Tag Archives: David Fitzgerald

Waterford 1-15 (18) Clare 2-20 (26)

34 Waterford v Clare 2 June 2013 Cover

Here comes the summer! We’d all like to see crowds of 50,000 in Thurles on a Munster championship Sunday, but it has its costs. Where’s the pleasure in parking out by Thurles Golf Club, wading your way through rivers of vomit, taking a seat in a completely different part of the stadium to other members of your family, and being stuck in amongst a group of people who don’t know the game/incessantly bellow for the opposition/both? Last year I saw something deeply wrong with a relatively poor attendance. This year? How could you feel churlish when we felt confident enough to leave jackets in the car? Here comes the summer!

35 Waterford v Clare 2 June 2013 Ticket

All the pre-match speculation about the lineup of the teams proved to be accurate as Waterford rejigged positions with Maurice Shanahan going in full-forward and Paudie Prendergast popping up in the corner. For Clare, both Cian Dillon and Darech Honan had made miraculous recoveries. Someone really should tell Davy that a surprise is something that no one sees coming. A good example would be him keeping his cool over a free given against his team only ninety seconds in as the referee missed Jamie Barron picking the ball off the ground. Had Davy waited even a picosecond longer he would have seen the linesman agreed with him and was furiously waving his flag to that effect and the ref, to his credit, admitted his mistake and changed the decision. What are the chances of Davy ever doing that?

What was surprising was how quickly Clare were out of the blocks. When my wife asked me beforehand what I thought would happen, I had opined that if anyone was going to run away with it, it was Clare (if this feels like preparation for a spot of reverse ferreting after my intemperate comments before the game, you’re probably right) because they were clearly a less well-known quantity than Waterford. But you wouldn’t expect such a new team, with so few Munster championship wins to their name,  to take flight as easily as they did as Clare raced into a four-point lead. A 65 from Colin Ryan, awarded after his free from Barron’s foul went out off a Waterford back, opened the scoring. There followed two quick fire points from John Conlon, the first after he had pilfered the ball from between two Waterford players who managed to get in each others way, and the second from the subsequent puckout as he eased onto the ball and slotted it between the posts. Colm Galvin then had the freedom of the park to give Clare a four-point lead after only five minutes and you began to wonder whether Davy had produced alchemy of a type that would have had Isaac Newton bowing in admiration.

31 Waterford v Clare 2 June 2013 Action 1

Everything looked awful, right down to a short puckout to Jamie Nagle who, with all due respect (and there’d be plenty due over the next hour or so), hasn’t got the most monstrous puck himself, thus leaving Waterford no further up the field than most poc fada goalies could manage. What we needed was a moment of carelessness from a Clare back to soften their collective cough. So props to the Clare back who hit a hospital ball to a teammate that was pounced upon by Jake Dillon. With the entire Clare defence on the front foot there was only thing on his mind even at a good 45 metres out from goal, and he got into position and struck a delightful bouncing bomb into the far corner. Had this happened at the other end, we’d have been passing out the sick bags. Great stuff.

Ship steadied, we now began to motor. Dillon could have had another goal when he had the room behind from an error by a Clare back in which to move but he had already decided he was going to flick the ball up and bat it over the bar and that’s what he did to level matters. A free from Ryan after Honan had been fouled put them ahead again but he also sent one from further wide. Still, that wasn’t an easy one and you could only wince as Pauric Mahony mis-hit a free from inside the 45 to drop it into the lap of the Clare goalie. It was not an auspicious day for the art of the dead ball as Waterford cleared a dreadful sideline cut from Ryan to Seamus Prendergast who scored to take the edge off Mahony’s earlier miss.

A soft free allowed Ryan to restore Clare’s lead but the remainder of the half would belong to us. Kevin Moran teed up Pauric Mahony for a fine score to level matters again, then Shane O’Sullivan and Jamie Nagle combined to romp down the right wing and give Maurice Shanahan the chance to put Waterford ahead for the first team. Unfortunately Pauric Mahony’s score had not eased his stage fright as he missed another relatively easy free but it didn’t seem to matter that much, so on top were the Waterford half-backs and midfield. One run from Kevin Moran saw him flick the ball over a Clare player and release Mahony who was fouled to give Maurice Shanahan the chance (ahem) to stretch the lead to two from the free. Another botched sideline cut from Ryan was given the a proper punishment by Waterford as we swept up the field and Mahony earned another free to give Shanahan the chance to put us a full goal ahead. The backs were winning oceans of possession and using it well, and even when Clare were getting in behind us we saw Honan being pushed shepherded out wide where he could only drift a shot wide of the posts. An over-the-shoulder effort from Jake Dillon saw us go four points and Clare felt sufficiently spooked to bring on Peter Duggan. Right from the start he was clearly in the mould of a fixer, sent to lift the crowd and soften up the Waterford players. His first contribution was to pluck the ball salmon-like from the air . . . then be hustled out of it by four Waterford players. Spare us all from hurling’s Great White Dopes.

