Given the seeming need for sportsmen and women to get ‘fired up’ by the loose talk of players and pundits alike, allow me to give Tallow something to get their teeth into: the real county final was played in Walsh Park yesterday with Ballygunner toppling the defending champions and, alas, our best hope for winning the All-Ireland club title. Now I’m just giving Ballygunner something to get wound up over. Never accuse me of not being an equal-opportunities stirrer.
1/10/11 at Fraher Field
Tallow 0-13 Ballyduff Upper 0-10
2/10/11 at Walsh Park
Ballygunner 2-10 (16) De La Salle 0-11 (11)
It’d be marvellous if Tallow could win their first title in 26 years. Heck, it would be marvellous just for being only the second time the county cup has gone West since Lismore won it in 1993. It’s not going to happen though, is it? On a more cheerful note there a few greenhorns moving into the Munster club championship mix, with Na Piarsaigh in Limerick winning their county title for the first time ever and Carrigtwohill winning the Cork title for the first time in an- eye-watering 93 years. Intriguingly their coach is one Joxer O’Connor (h/t to Jamie O’Keeffe for that). One more in the county manager mix? Although if the Powers That Be were unaware of his existence before now then they really haven’t a clue what they’re doing.
Final bit of book-keeping, the details for the final:
16/10/11 at Walsh Park (3.30pm)
Tallow v Ballygunner
It seems a bit harsh on Tallow to dragging them across what is literally the entire county when there is a venue that would be almost equidistant between the two. Not that I’m complaining. See you there.
Back at the tail end of 2009, Mick McCarthy was roundly condemned for fielding a scratch Wolverhampton Wanderers side against Manchester United. 3,000 Wolves fans travelled a long way in the middle of the week with little change out of a hundred notes to see a reserve team whipped by the Mancs. McCarthy defended his selection on the basis of needing to protect his better players from the possibility of picking up an injury in a game they were likely to lose anyway.
However, Come on the Déise is excited to able to exclusively reveal the real reason behind his reticence. Mick is a son of Tallow and he was channeling the spirit that saw Waterford take to the field in Ballyduff Upper yesterday with a less-than-summer-strength lineup. We don’t need no steenking full strength teams when we’re more than five hundred metres west of the Colligan, right?
Okay, that really is the lamest link ever. Still, you have to wonder what we are meant to read into yesterday’s win over Cork IT in the poignantly titled Waterford Crystal Cup, giveitfong’s typically thorough match report notwithstanding. The chances of Tony Browne, Ken McGrath, Eoin Murphy, Seamus Prendergast and John Mullane not being first choice selections come the summer should they be available are slim to none – Big Dan won’t be a certainty, but that reflects the status quo. Players occupying their positions until March won’t have much incentive, and even if they are sensational how are the management meant to tell in such low octane contests like against Cork IT? Getting the right answers to these all-too-obvious questions is what separates the management men from the boys. Perhaps someone should ask Mick McCarthy.
When living in Galway, I knew a fella from Abbeyknockmoy. He was the lone Galwayman of my acquaintance who viewed their then-success in football as a mediocre substitute for hurling success. Upon inquiring as to the quality of his club, I was proudly informed that they had won the County Cup (a figure of speech to which the county title is universally referred in Galway) in 1988. And how had they done in the All-Ireland series? Face darkens. It seems the team had spent the week after winning the county on the pop, and were duly ambushed by the Roscommon champions (NB this link show them losing in 1990. Shome mishtake, shurely?). This was the last occasion on which the Galway representatives did not get to the All-Ireland semi-finals.
If either Ballyduff Upper or Ballinacourty (or both of them) lose in their respective Munster championship ties, no one could say it was an ‘ambush’. But the danger of players still celebrating a fortnight after their long-yearned-for successes is very real. First up is Ballyduff Upper, playing the Clare champions Tulla in Ennis. Lads, hit the ball first, hit the bottle later.
Update: ye can hit the bottle now, lads. Tulla won 2-13 to 0-14. Hard luck to Ballyduff Upper.
I needn’t have worried. Ballyduff Upper won the county championship for the third time when they beat Ballygunner in the final on score of 1-18 to 1-14. I didn’t get to the game due to a prior engagement – the graves, if you must know; another reason for getting the county championship out of the way before November – so heard a valiant rearguard action on WLR as Ballyduff defended a seven point lead in face of an onslaught led by Paul Flynn. You knew it was going to be Ballyduff’s day when Tom Feeney saved a typically brazen long range goal effort from a Flynn free. Ballygunner did trim the lead to as little as two points as Stephen Power pounced on the rebound after Flynn’s goalbound effort had been saved – sadly I am not getting paid per Flynn reference – but Ballyduff held on to win the county cup for the first time in 20 years. Some turn around from being an intermediate team just two years ago.
