Tag Archives: Ballysaggart

So many, many ways to feel miserable

It’s been a good couple of weeks for Waterford GAA, what with Modeligo and The Nire reaching their respective provincial finals, and Cappoquin winning theirs. It might not seem like much in the grander scheme of things but if the tweet I referenced last year was correct, i.e. that Ballysaggart’s three wins in the Munster championship were more than all previous entrants managed in the Junior competition’s entire history, then it’s definitely been a good couple of weeks for Waterford GAA. It’s an article of faith that the Intermediate and Junior competitions are far less competitive in Waterford than they would be in the larger counties, so any evidence of broadening the base of talent in the county is to be welcomed. As for the footballers, it’s always been a curious anomaly that a county with a robust infrastructure for the big ball game cannot even take on the best that Clare, Limerick and Tipperary have to offer with any confidence, let alone those hailing from Cork and Kerry. Add in a savage, if shameful, delight at The Nire taking the wind out of the sails of the supposed Invincibles of Cratloe, thus gaining a measure of revenge for their hurling win over Ballygunner, and it has been a very good couple of weeks for Waterford GAA.

I hope the fundamentals have changed. When Waterford teams of the past were going down like dominoes as soon as they crossed the Suir/Blackwater, it didn’t really matter because the first I’d know about it was reading a headline in the local papers or, if I was feeling particularly energetic, a single line in tiny font in the results section of the Monday national paper. In the days since Twitter went supernova (see top of post), it’s incredibly easy to keep tabs on the adventures of Waterford teams against mysterious rivals like Bruff, Ballylanders, Feohanagh-Castlemahon or Castlemartyr. Okay, not all rivals are that mysterious. Hammering away at the refresh button on my Twitter feed to see how The Nire were getting on against Cratloe was a surprisingly tense affair. It’s not The Nire I care about, it’s the Waterford team, and there are going to be six of the them at the various levels in each code to concern myself with. If this becomes habit-forming, and the fundamentals have not changed – the anomaly is the current run of competitiveness and we will soon see a reversion to the mean with frequent 20-point beatings for each of the respective county champions – then there’s going to be many a cold winter on Twitter ahead.

Don’t be evil

If you meet an asshole in the morning, you met an asshole. If you meet assholes all day, you’re the asshole.

Raylan Givens, Justified

Pat Bennett is a hero of mine, assuming that the Pat Bennett coaching Ballysaggart is the Pat Bennett of Ballysaggart who struck a late goal in the 1987 National League quarter-final against Cork in Walsh Park to level matters and set the stage for Anthony Cooney’s point that secured a stunning victory that had me lepping around the Town End grass bank terrace like a mad thing. A hiding at Galway’s hands in the semi-final and a heartbreaking loss to Limerick in the Championship, where Pat’s first-half goal raised hopes of a shock win, did nothing to diminish the delight of the first time I saw Waterford win a knockout match against one of the game’s heavyweights. The first time is always a little bit special.

Hold that thought and contemplate something far less pleasant – the archetypal Tipperary jackass. We’ve all met several, even in real life, and while they are far more virulent on the internet (I firmly believe it was their antics that undid UpTheDeise.com) the ones in the flesh are worse because you can’t dismiss them as trolls. They fancy themselves as having struck every ball in every All-Ireland victory for the Premier County – did you know they’re the only county to have won an All-Ireland in every decade, a boast that gets aired at least every five minutes and is good until 2029? – and openly sneer at the shambolic efforts of a county like Waterford. You tell yourself that this character isn’t typical of Tipperary people in general, but you can’t help yourself. You burn with righteous indignation and rejoice every time they fall on their arses. Boy, does it feel good when that happens.

Which brings us back to Pat Bennett. His embittered rant after Ballysaggart’s loss to Creggan could be dismissed as being emotional after missing out on a once-in-lifetime opportunity that you have spent the best part of a working towards, but the comment about the referee John Keenan was bang out of order:

I don’t be critical of referees, I never do, but when you’re putting in a Wicklow referee that doesn’t know what hurling is about then that is what you get.

