Tag Archives: Dan Shanahan

Dan Shanahan is Useless

In the aftermath of defeat in the 1998 League final, we were walking back into town and passed Seán Cullinane. My brother offered a genuinely heartfelt expression of hard luck, which brought a stricken look from Cullinane that wouldn’t have been amiss had he been kicked in the crotch. It brought home to us that the last thing players want in the aftermath of defeat is human contact, not even of the solicitous sort. And more often than not in the curious melting pot that is the crowd after a big match – it still wrecks my wife’s head that the authorities feel no need to segregate – expressions of hard luck are not all heartfelt. So it was for Jerry O’Connor after last Sunday’s match as some Tipp yahoo stuck his face in Jerry’s and yelled “I think ye had better go back on strike again!” then darted back into the throng.

Taking off my po face it has to be admitted that it was a good quip, and the Cork hurlers and footballers have been asking for a ribbing for their mé féin attitude. Still, no player deserves to be accosted like that in public. This is especially true of amateurs of whom you can’t even say that being abused by Joe Q Public is factored into their wages as danger money. Jerry O’Connor would be entitled to be aggrieved at such ignorant behaviour. Except that Jerry has taken completely the wrong lesson from his experience. He says he’s going to use the abuse as inspiration for the rest of the season, and all those clowns writing Cork off are going to inspire him still further.

When are we going to be spared from sports men and women taking inspiration from people writing them off? If Jerry O’Connor gave it some thought, he’d realise he’s suggesting that he routinely gives less than 100% effort. Perhaps he watches Nigel Tufnel saying how Spinal Tap can turn it up to 11 and thinks without a trace of irony that that’s like Cork, giving it 10 until someone says they can’t do it anymore then they can reach into a reserve that other teams (those not blessed with being from Cork) can’t tap into. Here’s some news for you, Jerry – the rest of us look at Nigel Tufnel and see a self-delusional blowhard. Cork might well turn it around this year but it won’t be because of the media or opposition supporters, any more than Waterford’s dominance over Cork last year was down to Brian Corcoran’s book. It will be because a group of excellent hurlers will learn the lessons of the defeat and come back stronger.

Just in case I’m wrong though, I refer you to the title of this post. In addition, Ken McGrath is a big girl’s blouse and Dave Bennett couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo.

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Then Fall Caesar

Typical. You wait several months for news to arrive then two absolute whoppers come along in quick succession. No sooner do I step away from my PC for a few days R&R than Justin McCarthy leaves the post of Waterford manager and David Fitzgerald is appointed to replace him. That’ll learn me for daring to leave the house. Still, it does reduce the possibility of making predictions that, a la Murray Walker, are instantly proven wrong. Leaving aside the Davy Fitz one, something that would have led to much ill-advised scoffing had I been in a position to record said scoffing for posterity, let’s stick with the defenestration of Justin and the role of the three protagonists: Justin himself, the County Board and the players.

As with the debacle down in Cork (an event from which the keester of karma well and truly farted in Cork’s face last Sunday), the only people who can have any legitimacy in the hiring and firing of the manager is the County Board. Either they publicly back the manager to the hilt or they fire him. There is no in-between. With that in mind, the County Board can be relatively pleased with the turn of events. Their public face was to back Justin and co. and to express regret at his untimely departure. It’s entirely possible that privately they told him he had lost their confidence, but there’s nothing duplicitous about this as long as they would have been willing to follow through on any implications of such an expression. It allows him to take a dignified way out while asserting their authority in the matter. If they privately expressed confidence in him but he decided to jump anyway then no harm done there. They can’t force him to keep the job. The speed with which Fitzgerald has been appointed suggests the former is more likely than the latter i.e. they had a plan B ready in case Justin did go, but the County Board can say with a straight face that ownership of the post of manager remains firmly with them and player power be damned.