32 Waterford v Clare 2 June 2013 Action 2

Through all of this Waterford’s wide count was beginning to stack up, Jamie Barron having slashed at a decent chance and Shanahan hitting a free from a goodly distance out wide, but the dominance of the backs and the precise nature of  their play, all effortless creation of space and precise balls into space was music that was lulling my senses. O’Sullivan and Nagle in particular were outstanding, easily matching and even exceeding the efforts of Moran and Walsh, and there can be no higher praise than that. Even a drag by O’Sullivan on an advancing Clare forward to give away a free from which Ryan scored to trim the gap to three felt planned – don’t give them a sniff of a goal chance. When Shanahan failed to get a free for an obvious drag and was instead penalised for overcarrying, it felt like justice when the free dropped short and Tony Kelly failed to take advantage of a decent chance when Ian O’Regan’s clearance was blocked. A long-range effort from Moran went for another wide but any sense of frustration was quickly nipped in the bud as he strode onto a careless puckout and smashed it straight between the posts to get us all punching the air with delight. There was a mild moment of panic at the other end when Curran made space for the Clare forwards with his mullocking ways but Kelly ending up taking the point, and the half ended with Shanahan knocking over another free after he had been clothes-lined to leave us with an eight-point swing at half-time from those scary opening five minutes.

It’s very important to emphasise at this stage how satisfied everyone was with what had unfolded. The Waterford team got a standing ovation as they came off. The full-back line had stood firm in all cases and the half-backs and midfield were cleaning up. Yes, the forwards had been a bit wasteful but six different players had scored from play and with Shanahan firmly in the free-taking saddle it was looking very good indeed. They looked so well coached. If they kept playing like this and stuck to the game plan, what could possibly go wrong?

In retrospect, the game would be lost in the first ten minutes of the second half and there were moments that, even at the time, you could see would lead to the quailing of the stoutest of hearts. An early snatched-at effort by Barron was followed up by an even more dispiriting effort by Mahony, his effort coming on the back of a quite brilliant piece of play by Nagle where he deftly batted the ball off the hurley of an advancing Clare player and played Mahony in for what should have been a tub-thumping score. A third awful wide of the first eight minutes of the second half, this time a hasty effort from Seamus Prendergast of all people, had me making a despairing contemporaneous note – MULLANE. Had we made hay in those opening minutes of the half, gotten seven/eight points clear, forced them to start going for goals, our heads kept in the air . . . who knows?

22 Waterford v Clare 2 June 2013

We didn’t though, and maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference because the turnaround we were about to see was total. A great score on the run by Tony Kelly showed the Waterford forwards how it was done – eight minutes in and the first score of the half – and the gap was halved when Ryan stroked over a free after Paudie Prendergast had despairingly fouled Shane O’Donnell to prevent something worse happening. Shanahan looked to have stopped the rot with a fine long distance effort after a pirouetting Moran had been clipped by his opposite number. It looked nasty and surely hurt like hell, but the ref correctly recognised there hadn’t been a shred of malice in it and no card was issued. Overall, Mr McGrath had a very good game. Meanwhile Waterford were now firmly on the back foot, exemplified when Jake Dillon was giving away frees in scoring range for Clare. Ryan popped this one over the bar, and when the ref mysteriously whistled up for some off-the-ball action in the Waterford right-corner – terrible officiating! – Ryan had the simple task of taking the score and reducing the gap to one. Nagle was harshly penalised for a push on Duggan and yet again Ryan was on hand to level matters. Clare seemingly could only score in five minutes spurts.