It must have been 25 years ago that my brother was on the Waterford team that won the Sonny Walsh Cup, the B equivalent of the Tony Forristal, by beating Wicklow in the final. Apart from the obvious feelings of delight at a Waterford win and pride in my brother’s part in that win, I remember admiring the Wicklow lads who had come all the way to Waterford to take on teams from the big guns and hoping that while they wouldn’t be good enough to beat Waterford that they’d be good enough to be a force in the future. Here we are in the future, and it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that John Keenan was on that Wicklow team. It may not be right to label Pat Bennett an asshole or think less of everyone associated with Waterford hurling because of his comments but you couldn’t blame someone from Wicklow who did, especially given there is form for this kind of outburst in the person of Paddy Joe Ryan who was more temperate, but equally ill-judged, when criticising Pat Aherne (wasn’t very well-judged myself) after the drawn 2003 Munster semi-final against Limerick. If someone slagged off Waterford in these terms from the county of, apropos of nothing, Tipperary, we’d be mightily irked, and rightly so. Let’s hope the good folk of Wicklow are more understanding of the anger of a coach and father than we have reason to expect.

Just to put the tin hat on it, the injudicious nature of Bennett’s outburst mean that it’s going to be very hard for Ballysaggart to avoid the accusation of sour grapes over their objection to a couple of Creggan’s team – there’s even a thread effectively accusing them of it on the GAA Discussion Board – even though they have a very strong case. The relevant rule is:

Age Grades – R6.16 T.O

To be eligible for the Grades listed hereunder, a player shall meet the respective stated age criteria:
Adult: Be over 16 years.
Under-21: Be Under 21 years and Over 16 years.
Minor (Under 18): Be Under 18 years and Over 14 years.
Under 16: Be Under 16 years and Over 12 years.
Under 14: Be Under 14 years and Over 10 years.
Under 12: Be Under 12 years and Over 9 years.

To be “Under” an age shall mean that the player shall celebrate the Upper Limit birthday (e.g. 21st. for Under21 Grade) on or after the 1st. January of the Championship Year

To be “Over” an age shall mean that the player shall have celebrated the Lower Limit birthday (e.g. 16th. To participate in Senior/Under 21 Grades) prior to the 1st. January of the Championship Year. Girls may participate only up to and including the Under 12 Grade.

It’s is a little ambiguous, what with Senior and Adult being used interchangeably, but the spirit of it is crystal clear – if you are too young/old for the competition on 1st January of the year of the competition, you are not eligible to enter. If you are to assume that a new year means new eligibility rules apply, this would mean that any Minor/Under-21 players who was competing in such a competition during the final year of his/her eligibility would no longer be able to compete should the competition, for whatever reason, spill over into another calendar year. As for assuming that the All-Ireland series is a new competition, there were suggestions that Waterford would try that tack to render John Mullane eligible for the All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny after he was sent off in the 2004 Munster final. We were told in no uncertain terms by the chattering classes that this would be a bad idea, and yet it is Ballysaggart who are getting stick for daring to question it when one of their opponents drives a coach and four through the spirit of the rules.

Alas, the difference is down to Pat Bennett. No club likes to win titles off the field, but it’s equally true that no club likes to lose to a club playing to a different set of rules. It’s important to establish the narrative so that should Ballysaggart ‘win’ in such a manner that it’s clear to all and sundry that they haven’t gotten the result overturned because they objected to a 16-year-old playing, but because Creggan at best played hard and fast with the rules and at worst were cheating. The chance to establish this narrative looks to have been lost – you only have to look at the GAA board thread to see that.

In the long run, I think it’s best if Ballysaggart lose their appeal. That’s not to say that Ballysaggart are wrong to pursue it. I dread to think of how many man/teenager hours have gone into their tilt at All-Ireland glory, and the chances of them ever getting another shot at it again in the near future are slim. They’d have slip back from Intermediate level in the county for starters, and I wouldn’t have thought they’d be planning to do that. The prize is so great that I can understand them not caring about the optics. Looking at the bigger picture though, we don’t want to acquire a collective reputation as a shower of whingers and it’s going to be impossible for that to be avoided after Pat Bennett’s incendiary whinge.

A tale of two leads

Twice in the space of a week Waterford teams let big leads established early in the second half slip. Last weekend Ballysaggart were ten points up against Kickham Creggans – or is it Creggan Kickhams? It seems to be the former but the latter is used by what should be reliable sources, sometimes in the same report – and yesterday the county team let a five point lead slip against Tipperary.

