Category Archives: Waterford United

Here we go again, we’re (not) on the road again

The SSE Airtricity League – yes, that SSE, although at least it’s not G4S – returns to the RSC tonight.

It’s probably recency bias at work, but I feel a lot better about the prospects for the First Division this year than the last couple of seasons. The creation of Galway FC plays up to one of my prejudices, i.e. that the League of Ireland would benefit from tapping into the GAA zeal for the county. It’s more exciting to be facing up to the entirety of Galway city and county than the representatives from Mervue, Salthill or Devon. Shelbourne may be a shadow of the club that won multiple trophies in the 1990’s, but I’d like to think that the endeavours of the Blues in the 1960’s and 1970’s still count for something. There are several teams in the Premier Division who are less likely to set the pulses racing than Shels, so it’s nice to have them around. And speaking of heavyweight clubs, who should we have but Shamrock Rovers! Okay, not the real Rovers, and objectively it’s a horror show that the League is reduced to this. Fully 10% of the senior clubs are now Shamrock Rovers. But subjectively, there’s something pleasing about the prospect of taking them on, even in shadow form. There’s certainly going to be some novelty value, so bring them on!

Not that you would be confident that Waterford United are going to be in any position to knock them down. The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome and, alas, that looks to be the way the Blues are going. When Stephen Henderson left by mutual consent/was sacked midway through the 2011 season, the response was to replace him internally with Paul O’Brien. Two years, Paul O’Brien left by mutual consent/was sacked and was replaced internally by Tommy Griffin. In a league where it’s nigh on impossible to buy yourself a winning team – because no one has any money – managers can make a huge difference and there was little in the second half of last season to suggest that Griffin had discovered the magic formula that likes of, say, Roddy Collins seems to have. Athlone got him, we didn’t, and look where we all are now.

I’m being unfair here. No doubt Roddy Collins or, say, Mick Cooke, doesn’t come cheap in themselves, and maybe Tommy Griffin has welded together a winning combination. Time to find out.

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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.

The last shall be First

Come the end of the summer I had been building up a right head of steam attending Waterford United matches. But then I stopped. When the always slim chance of topping the division rode out of town, I decided to stay at home of a Friday evening with mother and child. Best to keep my powder dry until the playoffs.

Ain’t karma a bitch?

Speaking to a knowledgeable League of Ireland watcher a few weeks before the denouement in Cobh, I learned that the charge up the table of Mervue United was not a fluke. They had blossomed under Johnny Glynn and said watcher had even had a punt on them to win the whole thing at the start of the season. He had lost that bet but it showed that, in his eyes anyway, they were no mugs, and so it proved with a storming finish to pip us at the post. Fair play to them – the bastards.

In fairness to all concerned at the club the damage had been at the start of the season. There was a point where finishing ahead of Finn Harps and Wexford Youth seemed unlikely, so for the Blues to finish as high as they did was creditable. And while I would never claim that not reaching the playoffs is a good thing, even with our lamentable record there, there were positives at the time in a way there were not last season. It has been an exciting season in the First Division, certainly more so than any of the grand leagues around Europe have been. The relegation of Shelbourne means that we could look forward to a fresh face in the division, one that (dare I say as much) has a proper pedigree attached to it. Longford or Mervue would probably have a better stab at nobbling at winning the promotion playoff, thanks to our lamentable record there, which might see another face at the RSC next season. Okay, Bray never get relegated and UCD wouldn’t add much to the gaiety of nations but they were nice thoughts while they lasted. Factor in how the sword of Damocles that was the Stephen Henderson case no longer loomed over our heads, and it was possible to view another season in the eight-team First Division with a degree of good cheer.

How naive it would be though to assume that these matters would be decided on the pitch. For the last week we’ve had the astonishing possibility that Mervue would win the playoff over Longford but not be able to take their place against the team that finished bottom of the Premier Division because Mervue were being subsumed, along with the Salthill Devon and the supporters of the former Galway United, into a new Galway FC outfit. There’s a part of me that would have relished this outcome, emphasising as it would the sheer incompetence of the FAI. But let’s not be completely nihilistic about this. Let’s hope Longford overcome Bray for the reasons I mentioned earlier – a First Division with two new members from the Pale would be a much more interesting prospect than the culchiefest we have now.