Darragh Fives gave Waterford some relief with a rampaging run which ended in him being fouled to give us back the lead from Shanahan’s free but it didn’t last long as Honan got the freedom of the park to level matters. You can see another seven letter word on my notes at this point – FITNESS. People who climb mountains may only be good at climbing mountains, but Clare had really scaled the one we had put in front of them in the first half. All the dominance we had shown in the half-back line was now a distant memory as Clare rammed every ball back down our collective throat. A great run by Ryan ended in another none-shall-pass foul and it spoke volumes that this time Clare felt sufficiently pumped up that Kelly decided to go for a goal. Personally I think you’re asking for trouble with this kind of gambit. With about ten backs between you and the goal the odds are pretty low and should the opposition clear it then it can be a tremendous boost for morale, effectively a very bad wide. And thus it initially proved as someone in the square got a stick to it and Kevin Moran went to clear. However, note the words of Rod Laver. He said that a break in tennis wasn’t truly a break until you had held your serve. This was much the same scenario as Moran’s clearance was blocked by Duggan – damn these mullockers – and the ball pinged to Shane O’Donnell who couldn’t miss from point-blank range.

33 Waterford v Clare 2 June 2013 Action 3

What a disaster. Waterford were completely rattled, Mahony demonstrating this with a crazy pull out on the 65 that was never going anywhere near the posts. A similar effort from O’Sullivan reinforced how badly Waterford were struggling, the deft creating of space by half-back and midfield before leaving the ball was ancient history. Clare were having no such problems, first to every ball and finding space with ease, Honan getting a fine score with no Waterford player within five yards of him. O’Sullivan showed there was some individual life in the Waterford dog, drawing a foul and allowing Shanahan to keep the deficit down to a single score, but collectively we were clearly a beaten team. When Seamus Prendergast tripped his marker as he emerged with the ball, it proved how the Waterford players were a step behind the mountain climbers, and the subsequent free-out was galloped onto by Conor McGrath and he had no problem batting the ball past the exposed O’Regan. Game as good as over.

Gavin O’Brien had come on for Jamie Barron and showed the benefit of fresh legs in these circumstances with a nice score, but the strength of the Clare players was overwhelming, Tony Kelly reacting with his third point of the game straight from the puckout. Jake Dillon managed to get a decent score on the run although in the circumstances he might have been better off putting the head down and going for goal. We weren’t going to win this picking off points and when Shanahan was given a charitable free about 30 metres out he was probably in two minds about whether to try and drill the ball towards the goal. Whatever it was, he flicked the ball up and completely missed striking it. It surely should have been a free out when he stabbed the ball along the ground towards goal  – if not, what’s to stop a player gingerly lofting the ball several yards in front of them then striking it as it came down? – but the play carried on and could have been a crazy goal which might have undeservedly revived our fortunes. Instead O’Brien’s Seamus Prendergast’s pull seemed to be deflected over the bar and the chance was gone.

It was to be our last score of the game. It pains me to say it, but for the last seven minutes we were a rabble. I’m not saying they didn’t try, but heads were firmly between knees at this stage. Colin Ryan could have had a goal of Mickey Sheehy/Paddy Cullen standing when Ian O’Regan’s clearance having gone walkabout dropped into his lap but his shot drifted wide. Fergal Lynch also could have had a goal but took a point to guarantee himself on the scoresheet. Colm Galvin scored a tremendous point from distance and Ryan added another free, then another score from Galvin with nary a Waterford player in sight truly twisted the knife right on the final whistle. Those last few scores breezed by in a blur – that’s the polite way of saying I hadn’t clue at this stage, please don’t treat my scorers as gospel. Given the extent to which Waterford had been on top for large periods, those scores flattered Clare – but not by much.

29 Waterford v Clare 2 June 2013

I’m not angry or bitter at Waterford for what happened. The feeling is one of resignation. I don’t think I was being unreasonable for questioning where the evidence of Clare’s progress under Davy Fitz was to be found. I have to admit that those who read between the lines got it right. He has some very talented players and has whipped them into shape in the way he does best. For Michael Ryan, the drawing board must look more like the writing on the wall. The backs gave the forwards a platform to win this and they failed to take it. The best that can be said now is that the back door might give them an opportunity to put it right.

Waterford: Ian O’Regan, Darragh Fives, Liam Lawlor, Noel Connors, Jamie Nagle, Michael Walsh, Paudie Prendergast, Shane O’Sullivan, Kevin Moran (capt, 0-1), Maurice Shanahan (0-7, 0-6f), Seamus Prendergast (0-2), Brian O’Halloran (Ray Barry), Jamie Barron (0-1; Gavin O’Brien, 0-1), Pauric Mahony (0-1; Martin O’Neill), Jake Dillon (1-2)

Clare: Patrick Kelly, Domhnall O’Donovan, David McInerney, Cian Dillon, Brendan Bugler, Patrick Donnellan (capt), Patrick O’Connor, Colm Galvin (0-3), Seadna Morey (Peter Duggan; Fergal Lynch, 0-1), John Conlon (0-2), Tony Kelly (0-3), Colin Ryan (0-8, 0-7f, 0-1 65), Darach Honan (0-3), Shane O’Donnell (1-0; Padraic Collins), Conor McGrath (1-0)