The players, on the other hand, will not be keeping a straight face about any element of this affair. When David Beckham swiftly announced his resignation as England captain after the 2006 World Cup, one pundit whose identity currently escapes me was equally swift to snort that it wasn’t Beckham’s title to resign, that the captaincy was the gift of the coach and was awarded on a game-to-game basis. The same is true of membership of the Waterford hurling squad. If any member of the panel has a problem with the coach then the solution is for him to walk away from the panel and let the County Board decide whether his presence is sufficiently important for them to replace the coach. The manner in which players react to failure by ganging up on the coach speaks of a group who lack enough self-awareness to see that it is themselves who might be the problem. The most obnoxious expression of that was Dan Shanahan’s cold shouldering of Justin McCarthy as he came off against Clare. Now, this is not a criticism of Dan’s extra-curricular work for the likes of the Waterford County Council, B&Q or John Kelly Car Sales. Honestly, it’s not. Justin obviously felt they didn’t interfere with his preparation for the hurling side of life and that’s good enough for me that they didn’t interfere. But it was Justin McCarthy who presided over the transformation of Dan Shanahan from a fringe member of the panel being shown how it was done by the likes of Eoin Kelly to as acclaimed a Hurler of the Year as there has ever been. The match against Clare was the first time that Dan had failed to score a goal in a Munster championship match he had started under Justin McCarthy. For Dan to behave as if that transformation was coincidental and that this man on the sideline was holding him back and therefore worthy of such contempt was obnoxious in the extreme. The rebellious meeting in Tramore tells us that the players were comfortable to be associated with such boorishness. It wouldn’t be too much to hope that they feel a bit ashamed of themselves as the dust has settled on Justin’s departure.

And what of Justin? Gerald McCarthy plámásed us all in his weekly News & Star column during his stint in the job, which meant that when he departed many bitter tears were shed. All this despite one League final and one Munster final being the sum total of his achievements in charge, and neither of them happening in his last three years in charge. Compare and contrast this with Justin McCarthy, never the most lovable of characters. His media work consisted of a series of pre-appointment columns which amounted to a pitch for the job. There were no love letters straight from the heart. Indeed he could be extraordinarily prickly, such as imposing bans on players talking to the media. This probably contributed to the manner of his departure. It’s not wishy-washy to say that a manager, like any manager in any walk of life, has to keep his charges a little bit sweet. If he treats them as drones who serve a purely utilitarian function then he shouldn’t be surprised when they aren’t there when the chips are down. That doesn’t excuse the manner in which the players behaved. As stated earlier, if any individual had a problem it was up to him to tell the manager that he wasn’t available for selection rather than connive with his fellow players to remove him. But if Justin is as tetchy in private as he seems to be in public that it can’t be said that they didn’t have their reasons.

However grouchy his public persona might be, it’s heartbreaking to see him leave in the manner that he did. When Gerald McCarthy left with the good wishes of all Déisigh ringing in his ears, it was because there was a sense that he had fought the good fight and brought the team as far as he could. No need for recriminations in those circumstances. Had Justin left at the end of last season his successor would have been burdened with the notion that the other fella was ditched because the National League and Munster championship are inadequate. Put that way, it really shows up the idea that Justin’s tenure was one of failure. The Waterford team of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s won three Munster titles and one National League and had to rely on a last minute goal in the drawn 1959 All-Ireland to ensure their one Liam McCarthy Cup success, all in the days when the Munster winners got straight through to the All-Ireland final. It’s correct to say that the dividing line between success and failure can be razor thin, but to say that Waterford team was a success while the current one is a failure is to reduce the dividing line to the width of an atom.

It has been the classic application of Enoch Powell’s aphorism that all political careers, unless cut short by death, are doomed to end in failure. Had Justin McCarthy been struck by lightning even as recently as the day before the Clare match we would all be weeping for our lost leader. And it is in politics that we can find the seed of the best tribute that can be paid to Justin McCarthy. Joe Lee, when writing on the handover of power from William T Cosgrave to Eamon de Valera, said that it was precisely because it was so bitter that made it so dignified. It has been that very dignity as he faced the reality of those whom he had made great tearing him down that showed what a class act he is. David Fitzgerald will have the opportunity for us to say he won’t be missed, but he will certainly be a hard act to follow.