(Of course, as things stand there are only going to be six teams in the First Division next season. Having spoken to the League of Ireland watcher about it, I can understand the decision to rationalise the teams in Galway. Even if Mervue and Salthill were willing to field teams alongside the phoenix of Galway United, putting out three teams from one pool of talent in Galway would lead to all three of them being weakened, potentially fatally. Enough with the nihilism. Let’s assume the FAI will pull a couple of Cobh-shaped rabbits from the hat for next year’s First Division, right? Right?!)

For Waterford, the priority for 2014 is clear – sort out the manager. I’ve checked back through the archives and am as relieved as the FAI over Mervue not reaching the promotion/relegation playoff to discover that I didn’t leave myself any hostages to fortune with respect to Roddy Collins, although I’m sure I would have had some snarky thoughts when he was appointed manager of Athlone Town. There’s something deeply irritating about his particular brand of bluster, but there’s no denying the turnaround he has wrought for Athlone, going from 29 points in 2012  to 55 points in 2013  (for your own sanity, don’t dwell on how many points the Blues got in 2012 when set against how many were enough for Athlone to win the division in 2013). In a division where it’s difficult to differentiate between teams by transfer fees and wage bills, because there are no transfer fees and no one pays much in the way of wages in the first place, a manager who knows what they are doing is worth their weight in gold. Perhaps Tommy Griffin is that man. The Blues only picked up three wins in the eleven games when Paul O’Brien was manager. Even a modest improvement on that might have been enough to have secured promotion. Big decisions ahead – both for the Blues and the FAI.

Are We Better Off In The First?

(originally published in the Waterford United match day programme for the Athlone Town game on 26 July 2013)

In a previous episode I made separate references to Liverpool and Ipswich Town, or Roy Keane’s Ipswich Town as they were known at the time. If you were hoping for a page devoid of references to the game across the water, look away now because what follows is a twofer with references to both clubs, and Colchester and Braintree thrown in for good measure. It’s like Little Britain here!

Spoiler warnings out of the way, my story commences at Anfield for the clash of Liverpool and Ipswich Town in the Worthington Cup on 4th December 2002. Now there’s a bit of geekery that would put Brian Kennedy to shame. A work colleague, who hailed from Braintree in Essex, was there to support his team, i.e. Ipswich. If I saw him now I might give him stick for not supporting Braintree Town. But I digress . . . at half-time we met up in the Kop and he mentioned how he had forgotten how difficult it was to keep tabs on the progress of the Tractor Boys after they had spent the previous two years in the Premier League, the first improbably going toe-to-toe for the whole season with Liverpool and Leeds United in trying to qualify the Champions League, and the second seeing them plunge back down to the bottom and eventually through the trapdoor after a last day walloping at Anfield. Now they were back in what was then called the First Division, today’s Championship, and coverage was thinner than Wayne Rooney’s hair.

This surprised me, and not just because no-one would ever accuse the media of not covering Liverpool in enough details (with the recent shenanigans surrounding Luis Suarez, less coverage would have been nice). It had only been a few years earlier that I had read a magazine called 90 Minutes which, when you consider it had no public service remit like RTÉ or the BBC, covered lower leagues in admirable depth. When even a club with a distinguished pedigree like Ipswich found itself being sidelined because they were out of the big top, you know there was something wrong with the football circus.

It was an article in 90 Minutes that came to mind as I watched the recent game between the Blues and Salthill Devon. This article concerned Colchester United, Ipswich’s near-neighbours in bumpkindom (a ‘bumpkin’ is the English equivalent of a culchie) and the belief among Colchester fans that their relegation from the Football League in 1990 was a blessing in disguise. Having spent several years sliding ever closer to the Division Four basement, it was almost a relief to be relegated. They were completely overpowered for the teams they were now facing in the Vauxhall Conference – apologies to the marketing suits of Blue Square Bet, but I’m of an age where the Conference will forever be sponsored by Vauxhall – and their fans thrilled to the experience of going to games expecting to win rather than hoping or despairing.