HT: Waterford 1-9 (12) Clare 0-8 (8)

Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath)

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All the players that are fit to play

I think it’s a good idea to nail your colours to the mast before the first Championship as to what team you think should take to the field so that I can’t be accused of being wise after the event should the team that does line out bellyflop in a spectacular manner, and that’s what I was planning to do. Imagine my surprise when Michael Ryan gazumped me by releasing the team on Tuesday rather than the Friday before the game that seems to be the norm these days. This is a good thing. Spare us the mind game nonsense and allow us to have a natter about the choices made before the event.

Ian O’Regan
Darragh Fives Liam Lawlor Noel Connors
Jamie Nagle Michael Walsh Paudie Prendergast
Shane O’Sullivan Kevin Moran (capt)
Maurice Shanahan Seamus Prendergast Brian O’Halloran
Jamie Barron Pauric Mahony Jake Dillon

Although you could argue that there wasn’t much in the way of ‘choice’ available to Michael Ryan and co. The most obvious place where he had to make an either/or decision was in goal, where we see Ian O’Regan make a Lazarus-style return to Championship hurling after a nine-year absence. I’m normally one for saying that the only objective measure of performance is how you did in the League. This isn’t because I think the League is a crucible in which legends are forged – it clearly isn’t – but because there’s no other measure that makes any sense when dealing with unseasoned players. Stephen O’Keeffe has only played two more Championship games than O’Regan and is hardly an undisputed choice (nor would Adrian Power be if he were still in the mix), so why not stick with the incumbent who kept two clean sheets in the last two games after O’Keeffe has been to blame for the loss to Kilkenny? To which I respond that I find it hard to believe that those two games were enough to answer the questions that have always clung to ‘Iggy’ since that wretched day against Kilkenny in 2004. If we are going to maximise our potential, it has to be with players who have the capacity to be good rather than good enough, and I still think O’Keeffe is the former and O’Regan the latter.

At least in this case Michael Ryan had a choice, because the rest of the team has the alarming appearance of being output of a check on who were the last men standing.

The spine of the team looks good.  Liam Lawlor has staked a decisive claim at full-back and what a relief it is to be able to say that after all these years (no disrespect intended to Declan Prendergast). Brick Walsh is the best centre-back in the country, Shane O’Sullivan and Kevin Moran are a top midfield pair, and Seamus Prendergast is a reliable ball winner who also invariably weighs in a couple of scores in each game.

For the rest of the team though, it’s a question of looking at who is not there. The lack of goals was a feature of Waterford’s play throughout the League and a lot of the satisfaction from our performances would have been underpinned by the idea that Shane Walsh was likely to make a return for the Championship, scorer of 3-11 in his last six outings. Yeah, this was good but it was going to be better come the summer! How deluded can you be? The presence of Pauric Mahony in the full-forward line does not inspire confidence. I don’t know which thought is more depressing – that he might not start there and the team sheet is purely notional, or that they’re going to give him a few minutes to see how he gets on. In Championship terms this is an entirely new full-forward line. A lot seems to be riding on Jamie Barron and Jake Dillon making a smooth transition to the biggest stage. Maybe they will, but it’s going to be a white-knuckle ride for all concerned.

At least the absence of Shane Walsh is not a surprise. More alarming is the impact the recent injury to Shane Fives has had on the team. Thanks to his excellent form, it all looked very neat after the League with him in one corner, Noel Connors in the other, and any permutation from Moran, Jamie Nagle, Darragh Fives and *genuflects* Tony Browne as wing-backs. Then Shane Fives comes a cropper and suddenly it all goes wrong. Darragh Fives is slated to go into the corner, and you have to admire his stoicism in the face of once again being asked to make do (he could probably get some pointers on this from Declan Prendergast) but remove one piece from the Jenga tower and suddenly it looks precarious. Again, you wonder whether that’s how they’ll line out – Prendergast in the corner instead? – though the best that can be said for such jiggery-pokery is that they hope it might confuse Clare. Good luck with that.

We have had rotten luck with injuries – you can add Stephen Daniels to the tale of woe as well – and any county would struggle to cope with the loss of players of the calibre of Stephen Molumphy and John Mullane. We saw against Cork last year how shallow the pool of talent is, and it hasn’t gotten any deeper in the intervening period. So I’m very nervous about Sunday.