There’s a big difference between ten points and five points, although when you consider it was a ten-point swing for Ballysaggart, who ended up level at full-time, and an eight-point one for Waterford, who lost by three, it’s not that big. The manner of the swings was different as well. Without wanting to dismiss the achievements of Ballysaggart, and they’ve done themselves and the county proud, it seems hard to claim that they were anything other than second best to their Antrim opponents. The ten point lead probably flattered them a little, padded out as it was with three goals, and the way CK/KC horsed them out of it for much of the 110 minutes that followed means they don’t need to feel they left it behind them. I don’t think the same can be said for Waterford, who hit eight wides in the first half and were finally undone by a horror show goal as a free out from Tipperary goalkeeper Darren Gleeson sailed all the way to the net. It’s hardly the end of the world for the new management team – only twice in thirteen previous League visits have Waterford left Thurles with maximum points – but an opportunity to make a bold statement has been missed.

What both ties have in common is the nagging feeling that Waterford teams don’t have what it takes to make those kind of leads count. The smirking that accompanied Waterford’s late implosion in the Munster Minor final was hard to take, and that was just from people within the county exasperated at what they saw as showboating on the part of a team that was getting arrogant about their own ability. Close it out with the minimum of fuss? Not the Waterford way.

I’m reading too much into this, but the rub is that I’m reading anything into it all. Last year it was Tipperary who let as big a lead slip much later in the game against us, yet you can be sure they haven’t given it a second thought since. If nothing else Derek McGrath would be a success if we could stop having these thoughts. The reduced angst would make it all worthwhile.

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.

Ballysaggart 5-12 (27) Creggan Kickhams 2-21 (27) (AET) – Giveitfong’s view

(Originally posted on boards.ie)

To put it bluntly, Ballysaggart were poxed to come away with a draw from a game in which, for the most part, they played second fiddle to bigger, stronger, more committed and more focused opponents whose combined play and ball control were also far superior. That they managed to survive can be attributed to a couple of gift goals, poor Creggan shooting, some good freetaking by Stephen Bennett and, it has to be said, some gritty defending by the Ballysaggart defence at a time in the second half when Creggan looked like completely taking over the game.

Up to now, Ballysaggart have generally been able to force the agenda in the games they have played in this championship. Today, they were on the back foot from an early stage and did not respond well, sending a lot of Hail Mary balls up to their forwards which were generally mopped up by the Creggan defence.
Ballysaggart got the boost of an early goal when Stephen Bennett shot low from a 20 metre free to the right of the goal, and although not all that well struck, it squeezed past the Creggan players on the goal line who clearly weren’t expecting it. Creggan subsequently began to dominate in the middle third of the park, but like many teams before them, found shooting at the Davin Stand goal with its swirling winds a difficult task. They shot seven first half wides to Ballysaggart’s two.

Ballysaggart’s second goal in the 20th minute was the best of the game. Kenneth Cashell sent in a great diagonal ball behind the Creggan defence from out on the right sideline for Shane Bennett to run on to, although it took him two attempts to get it past the Creggan goalkeeper. Their third goal in the 30th minute was a complete gift, as Stephen Bennett’s long-range free fell short but the Creggan goalkeeper allowed the ball to slip through his fingers into the net. Earlier, another long ball into the Creggan goalmouth also found its way to the net but the referee somewhat questionably disallowed the goal for a square ball. The half-time score was 3-6 to 0-6.

Ballysaggart started the second half with Shane Bennett moved to wing back from the full forward line, and this did give them more possession in that sector of the field. When Stephen Bennett pointed an early free to extend the lead to ten points only one result appeared likely. However, to give them their due, Creggan came back strongly, urged on by their numerous and vociferous supporters. They got a lifeline in the 40th minute when the Ballysaggart last line failed to clear the ball after goalie Matty Meaghe batted out a shot and a Creggan forward fired to an empty net.

With centre forward Oran McCann lording possession, Creggan landed some great points and a converted penalty on 50 minutes brought the deficit back to a single point. At that stage, a Creggan win looked inevitable, but Ballysaggart defended doggedly to maintain the one-point lead until Creggan finally landed a deserved equaliser from a long-range free on the call of fulltime.