And they have little to fear in the Munster championship. If this thread on AFR is to be believed, there isn’t a single previous winner of the Munster title left in the competition. Not that they should be too worried after their heroics in the county. Well done to Ballyduff.
Paul Flynn is going to miss next Sunday’s county final with an ankle injury. While this is bad news for Waterford fans as it brings the evil hour of his retirement ever closer, this is surely good news for Ballyduff Upper as they bid to prevent Flynn winning his 245th county title. Okay, it would be his eighth, but it feels like more at this stage. Can you sense the longing for a different name on the county cup?
Quote of the month, if not the year, went to my dad on the train back from Dublin yesterday. Ten to eight, and already I was checking how Stan and the boys were doing against Germany at Croke Park. “Why are you bothering,” says he, “don’t you know it’ll be 0-0? Don’t you know it’ll be 0-0 in an hours time?” A comment born of his less-than-glowing attitude to soccer, but it was eerie in its presience. And what better way to ram home the point than to agree to accompany me to the replay between Mount Sion and Ballygunner, where it was most unlikely that the score was going to be 0-0 to 0-0.
As it was, what transpired was only marginally more entertaining, as an astonishing three-goal salvo in the first ten minutes sunk the defending champions before they had even had a chance to raise the periscope to survey the danger. Each goal was more morale-sapping than the last, the first allowing the Ballygunner forward (no team sheet could be found) to waltz through the defence and score with a shot that Ian O’Regan in the Mount Sion goal really should have seen coming; the second seeing the Mount Sion defence going AWOL, the Gunners nearly screwing up as they had acres of time and space to walk the ball into the net; and the third from a free, a well-struck one but surely one Monastery man could have put a stick to it as there were enough on the line to form a scrum. When another speculative effort on goal from a free arrowed home – Ballygunner’s forward clearly spending his days well with The Master – the match was done and dusted.
Having not been at a senior club match in all of eight years – the 1999 county final, when the Mount Sion juggernaut flattened Ballyduff Upper – this was a case of dipping my toes in the water. I can certainly see myself doing it again. The bone-juddering intensity of hurling is still there at the lower levels, even in a match as anti-climactic as this one was. So I’ll be back, in the sense of being back to Walsh Park, where it’s a case of short journey in, easy parking, no hassle getting a ticket or a seat (can’t have been more than a thousand at it) and a quick getaway at the end. Heading down to Dungarvan or even further afield for the Munster club championship, should we be in it? I don’t think so.
Speaking of Dungarvan, it is there that Ballygunner travel to play Lismore next weekend in the semi-final. As per previous comments. Lismore shall have my full support (in spirit). And should they fail, Ballyduff Upper shall have my full support, they having secured the honour of being my backup to slay the other head on the Waterford hurling Hydra that is Ballygunner by defeating Abbeyside in a nailbiter on Saturday night. Fingers crossed.
The county championship is tortuously moving into the closing stages, and the only question worth asking is can anyone break the duopoly of Mount Sion and Ballygunner? The Big Two collide in the quarter-final today in Walsh Park, which should on the face of it improve the chances of one of the others winning out seeing as only one of them will be in the semi-final. I’m taking a glass-half-empty view of the whole thing though. I view them as being one and the same thing, and guaranteeing that one of them will be in the semi-final is, well, guaranteeing that one of them will be in the semi-final. Which is a bad thing. Better that both had had the opportunity of losing in the quarter-finals and ridding us of their tedious presence before the semi-finals.
As it is, Abbeyside and Ballyduff Upper are already in the semi-finals. Our thoughts and best wishes go with them and the winners of the Lismore and De La Salle match today. All of you, any of you would do!
Update: looks like it’s Mount Sion 2-12 Ballygunner 1-15. They’re zombies, keeping on coming back. Thankfully no Waterford team enters the Munster club championship until the 18th November but it’ll be no thanks to the Big Two and their local bun fight if we get in on time.
Update II: Lismore defeated De La Salle, 1-17 to 1-15, in the other quarter-final, two points in injury time snatching the victory for the westerners. You’ll never guess who got winning point, not in a million years . . .