For all of that, what is it with Clare? I know they’ve got a number of underage titles from recent years but it’s a long time since they did anything worth talking about at Senior. The notorious 1998 Munster final was the last time they won anything at this level yet you’d swear it was only yesterday, the way some pundits are blowing smoke up their collective arse. You might argue that Davy Fitz will make all the difference, but based on what? Promotion from Division 1B and a mediocre run through the Championship last year, and coming within a whisker of getting relegated this year? It’s strange how Davy Fitz’s management style was seen as an impediment to Waterford yet is such a perfect match for Clare. The predictions seem to be based on alchemy, surely a meaningless metric by which to measure excellence as opposed to ‘results’. Maybe we’ll see some of that alchemy from Waterford on Sunday. Jamie Barron and Jake Dillon to be the bestest corner-forward pair since Cúchulainn and Fionn Mac Cumhaill took on a team of Scottish giants at hurling/shinty. Their team captain? Tony Browne. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Let us entertain you

Much to think and talk about after today’s game. Pride, passion, great play, diabolical misses, players on the up while others raged against the dying of the light, all played in a splendid spirit in front of an appreciative crowd. And at the time of writing it seems there’s a stink brewing around Davy Fitz. But one thought with which to close the day – the Waterford who brightened everyone’s lives with thrilling hurling and tumultuous finishes look like they might be back. The times they are a-changing back.

Waterford 4-9 (21) Clare 3-17 (26)

An Spailpín Fanach recently made the point that the Irish Independent, in the guise of Phil-Space-in-Chief Martin Breheny, routinely comes up with scare stories about the effect other sporting events have on GAA attendances and what a nonsense this line of thought usually is. “You only get proper GAA people at League games” he wryly observed. How right he is, and you wonder how many people came to this match with the intention of demonstrating just what an authetic Gael they are. It certainly can’t have been for the thrill of manly competition because this was as bloodless as a game played with metal-tipped pieces of wood gets. And for 10 yoyos there would not have been a single casual person at this game.

There was one thing that made this a worthwhile exercise though – seeing a Waterford man prowl the sidelines in charge of our senior team for the first time in nearly two decades. Could anything long-term be divined about Michael Ryan’s plans for the team? About the best that can be said is that he doesn’t look like a man given to tinkering. Not only did the Waterford team line out as on the clár oifigiúil, they even took up their positions as per 1-15. This isn’t just useful from the perspective of the amateur hack. It suggests the man knows his mind, is willing to give his experiments a chance, and not going to change them willy-nilly.

That’s the positive spin from this game. All of it.

It started pretty well. After a couple of quick scores from Clare, one a fine effort from midfielder Patrick Donnellan where he rammed a long Adrian Power puckout back down our throats with interest, Waterford settled down. Martin O’Neill could have had an early goal for us but wanted to turn onto his good side when the trigger needed pulling instantly, and Shane Walsh picked up where he left off on 2011 with two quick scores, the second an excellent over-the-shoulder effort. A foul on Eoin McGrath gave O’Neill the opportunity to open his account from a free which he duly took. The best player on the pitch at this stage was Donnellan, his rampaging run nearly putting Aaron Cunningham in with a goal-scoring opportunity but the forwarded opted to take a point. Waterford folk will have great hope for the positioning of Michael Walsh at centre-forward this year and a soft foul on him gave O’Neill the chance to put Waterford back in front before Seamus Prendergast swatted off a few challenges after some great approach work from Walsh to score the first goal of the game.

So far so good. Waterford looked neat and tidy at this stage, Jamie Nagle in particular impressing in the half-back line with some robust play. There was a moment of concern when Adrian Power and Declan Prendergast got their wires crossed under a dropping ball and and full-forward Colin Ryan should have done better with his booted effort as Power struggled to get across. You have to wonder when Prendergast will be put out of his full-back misery. But that seemed out of character with the performance thus far from Waterford, a point emphasised as Maurice Shanahan landed a long-range free, Kevin Moran went close with a typically butch effort from way out the field and O’Neill notched another free after a Clare back had taken too many steps under pressure. Yep, so far so good.

