including every game played at Anfield that season. I’m quite proud of that, which is why it gets mentioned so prominently in a Waterford United post. The reason it came to mind was that tonight I’m going to see the Blues play Mervue United. It’s only the fifth game I’ve been to the RSC this season and having seen them lose badly last weekend to Wexford Youths it feels like a bit of a chore to be going again in such quick succession. It’s odd how much easier it is to regularly attend matches where there are 40,000 people than to attend matches with 400 people. Who would have thought?

Thankfully it’s the FAI Cup tonight so there really is something at stake – the right to be in the quarter-final draw and hope you draw the winners of the Malahide United-Dundalk game before getting inevitably hockeyed in the semi-final by one of the big guns. The excitement is killing me!

With the League placings looking pretty much cast in stone – Limerick as champions, Longford and Waterford in the play-off – there is only pride at stake in the remaining home fixtures. Just to make things even more meaningless, a Blue worthy was overhead last Friday expressing a desire for playing Longford away from home, and you could see his point. When Waterford last appeared in the dreaded play-off, they got there by beating Shelbourne in a thrilling comeback win in front of a delirious travelling crowd. A few days later they flopped spectacularly in front of a stunned home crowd against Monaghan United – remember them? So maybe reversing the scenario might help. If it were on a Saturday night, I might even make the trip to sunny Longford myself.

Don’t hold me to that.

A passing thought about ‘playing for pride’. Eamon Dunphy was once asked on his radio show why he didn’t give out racing tips, preferring to concentrate on soccer accumulators. His answer was blunt – “footballers always try.” And you could see what he meant last Friday. With nothing at stake, not even pride of the parish, Wexford went at Waterford with all guns blazing and got their reward. Perhaps each player still secretly yearns to be picked up by Real Madrid or Barcelona if only they can be seen on the right day, but it’s laudable in itself that soccer players want to win every game, every time, just because they want to win. If you want to see how it could be, read The Economist’s take on corruption in Chinese soccer and be grateful for the honesty of the League of Ireland.

Update: and there was me, determined to go come what may . . .

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/waterfordunited/status/239027097585209344″%5D

Hope the Mervue lads got stuck in Newmarket-on-Fergus.