As I waited for the Salthill game to kick off, the memories of the previous week against Sligo Rovers were still fresh, where the Blues gave it their best but were never looked like causing an upset. If Sligo had taken any of the string of chances they had in the first ten minutes it could well have been a massacre. It wasn’t going to be like that against Salthill, right? And in retrospect it was even better than I had hoped as the Blues emerged victorious after a game as ridiculously entertaining as the game against the Bit O’Red had been a damp squib. Great goals, goalkeeping clangers, defensive howlers, open goals missed, brilliant finishes, attempted lobs from the halfway line – it had it all, and was exciting right up to the final whistle. When you consider some of the dross at Anfield for which I’ve forked out the best part of €50 over the years, this had been a bargain at a multiple of the admission price.

And that brings us back, in a typically meandering fashion, to the fate of Colchester United. Their fans had thoroughly enjoyed their time in the lower leagues, dishing out hidings to the teams at the bottom of the table while having ding-dong battles with their rivals at the top. It’s not like that for the Blues – the struggle to put Salthill away would tell you that – but we’re certainly looking at the flip side of Colchester’s situation, i.e. would there be much pleasure to be had in being in the Premier Division, containing so many teams who are firmly entrenched? We could look forward to some fearsome beatings and victories would be as common as a British winner of Wimbledon. In the First Division we have a genuinely exciting league where three-quarters of the participants have serious hopes of promotion and we can expect to have better than a 50% rate of success. With all that in mind, are we not better off where we are?

Time for a short lesson in media studies. If a headline poses a particularly provocative question (“Will the Large Hadron Collider destroy the universe?” “Will the oceans freeze over?” “Have the Kilkenny hurlers lost the plot?”) the answer is invariably NO. Yes, we would most likely get stuffed if we got promoted, but we want to be up there with the big boys. Everyone does. If Salthill Devon were given the chance to be parachuted into the Premier Division, they take it without a second thought and the prospect of even more carnage be damned. It is the nature of the sports fan to always want more. Should we get promoted it would be absolutely fantastic – and be forgotten come the start of the new season as we moan that such-and-such isn’t pulling his weight the referee must be blind oh come on you can’t miss from THERE . . . are we better off in the First Division? Back to the drawing board with that idea.

Confessions of a Newbie Blue

(originally published in the Waterford United match day programme for the Salthill Devon game on 8th June 2013)

It started with abuse. Never thought that it would come to this. Not coming from a ‘soccer’ household didn’t stop me falling head-over-heels in love with Liverpool FC, and it was that love which saw me spend five years in the city in the mid-Noughties, picking up a season ticket-owning wife along the way. So it was that my in-laws were in town when I was offered tickets for the match against Roy Keane’s Ipswich Town. I was tickled by the idea of my father-in-law, a man who had stood on the Kop when Liverpool famously defeated St-Etienne in the 1977 European Cup, seeing what it was like at the coal face of the game.  I posted a rather dismissive article about the experience on my blog, and even though I brought my brother-in-law to see the Blues play a proper fixture against Limerick in the league a few weeks later – how would a veteran of those two Champions League semi-final triumphs over Chelsea view such an event? – this didn’t necessarily indicate a sudden yearning to worship at the cathedral that is the RSC.

Then I noticed a few comments on the Ipswich post. Very abusive comments. It seemed improbable that these people just happened upon the blog simultaneously, so I did some digging and found someone had posted a link on a fan forum where the comments about me made those posted on the blog look like the work of Ban Ki-moon. There was one chap who exhorted people to give me a break, that at least I had shown an interest in the Blues and had taken the time to express an opinion on the experience. But for everyone else . . . oh boy.  As far as they were concerned the ninth circle of Hell was reserved for barstoolers like me.

It is probably to the credit of my lone defender on the forum that my reaction was not to wash my hands of the whole affair, but instead to adopt a stubborn attitude that I’d show the rest of them what it was to be a Waterford man, godammit! I went along to see the Blues play UCD and lo! bumped into an old school friend who only too happy to show me the ropes with respect to the League of Ireland scene, something I hadn’t been clued into since the days of Tommy Lynch, and I’ve been a frequent (if not regular) visitor to the RSC ever since.