How bad was it about to get? Not scoring for another twenty minutes bad. Outscored 2-12 to 0-2 over the next forty minutes bad. in short, real bad. Tony Carmody scored for Clare, then was professionally fouled by Aidan Kearney to give Clare another score from a free. Clare’s number 25, unnamed in the programme, lobbed over another long-range effort to cut the gap to three, and Jamie Nagle was relieved that Cunningham was too hasty with his effort when Nagle attempted a daft over-the-head clearance right in the endline. At the other end, Martin O’Neill took a free way out on the left of the field despite being a left-handed striker of the ball, which suggests that he was advised to get some practice in. His free was only partially cleared but Seamus Prendergast flapped horribly at his effort to scoop the ball back into the mix and a free-out was awarded. He did something similar moments later, shooting widly when a point was definitely on, and Clare extracted maximum beneift from those let-offs as Carmody slipped away from Kearney again – worrying – and slotted the ball past Power.

Clare didn’t rest on their laurels, uimhir a Fiche Cúig continuing with his Cúilín Fada crusade and a colleague showing enough commitment to a lost cause that he nearly got skewered by the flag on the 65 in a effort to keep the ball in play. Some splendidly alert play by Colin Ryan as he charged from his line out to meet a short free from inside his own half gave him the chance to stretch the lead to two and he then drew enough players to himself to allow him to give the ball to Fergal Lynch in space to make it a three-point lead. Waterford ended the half with a score, Michael Walsh intercepting an attempted clearance and getting chopped down for his efforts and allowing O’Neill to land another score. But Waterford were an unholy mess and were grateful for half-time so they could change things around.

At least you thought that’s what was about to happen, but the only change I could observe as the second half swung into gear was Eoin McGrath coming out the field. Even a hurling klutz like myself would express skepticism at such a move and not fear ridicule, and it made no discernible difference as Clare serenely went on their way. One noteworthy feature of their play was their ability to keep the ball in hand, thus negating the need to try and pick the ball up off the muddy surface – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mankier set of sliothars. It helped that Waterford didn’t seem able to even compete for the ball, Maurice Shanahan being a particular culprit as at one point he saw himself horsed off the ball with shocking ease. Paul O’Brien showed him how it was down by drawing a foul and allowing Waterford to get a point back, but it was cringeworthy watching such a tall man being brushed aside by relative midgets.

Shanahan’s performance was symptomatic of a beaten team. It is at this point that you would expect a flurry of subs or switches, but there was so little activity on the sidelines that Michael Ryan might was well have gotten out his fiddle. Daire Keane scored another point for Clare, and with that the dam burst. Eoin McGrath saw himself dispossessed in the middle of the field and ‘No 27’ swept the ball over the bar from distance. Ryan had a tap-over after Carmody had taken on the entire Waterford back division and come out on top. Cunningham sent over another great score, entirely unmolested by anything in a white shirt. Then we saw O’Neill miss a free on the left and have the puckout be deposited in the lap of the player in his corner of the field. It as all part of the plan, see? Stick with it to see if was working. The problem is that it clear wasn’t working. When Cunningham was able to tap over the bar after a wonderful sweep out of defense from Clare where the ball passed through a half-dozen hands, then scored a goal after shrugging off some half-hearted challenges, it might have been more productive to have changed everything. We’re not going to get many more chances to experiment.

If you’re of a nihilistic bent, and after this game it seems like a more attractive philosophy, the gradual improvement from Waterford for the remainder of the game was frustrating as it might give the impression that things are not as bad as they seem. Clare surely stepped off the accelerator because little changed on the Waterford side of things. A charity free from the referee allowed Waterford to register Waterford to get only their second score of the half, then Waterford nearly benefited from Shanahan showing what he was capable of, a fine run allowing him to tee up O’Neill but a Clare defender somehow (luckily) got a stick on the ball and it went out for a 65 which was duly wasted.

Clare struck back with two quick points, one of which was a free that looked wide all the way from where I was sitting. It would have been difficult for the umpires or the referee to judge it, but the linesman would have been right in the same line as mine so why he didn’t interfere, I don’t know. Another arcane rule? Michael Walsh then found himself surrounded by four Clare players, a depressing indictment of the lack of wag in this particular 15. Somehow he managed to get it away clean and when Waterford earned a free abit further up the pitch O’Neill went for a goal from a silly distance. Perhaps he was only getting his eye in because moments later a sideline cut went all the way through to O’Neill and he rattled the ball to the net. It was the sort of defending that probably had Davy Fitz foaming at the mouth on the sidel . . . actually, where was he? Perhaps Michael Ryan could get away with his Anthony Gormley subject pose because Davy wasn’t lepping around beside him.