Mind That Bus What Bus Splat!

Back in the mid 90’s, the Phoenix magazine had a cartoon strip about the Rainbow Coalition predicated on the abrupt manner in which they came to power. It was titled A Bit Of A Shock, and it came to mind as Waterford crashed and burned against Clare last Sunday. The great truism of Waterford hurling over the last decade has been that they never hammer teams out the gate but never get hammered out the gate either, which explains the interest nationwide about each and every one of our matches. So to see them beaten barely minutes into the second half was, to say the least, a bit of a shock.

So what accounted for the enormous gap between earlier predictions of being beaten in the Munster final and being beaten in the Munster first round – discounting the fact that said predictor wouldn’t know his arse from his elbow? On a positive note, or at least a non-negative one, Clare were surprisingly good. Admittedly their forwards didn’t encounter much resistance from the Waterford backs but in previous years Clare’s forwards would struggle to put the ball over the bar if they were playing fifteen dustbins. Midway through the first half, Mike Finnerty waxed lyrical about Clare’s policy of shooting on sight. This is A Bad Thing in hurling terms and not a good reflection on TV3 going forward if this is the kind of insight we can look forward to. Still, his garbled terminology reflected that Clare were shooting and they were scoring. Post-match we had Marty Morrissey giving the usual guff about all the talk in Clare being about going well in training and being quietly confident – so quiet that not a dicky bird of it was reported by the media. Clare had no idea whether they were going well in training, but there would have been the usual sense of entitlement when playing Waterford, something they won’t be able to tap into during the rest of the Munster championship. But their hurling was several notches above the rough ‘n’ tumble stuff we have come to expect from Clare which suggested the Mike McNamara has a few good ‘uns in their team, something they couldn’t have known until they entered the field of championship play. It was a small comfort to see Waterford lose to a team not playing on the adrenalin of perceived slights.

(Incidentally, what was it with Marty Morrissey’s hair? Fading memories of an era when soccer players were all going peroxide tell me that if a bleach job goes wrong it turns out tangerine, much like Marty’s barnet. Was he trying to go yellow and call it saffron? I think we should be told.)

Part of the gap between expectation and reality can be accounted by the excellence of Clare. The bigger part of the gap can be laid at the feet of a wretched Waterford performance. For years we’ve been aware of Ken McGrath’s monumental presence in the Waterford team. Bunged in at full-forward in 2000 against Tipperary, his early departure through injury when he was leading Philip Maher a merry dance cost Waterford the game and earned Tipp the All-Ireland. Then he effortlessly filled the dauntingly large boots of Fergal Hartley to such an extent that he wasn’t missed. Yet it wasn’t until Sunday that Ken’s roll in Waterford’s recent success was so chillingly revealed. Does anyone think Clare would have had so much space had Ken McGrath been roving around like an extra man in the midfield and half forward line? If this is a foreshadow of what we can expect from life sans Ken McGrath, then it’s going to be a long and hard middle age.

It can’t be all down to Ken’s absence. Enough players had a stinker that he can’t have been carrying all of them all these years. No, really, he can’t have been. The bracingly candid comments of one of the few players who did perform, John Mullane, to the effect that some players gave up have led to the suggestion that Waterford threw the match. Certainly there was an alarming lack of vigour in the third quarter when Clare began to move away, although the way the rot was stopped in the last quarter when a 20 point beating looked on the cards would indicate that there was enough pride left for the game to matter. In my opinion, teams rarely throw matches, and then only for money. Before England played Croatia in the last match of the Euro 2008 qualifiers, people assumed that England, needing a win as they were at the time, would walk all over Croatia who had already qualified. Yet Croatia gave it their all, and you can be sure they were not motivated by a desire to let Russia qualify. Even a professional sports person has an awareness of the history of a particular club and a collective sense of belonging with his / her team colleagues. For a team who to a man share an identity from the day each of them were born to give up would be an appalling vista and, like Tom Denning, it’s one that can’t be countenanced.