The reason I go through all this biographical detail is not out of a sense of narcissism. Okay, not entirely out of a sense of narcissism. It’s to show how tricky it is to get into the world of the League of Ireland supporter. Supporting Liverpool was a doddle, and that wasn’t because they were winning all round them at the time. And no, I’m not going to beat myself up about that. I’m sure most committed supporters of the domestic game also follow events cross-channel. I was once on a flight back from Liverpool and one of my fellow passengers could claim over 300 visits to Anfield. Clearly a good Red, but also a good Blue as demonstrated by his continued presence in the RSC. The reason I bring up how I came to be a proper supporter is that there were so many places where I could have said it’s not worth the bother. The Ipswich game was deathly dull. The Facebook app that allowed you to show what sports grounds you’d been to might not have existed (that’s the reason my brother-in-law was happy to accompany me to the Limerick game). The friendly forumite might not have been round to give me a vision of a welcoming RSC as opposed to unthinking keyboard warriors. I might not have even met that old school friend who was able to give me something familiar upon which to cling while I acclimatised myself to this slightly intimidating new world. In short, there are so many places that it could have gone wrong. One wonders how many people have set out on the journey only to fall into a similar pothole along the way.

It’s easy supporting a team in the English Premier League. There are millions of people around the world claiming undying love of Liverpool who have never even been to Europe, let alone Anfield. It’s hard to follow the local game. If someone were to ask me why they should go, I’d struggle to come up with a good sales pitch. I enjoy the live game, but you could just as easily go to a junior game for free if all you wanted was to see a good kick-around. €10 represents excellent value for an evening’s entertainment, but the moment it comes out of your mouth you feel like underselling it (“it’s only the price of a few pints”). The commitment of the players to winning even a dead rubber and their honest endeavour at all times is a sight to behold, but despite the abuse heaped on multi-millionaire footballers and their remoteness from the fans, there’s very few of them of whom it can’t be said they give their best too. Don’t ever ask me to be a salesman.

What keeps me coming back is a renewed sense of that which is the last refuge of the scoundrel – patriotism. Waterford city has suffered grievously in recent years, whether it be the depredations of unemployment or even the stripping of the very city status that has been at the heart of its identity for the best part of a millennium. I’m not going to win any converts to the cause in this programme. Something gives me an inkling that everyone reading it is onside already. Either that or looking for a cure for insomnia. In the end though, we have to hang together. The alternative doesn’t even bear thinking about.

Wash, rinse, repeat

There’s not much to say directly about the resignation of Paul O’Brien as manager of Waterford United. Nine goals in eleven games spoke volumes as to the futility of the efforts of the Blues this season, and the only interesting observation that can be made about the manner and timing of his resignation is that he had offered his resignation before the Wexford Youths game at the weekend. I had recently suggested to my neighbour that the first 45 minutes of the game against Longford Town were, despite a fine goal expertly finished off by Michael Coady, the worst I had ever experienced at a sporting venue. “The Cobh game was worse” was his world-weary reply. When you can’t even say there has been entertainment in defeat, it’s time to move on.

But where do the Blues go now? I’ve being banging the drum for the pointlessness of the First Division for a while now, but as we face into a season of no hope I realise now that it’s even worse than I initially thought. While Dundalk, our conquerors in the promotion playoff back in November, have been able to splash the cash on a heavyweight of the domestic game in Stephen Kenny and sail serenely into the top half of the Premier Division, Waterford couldn’t even hang to Gary Dempsey, let alone Seán Maguire. I can’t say with certainty that Longford have been able to hang on to their players, although the presence of Keith Gillespie and his never-ending talking point for fathers of young children at the RSC (“did you know he played for Man Utd?” “Yes, you told me that last time Longford were here. And the time before that, and before that . . .”) suggests there is some money behind them even to this day. For the rest of the teams in the First Division, it’s a question of cobbling together a squad of junior players at the start of the season, bereft of any knowledge of how these players might fare as a team or how they might cope with the step-up to the senior game – and it is a step-up, despite any jaundiced impression I might give to the contrary – and seeing how they get on. A couple of years ago the Blues were able to supplement such a squad with a known talent like they did with Liam Kearney. No one of that stature these days at the RSC, and it’s showing.