Either way Waterford managed to shake off their torpor, Donal Tuohy being forced into a good save from Seamus Prendergast. O’Neill then got his second of the game thanks to some more woeful defending, somehow allowing him to get away a strike despite him letting the ball elude his grasp on numerous occasions. The gap was now down to five – could they pull off a crazy win? They might have done, two more goals were scored. Unfortunately one of them was when Adrian Power couldn’t pick a speculative effort from Colm Galvin out from under the bar and we only knew it was a goal because the umpire rather shamefacedly had to wave the flag. The next time the ball came in he batted it out in true David De Gea fashion. Maybe there was something in the air because at the other end Tuohy let a shot borne more out of frustration from Seamus Prendergast slide between him and the near post.

Five points in the end. It flattered us mightily. I’m clinging forlornly to a notion that Michael Ryan was determined to try certain people in certain configurations, and he’s entitled to some slack at this stage. But the beating we’ve taken at the hands of the Clare minors over the last two years overrides any sense of optimism. With only five matches to play we can’t afford to be going into the League cold. It might be an idea to encourage people to get out for this year’s League because if you had to pick a whipping boy from Division 1, it would have to be us, and we might not see the likes of Kilkenny and Tipperary in the spring for 2013 and beyond.

Those white shorts looked good though.

(NB even more guesswork than usual in the teams this time around. I won’t miss Davy’s opaque team sheets)

Waterford: Adrian Power, Stephen Daniels, Declan Prendergast, Aidan Kearney, Jamie Nagle, Kevin Moran, Shane O’Sullivan, Dean Twoney (Paudie Nevin), Paul O’Brien, Maurice Shanahan (0-1f), Michael Walsh, Seamus Prendergast (2-0), Martin O’Neill (2-6, 0-6f), Shane Walsh (0-2; Thomas Ryan), Eoin McGrath

Clare: Donal Touhy, Domhnall O’Donovan, Cian Dillon, Conor Cooney (Stephen O’Halloran), Seadna Morey, Enda Barrett, James McInerney (AN Other/27, 0-1), AN Other/25, (0-2), Patrick Donnellan (0-1), Colm Galvin (1-2), Daire Keane (0-1; Ross Horan), Fergal Lynch (0-1; Cathal Chaplin), Tony Carmody (1-1), Colin Ryan (0-6, 0-4f), Aaron Cunningham (1-2)

HT: Waterford 1-7 (10) Clare 1-9 (12)

Referee: John Ryan (Tipperary)

So long, and thanks for all the codology

One of my favourite internet memories was the eruption of disbelief that greeted this column by Mike Read in which the man, most famous for going into meltdown over the lyrics to the song Relax and hence ensuring its notoriety, pronounced that he would not be in the running to be Mayor of London. This came to mind when DeiseHurling noted on Twitter who was not interested in the Waterford manager’s job:

Aprés M Read, I’d like to confirm that I’m not interested in the role. In fact, up to this point I’ve said nothing at all about the future for the job because there’s been nothing substantive to talk about. The County Board need to ponder the manner in which they have handled the debate, a complete vacuum of information allowing the most ludicrous speculation to spew forth. Strictly speaking the County Board don’t need to be transparent. They are the elected representatives of Waterford GAA and their word is law. However, it would be good practice to at least keep Muintir na nDéise informed of events. As matters stand the only thing we know is that Davy Fitz’s one year contract is up, in itself a ridiculous conceit. Why do they bother giving ‘contracts’ to GAA managers? It makes sense in professional sports where the manager can take a few risks in the knowledge that a board will have to pay off their contract if they think he is not going in the right direction. No doubt Joe Kernan was assured that he’d get three years to make things right in Galway football, but there was nothing to stop the Galway County Board giving him the heave-ho after just two Championship matches. The same will even apply to the sainted JBM and his three-year contract in Cork. These verbal contracts aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

Still, despite the lack of information it’s probably useful to have something to say before the denouement (whenever that may be) so that one can’t be accused of trying to be wise after the event. The one strong opinion I have is that the time has come to say adios to Davy. This will doubtless lead to a chorus of sneers from those outside the county who think that Waterford have notions above their station and can’t see that Davy, far from holding us back, is one of the things keeping us so far forward in Senior hurling. And they probably have a point. There’s nothing he can do about a setup that sees Waterford have only one scoring forward, and he a man who made his championship debut ten seasons ago. There are lots of positive things to say about Davy’s reign. We were a shambles when he took over at such short notice and managed to take the team to a place we haven’t been in the best part of half-a-century. His Munster Championship success in 2010 makes him the second most successful manager in that time. And I’ll always be grateful to him for spreading balm over the festering wound that was our relationship with Clare. Standing on the platform on the Quay looking embarrassed at the reception the team received after massacre at the hands of Kikenny in the All-Ireland final, a lot of grudges drifted away on the wind like so much gossamer.