Creggan continued to dominate matters in the first period of extra time to go into a three-point lead, only for déjà vu to strike again as Shane Bennett’s attempt at a long range point fell short, with the Creggan goalie again leaving the ball slip from his grasp and into the net. Creggan rebuilt their three-point lead in the second period of extra time and, with the Ballysaggart front line unable to create openings, the game seemed done and dusted.

Then, with normal time up, Kieran Bennett made a run down the left wing and lobbed a high ball into the edge of the square which ended up in the net with Shane Bennett, I think, getting the vital touch. The referee allowed two more minutes of play before calling a halt to what was an enthralling contest.

If Ballysaggart are to make the most of their unlikely second chance, they are going to have to raise their game to a higher level of intensity and will need to get a better type of ball into Stephen Bennett. They should also reconsider having Bennett taking long-distance frees which, on many occasions, fell short. Would it not be better to have someone else taking these frees and have Bennett at the end of them?

Ballysaggart scorers: Stephen Bennett 2-7 (2-5 from frees); Shane Bennett (3-0); Ronan Walsh (0-2); Kieran Bennett (0-1); Daniel Devine (0-1); Kenneth Cashell (0-1).

Ballysaggart 4-13 (25) Calry/St Joseph’s 0-8 (8) – Giveitfong’s view

(originally posted on boards.ie)

Ballysaggart had a comfortable win over a game but limited Calry/St. Joseph’s side in the All-Ireland Club Junior semi-final in Tullamore today. Ballysaggart were much the better hurling team but rested on their oars a bit in the second half after building up a commanding lead. Despite the hopelessness of their situation, Calry battled away to the end but simply lacked a cutting edge up front. They only got one point from their forward division with midfielder and captain Keith Raymond contributing six (all but one from frees) and their centre back the other one.

The poor hurling conditions probably affected Ballysaggart the more. Apart from the heavy sod, a cold blustery wind blew frequent showers straight down the field, and a brief squall early in the second half made conditions almost impossible for the players.

Ballysaggart had first use of the wind, and deployed just Stephen and Shane Bennett in a two-main full forward line, a tactic that worked quite well. However, they started slowly, and in the first few minutes their goalie had to make a smart save and Calry hit a bad wide (they hit seven over the hour to Saggart’s five). Once Ballysaggart settled into the game they gained control and the scores started to come, mainly from Stephen Bennett frees.

The first goal came in the 12th minute when Shane Bennett ran onto a long ball from midfield and although he lost his hurley he kicked to the net. The second goal came ten minutes later. Shane Bennett got in a good shot which the goalie blocked out for a 65 which brother Stephen sent in low and it found its way to the back of the net. We then had a pair of superb long-range points from midfielder Kieran Bennett and two more excellent scores from wing forward Kenneth Cashell. Stephen Bennett essentially wrapped the game up in added time when he dispossessed a Calry defender and then squeezed a tap-down shot just inside the post to leave Ballysaggart 3-10 to 0-2 in front at the break.

Whatever chance Calry had of making a fight of it with the wind at their backs after the change of ends were killed off four minutes into the second half when Stephen Bennett let fly for the top corner from out on the left. An inrushing forward may have finished the ball to the net but I thought Bennett’s shot went all the way.

After that, and the ensuing squall, Ballysaggart relaxed somewhat, while Calry kept plugging away and notched six points but could not get the goal they would love to have got against a hard-working defence excellently marshalled and led by centre back Eugene O’Brien. The biggest cheer from the large Ballysaggart following came late in the game when diminutive substitute Michael Kearney scored a smashing point.

Final score: Ballysaggart 4-13 Calry/St. Joseph’s 0-8. Ballysaggart now play Creggan Kickhams of Antrim in the final in Croke Park on February 8 (throw-in time to be confirmed). They had a good 2-10 to 1-8 win in the other semi-final over Lancashire team Fullen Gaels who got to the final of this competition in 2013.

Ballysaggart: Matty Meagher; Bobby Ryan; Kieran Fennessy; Daniel Devince; Barry Murphy; Eugene O’Brien; Cailean O’Gorman; Christy Murphy; Kieran Bennett (0-2); Shane Bennett (1-0); Darren Meagher; Kenneth Cashell (0-2); Ronan Walsh; Stephen Bennett (3-8, 0-6 from frees, 1-1 from 65s); Tom Bennett.

Substitute: Michael Kearney (0-1). I think Stephen Hale and either Shane or Fearghal Meagher were the other two subsitutes brought on.