So far, so rehashed (not that that’s ever stopped me in the past). What’s new in the aftermath of O’Brien’s resignation is the feeling that there’s nothing to be done about. Our recent bête noire, Mervue United, operate under similar restrictions and it looks like they’ve gotten it right for the 2013 season. Good for them, and amidst this moaning about the unfairness of the system it shouldn’t be forgotten that everyone else in the division has the same problem. However, the Blues are now locked into a scenario where things can’t get any better. They’re committed to the squad assembled in the close season and that’s that. It would take a genius of Alex Ferguson-proportions to transform them into contenders, and while he is an unrealistic option even the realistic ones – Pete Mahon’s name has been mentioned – don’t look that, well, realistic, especially with the Shelbourne job up for grabs. Who would want to come here when they can go there?

I’ve argued before that the solution to such doom-laden prognostications is for a one-division League of Ireland. At least if there’s nothing to play for you can look forward to the visits of the top teams every now and again. Things are getting so doom-laden for the Blues though (and losing last night to Limerick in the League Cup won’t help; another potential visit from a top team knocked on the head, and the manner of defeat was grim as well) that I’m beginning to wonder whether anything can jolt the club out of the seemingly terminal decline. In the current League of Ireland, they don’t come much bigger than Sligo Rovers. If the city can’t get the blood up for their visit on Saturday week, the counsels of despair could become deafening.

An honest day’s work

Having despaired at where football finds itself in my last post, it’s probably only fair to give a point of view that shows the beautiful game in a positive light, something that I find easy after this weekend for reasons that have nothing to do with Liverpool pounding Newcastle United into a fine powder on Saturday. Okay, it’s partially why I feel more cheerful about the game, but what impressed me most about the sport came on Friday night as I followed the exploits of Waterford United against Finn Harps on FlashScores.co.uk.

Some might find it curious how since the opening night of the season against Harps I’ve managed to come up with some reason not to visit the RSC, whether it being out of the country (Athlone), having other plans (Cobh), or the sheer inconvenience of the game being staged on a Saturday night (Mervue), but this is a positive post so take your negativity elsewhere, right? Besides, they’ll all be back in town soon enough. It was while keeping tabs on Waterford’s efforts on Friday night that it struck me how improbable it all was. Not the late winner, this was the third time in four games that the Blues got the winning goal in the last 20 minutes. No, it was following events on a website also featuring scores from places as diverse as Cameroon and Uzbekistan. When you consider that even the club had no-one to keep people posted about the scoreline on their Twitter feed, it’s incredible that the good people of FlashScores.co.uk were sufficiently public-spirited to give us the good news of Paidi Quinn’s late winner.

And if you believe they’re doing it as a public service, I’ve got a certain East River-based road span for you to buy. During the match each game is awash with calls to BET!BET!BET! using graphics so psychedelic that they would have made a teenager back in the Geocities era pause for thought. Despite the ‘.co.uk’ in the title, it seems unlikely that the results feed from Ballybofey bothers too many punters in Britain. Any interest is likely to emanate from gambling-obsessed south-east Asia, and anyone who read the article in the Christmas 2011 edition of The Economist outlining how corrupt football is in China would do well to be concerned by the possible impact such interest might have on the domestic game.

Some people will argue that any interest is nice. On a less flippant note, the League of Ireland certainly doesn’t feel bent. The two teams may have generated more heat than light in their fixture on the opening day, but it all looked and felt totally above board, 22 players trying their hardest to win because, well, that’s what they do. When Mervue came to the RSC at the tail end of last season the match was a dead rubber for them, but they kept trying because that’s how footballers are wired. They want to win every game. It’s to the credit of the sport, and definitely a reason for giving it further support.

Of course when Longford Town scored a 93rd-minute winner against Salthill Devon on Saturday night, it was clearly the work of the Triads. Someone call Interpol.

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).