There might have been a shared belief that the Munster championship is something they can’t get fired up about and once it became clear that Clare were not the team that has flattered to deceive for several years now, they eased off the throttle. This would be understandable. Understandable, but not smart. They may have stopped the rot during the course of the match, but the rot has well and truly set in to the 2008 season. Seven matches against top order counties this year have yielded two wins. Every match where there is an expectation that we might lose, i.e. not against Antrim and Dublin, we’ve lost. And it’s not as if the backdoor is a soft option. We’ll probably get past Antrim, but we have no idea what awaits us in the round after that. What we do know is it won’t be a soft option. We couldn’t be confident of beating any of them. Imagine, a county with pretensions to wining the All-Ireland yet it can’t be certain of beating Offaly. How bipolar is that?

Shot through all considerations of Waterford’s circumstances is the thought that we have peaked and are on the way down. The full back line remains a problem. We miss Ken in the half back line. Michael Walsh can’t do it all by himself in the midfield. Any team that has a big mullocker in both the half forward and the full forward line is asking for trouble. The management – yes, Liam Dunne, take a bow – is getting stale, offering the same solution to problems and expecting a different result. Watching Dan Shanahan shuffle around the pitch has been traumatic, especially when you consider the excellence he produced last year. Grim stuff all round.

One could take a contrary line. The full back line has always been a problem and we’ve gone far despite it. Ken will be back for the rest of the season and we have no shortage of wing backs. Michael Walsh doesn’t need to carry the midfield, Dave Bennett is a capable hurler and a free taker who would be worth his weight in gold if he weighed ten tonnes. Seamus Prendergast is no mullocker these days and introducing one new player in the forwards is hardly a gamble of JP McManus proportions. Management may be stale against Munster teams but our last ten knockout matches dating back to Kilkenny in 2004 have been against Munster teams so even the chance of avoiding those teams in the qualifiers is a hope that we can avoid the familiarity that has bred such contempt. Dan has been injured and is certainly not match fit, so we can anticipate a recovery from him. There’s still life, and where’s there’s life there’s hope.

It’s easier to make a more convincing case for the former than the latter though.

Moneybags Dan

Hearing on the radio that Dan Shanahan had won his umpteenth award for 2007, a work colleague commented that Dan was supposed to be charging a four figure sum for making appearances.

I have no idea whether this is true or not, so PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t be using this blog as evidence that Dan is charging money or what he is charging. But my work colleague said this with distaste. Would people seriously begrudge Dan Shanahan (occupation: oil delivery man) a few quid for his spare time, doing something that, unlike playing hurling, is a chore? Anyone who contacts a celebrity – which is what Dan unquestionably is despite the recent cheapening of that title – to open a supermarket or hand out medals is hoping to cash in on that star wattage. The idea that he owes something to ‘the community’ because of his success is surely pushing the supposed bond between the people of the county and the team a bit too far.

Gouge them, Dan. Gouge them for all they are worth.

All Stars – how MANY?!

I predicted Waterford would be left picking up the pieces after the Cats had been festooned with the All Star awards, and three was as many as we could hope for. So imagine my delight to discover that the Déise boys of 2007 have received no fewer than five statues, with Ken McGrath, Tony Browne and Dan Shanahan adding to their haul while Michael Walsh and Stephen Molumphy both picking one up for the first time. It’s not the same as winning an All-Ireland medal, but it’s a satisfying conclusion to a great year. Well done to all concerned.

The rage of those who have missed out should also make for amusing reading as the day progresses.

The full list of winners can be found here.