Bennett’s bridge to the top

If this tweet (which I’ve linked to before) . . .

. . . is correct, and while I’m always dubious about tweets from an account with that odd Twitter egg avatar it certainly looks plausible, then Ballysaggart’s recent success means they have won more games in the Munster Junior club championship this year than all previous Waterford entrants put together. It’s already an amazing story for a club that, according to their Facebook page, is the smallest in the county and with the potential to get even better. We’ll all be rooting for you in your quest for All-Ireland glory and petty East/West divides be damned.

(The thought that Tramore ended up getting knocked out by the Munster champions is also a nice one.)

From a countywide perspective, Ballysaggart’s success inevitably leads one to speculate on just how good Stephen Bennett is. I had the pleasure of seeing him strut his stuff from a very young age against the Limerick Minors two year ago, and having been such a star during the All-Ireland run this year , it looks like he might be the real deal. The level of bitterness expressed by Limerick’s Munster Council rep over the Hawk Eye fiasco was born of an underlying truth – Limerick beat a Waterford team that are now being feted as a gold mine of talent, with Bennett the most lustrous nugget of the lot.

The eternal question now presents itself – ease him into the team or drop him in at the deep end. Carrying his match-dominating habits into the Junior club ranks against teams who doubtless had several hatchetmen just itching to show the storied young fella a thing or two about what it is to hurl amongst Men having only previously played against Boys, the temptation is to throw caution to the wind. History will judge Derek McGrath on whether he can integrate the likes of Bennett, Austin Gleeson and Patrick Curran into the Senior ranks. As challenges go, I can think of worse ones.

Ballysaggart 3-12 (21) Feenagh/Kilmeedy 0-15 (15) – Giveitfong’s view

(originally posted on boards.ie)

Two “handy” goals early in the second half proved the difference as Ballysaggart deservedly became the first Waterford team to win the Munster Junior Hurling Club championship today. This was a high-quality game of hurling which was a credit to both clubs. The pitch at the superb Mallow GAA facility was in fairly good condition despite the preceding game of football. It was strange that they played the football game first, especially as football is more suited to being played under lights, which were on from the start of the hurling game.

There was a stiff wind blowing straight down the field which assisted Feenagh in the first half. However, it was Ballysaggart who made by far the better start, with Stephen Bennett opening their scoring with a pointed free followed by a superb goal from 20 metres. Bennett added two more neat points struck off his right side (for the benefit of those who think he is too one-sided for senior intercounty level) with his brother Shane weighing in with two further points.

Feenagh gradually worked their way back into the game, with their centre back Edward Murphy scoring three excellent long-range frees from his own half of the pitch. With Ballysaggart playing only five (and sometimes four) up front, we repeatedly saw unmarked Feenagh defenders picking up Ballysaggart clearances falling short into the wind and driving them back with interest. This pressure yielded a sequence of frees all of which the Feenagh freetaker converted.

Deep into added time, Stephen Bennett shot wide after the referee failed to whistle for an obvious jersey pull, and from the puckout Feenagh earned a converted free which amounted to a two-point turnaround which we feared might prove significant. Half-time: Ballysaggart 1-8 Feenagh 0-9.

Feenagh came out all business in the second half but were rocked back when conceding two rather soft goals within a few minutes of each other. The first came from a long ball in by Stephen Bennett which broke at the edge of the square, and despite the attentions of two defenders, Ballysaggart’s Ronan Walsh managed to get the ball into his hand and squeeze it past the keeper from an angle. Minutes later Shane Bennett ran onto a poor Feenagh clearance and powered forward to shoot for goal from 20 metres. The goalie should really have stopped a shot which wasn’t that strongly hit and came in at midriff height, but it passed through his diving body and into the net. This gave Ballysaggart a three-goal lead.

Feenagh were now shell-shocked and I thought Ballysaggart should have gone for the jugular, but they retreated into defence to deny Feenagh the goal which they knew they needed – always a bad idea in my view in a hurling game, but one which worked out on this occasion. At one stage in the second half, despite playing with the wind, Ballysaggart had no player inside the Feenagh 45 metre line. They had Stephen Bennett playing on the wing where he was rather marginalised when I thought he should have been located at full forward where he would have been more of a threat and would have required the attention of several Feenagh defenders. At the same time, Ballysaggart did create a number of good scoring chances in the second half but turned them into bad misses.