Is it cowardly to pray for rain?*

It’s the opening day of the League of Ireland season, and any gallows humour about summer soccer was looking particularly appropriate this morning as granite skies frowned upon the RSC. Never in the course of blogging have I thought of myself as some kind of uberfan  – I did have pretensions to having the definitive Waterford GAA website that would attract eager readers from around the globe but that was a loooong time ago – but surely even anyone above casual about their support would relish the first game of a brand new season, laden as it is with possibility. That excludes me because the thought of huddling in a freezing stand slowly getting the consumption filled me with dread. I was hoping that the heavens would open and any thoughts of going to the game could be banished by the glow of a blazing home fire.

As it happens, the weather has cleared up beautifully, so it’s off to see the might of Finn Harsp I go – guilty conscience in tow. Come on the Blues.

*The title of the post refers to a comment made by a ‘viewer’ of the Guardian’s over-by-over coverage of the deciding Test in the 2002 Ashes.

Not-so-great expectations

The Waterford United squad for 2013 is beginning to come together at around the same time that the Waterford hurling squad for 2013 is beginning to resemble Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. Having already elaborated on reasons to be cheerful for Waterford, it’s appropriate to explain why I’m feeling the same way about the Blues. This is especially noteworthy in the context of the Jeremiads undergone at the end of last season, and I can’t pretend that I know whether any of the players that the Blues have signed are any good. However, this is the first time in the three years that I’ve kept tabs on events in the RSC that we can look forward to a season where there is no obvious promotion contender – had we managed to hang onto Seáni Maguire then I’m certain that that team would have been the Blues. While one must assume that the two Galway teams and the new arrivals from Cobh, who surely have had a few potential issues waved away in the rush to get someone, anyone, into the First Division, are going to be whipping boys, it would be tricky to pick a top two from the other five teams. The thought that this could be a long, topsy-turvy season is an exciting one, and something to applaud in a world where people don’t seem to think there’s anything wrong with Barcelona stomping all over and sundry in Spain.

Thinking further on this, it helps that I don’t have high expectations for either Waterford team. I remember when the hurlers were crap, so it’s a case of easy come, easy go. I remember when the Blues were pretty good, when the likes of Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians were regular visitors to Kilcohan Park, but I didn’t ever go to the matches so I don’t have a benchmark for what a quality regular match day experience should be like. And it puts a bit of context into the poverty-stricken attendances at the RSC. In my very first post about Waterford United on this site, I noted that there is:

no shortage of ‘soccer people’ in Waterford to follow the Blues yet they don’t seem to think they are worth following, so why should someone who has not a single soccer player anywhere in his family worry about the local League of Ireland team.

And as we saw against Dundalk, they are out there. There must be a few of them of an older vintage who feel aggrieved that their club is so low and can’t bear the thought of going in to see them when they can remember better times. As recently as 1986 Kilcohan played host to a team managed by a man who would go on to the win the World Cup. And no, in case you don’t click on the link that’s not some canine World Cup, that’s the World Cup as won by Aime Jaquet, manager of Bordeaux when the Blues played them in European Cup Winners Cup. It’s understandable that some people who would identify themselves as Blues would not feel up to the prospect of going to the RSC when the best you can hope for is drawing some heavyweight in the FAI Cup. Okay, you could argue that it’s because they stay away that we can’t aspire to the top table any more, but despite what Alan Quinlan might have us think when he blithers on about a fan’s “responsibility“, it’s not unreasonable for a supporter to do a Popeye and say he can only stands so much and he can stands no more. There’s an entertaining season in prospect in the First Division – but only if you have a particular concept of what constitutes ‘entertainment’.

Closing the circle of expectations, what are the hurlers chances in 2013? They’re going to lose every game. We were stuffed by Kilkenny, Tipperary and Cork in each of the respective NHL games last year and there are no signs that is going to any different this year. We edged out Galway by the minimum, and while it could be argued that they will have their eyes focused on next September they won’t want a repeat of their buttock-clenchingly tense relegation joust with Dublin so I’d expect them to take it seriously. And then there’s Clare against whom we start our season on Sunday. All-Ireland Under-21 champions Clare. Munster Minor champions Clare. Waterford Crystal Cup winners Clare. We are, in short, screwed. Expect a divergence in the tone of commentary about the hurlers and the Blues in 2013.