Instead, Feenagh owned midfield for much of the second half but long balls into the goal area were well defended with goalkeeper Matty Meagher dealing very capably with any ball landing in the goalmouth. Feenagh also tried running at the Ballysaggart defence but this proved equally unproductive. However, they did get the deficit down to four points, their best goal chance coming from a well-struck 30 metre free from their centre back which was deflected over the bar. Stephen Bennett closed out the game with two well-struck frees in the final minutes.

Apart from Stephen Bennett, I thought Ballysaggart’s best players were centre back Eugene O’Brien, left half back Cailean O’Gorman who had a really good second half, Shane Bennett at left half forward and right half forward Kenneth Cashel who came home from New Zealand for this game and turned in a really powerful first half before understandably running out of steam after the change of ends.

There was a great atmosphere at the game (official attendance 3,270), and the outpouring of joy and emotion from the Ballysaggart fans (who were there in force) at the final whistle showed what a wonderful addition to the GAA calendar these secondary club championships have become.

Ballysaggart: Matty Meagher; Bobby Ryan; Kieran Fennessy; Daniel Devine; Barry Murphy; Eugene O’Brien; Cailean O’Gorman; Christy Murphy (0-1); Kieran Bennett; Kenneth Cashel (0-1); Darren Meagher (0-1); Shane Bennett (1-2); Ronan Walsh (1-0); Stephen Bennett (1-7, 4 frees); Tom Bennett.

Ostia wasn’t built in a day*

The internet is making it easier for me to get closer to that most nebulous of concepts – the real GAA man. Last Sunday I found myself checking Twitter to see not only how Ballinacourty were getting on in their quest to get crucified in the Munster final by Dr Crokes, but also to see how Tramore’s conquerors in the Junior county final, Ballysaggart, were getting on in the Munster club championship.

The notions of a rising force in Waterford hurling contained in my previous post may be a bit premature. It’s great that the Under-21’s can beat Portlaw, and any concerns that this might have been a shadow Portlaw outfit should be dispelled by assurances I’ve received that DJ Foran was on their team (be sure to vote for DJ for Goal of the Year on TG4’s website). On the flipside, Tramore’s Under-21 journey went the same way as the Juniors – a decisive defeat at the hands of the Western Board’s finest, in this case Brickey Rangers. Then there was the rude awakening I received when discussing Ballysaggart’s win over Tramore with my father. He spoke of a radio interview he heard with a Ballysaggart mentor where said mentor mentioned the population of his parish – 225! It’s an achievement to field an adult team, let alone beat a club whose catchment area contains (at the last census) a population of 9,508. A lot done, more to do.

Still, a lot has been done in Tramore. There’s still evidence of the excitement that was created by reaching the county final around the town with the banners exhorting people to attend the match and the flags fluttering all over – and they weren’t all put up for the county team. I don’t recall this kind of hoopla attaching itself to previous ventures, and given they were Intermediate as recently as 2010 (my Google-fu is lamentably not turning up anything more specific) they must have been in Junior finals in the recent past.

Things have changed, and for me the most important ‘thing’ is the manifestation of the increased muscularity of hurling in the county. Lots of people would have been caught up in the Minors run to All-Ireland glory and the club sensibly tried to tap into that crowd by advertising to them that there is a hurling world beyond Croke Park in September. Only a few of those people might maintain an interest beyond losing to Ballysaggart, but a few would justify the effort.

As a glorious year for hurling draws to a close, I’m allowing myself be a little giddy about our future prospects. Throughout the Noughties I would have been of the opinion that Clare’s glory era in the late 90’s had come to nought. Yet they now have three Under-21 All-Irelands under their belt in the last four years, not to mention some other gong won in September. A decade of boys and girls picking up hurleys to emulate their heroes reached boiling point in 2013, and the only place they didn’t win was at Minor level, thanks to an almighty hiding at the hands of Waterford. We even had a Tramore man playing for Waterford that day. And my new favourite club notched only our third win ever in the Munster Junior hurling championship thanks in no small part to some young Turk:

Our time is coming.

*Cryptic headline explanation. Tramore is a seaside town, and the seaside retreat for the city of  Rome is . . . ? I’ll get my coat.