Having said all that, past performance is no guarantee of future results and having gone through the Davy Fitz School of Style for the best part of four years without achieving the ultimate success things are getting a bit stale. When the time came to relieve Gerard Houllier of the Liverpool job it didn’t imply that his time had been a failure and he will still be fondly remembered by most for the preposterously enjoyable 2000/1 season when Liverpool picked up three cups and qualified for the Champions League. But if you stand still in sport you end up going backwards as other teams move forward, and it got to a stage where more-of-the-same was clearly not working. That stage seems to have been reached in Waterford. The County Board should thank Davy for his sterling contribution to Waterford hurling and announce that they are looking for applicants for the job. And any discussions about the future incumbent can be based on declarations of interest rather than tabloid-style fantasies. I like the cut of that Mike Read’s jib . . .

Micro-management

I try not to be critical of players, management or the officials of the Waterford County Board. Not just in a don’t-mind-as-long-as-it’s-constructive way, but try to never criticise them at all. There was a remarkable image in Monday’s Indo of Davy Fitz umpiring at the All-Ireland camogie semi-final between Wexford and Cork in Nowlan Park. You’d think given all the brickbats that have been thrown in his direction over the years, not least in recent weeks, that the last thing he’d want to do in his me-time was gorge on more hurling. Yet there he was, mucking in for the greater good. It’s humbling for a keyboard warrior like myself to see that kind of commitment, and everyone I see or write about displays a degree of devotion far in excess of what I provide to the association. If I see something being done wrong, it’s incumbent on me to get off my arse and do something about it. And spare me the idea that the dinosaurs in charge are preventing fresh blood from having their ideas implemented.  My father once mentioned to a committee member of 52 years standing in Tramore GAA that our family were only ‘blow-ins’, a comment that brought a startlingly furious reaction. “I hate that phrase!”, he thundered. “It only puts people off coming down and helping out”. Not that such a statement encouraged me to chip in. It sounded too much like hard work.

So believe me when I say that what comes next is not uttered lightly or with any sense of malice. But the evidence of the last couple of weeks suggests that we’re doing something fundamentally wrong in Waterford hurling. The woes at Senior level are well-documented, but it was the performance of the Minors that was a real wake-up bomb. Aertel may have thought it was a ‘classic’ and a 60 minute match that has a combined score of 11-32 is certainly memorable. Let’s be blunt though. You can admire the courage of the Waterford team in putting respectability on the scoreline yet not pretend that the ultimate margin of defeat was anything other than flattering to Waterford. Just as in the Munster final we were utterly horsed out of it by a physically superior team. A good big ‘un beats a good little ‘un, and we have a lot of good little ‘uns.

When I started going back to hurling matches in 1997, one player who stood out in club matches was Ballygunner’s Tony Carroll. He looked so slick at such a tender age, effortlessly pirouetting past opponents and slotting the ball over from the silliest of angles. In my youthful ignorance – gosh, I must still be young – I eagerly anticipated his promotion to the county team. When that moment arrived, it was immediately obvious he wasn’t able for the step-up to the majors. A handful of appearances in the South-East League and a brief cameo against Cork in the NHL when the match was already lost seems to have been the sum total of his Waterford inter-county career at Senior level. Imagine a nine-stone weakling taking on the likes of Brian Corcoran or Seán Óg  Ó hAilpín. Bears and rag dolls spring to mind.

And looking at Waterford on Sunday, we seem to be adept at producing rag dolls. What are we doing wrong? Much has been made of how much has been invested in underage hurling in Dublin. We had our own master plan in Waterford back in the day when Colm Bonnar was brought in to whip young Déisigh into shape. Boy, was it needed. I recall the delight when he came to our school. To be in the presence of a person who had won a Munster championship medal was inspirational – this was 1988, he hadn’t even won an All-Ireland yet he seemed like a colossus. On a more fundamental level, there was no coherent plan for bringing through talent. How do you expect to get decent hurlers when a right-handed young fella can play all his life with the left hand on top of the hurley? Where was the coaching to pick up on such a grotesque flaw? While living in Galway, a work colleague who was sufficiently good to have played Fitzgibbon Cup hurling and have been on the fringes of the Galway Minors was aghast. “That’s impossible!”, he said when I noted my handicap. It’s certainly impossible to be any good, that’s for sure.

Oh yes, the person with the gammy grip was me. Did you not guess?

Bonnar brought a fresh impetus to coaching in the county, and while it would probably be a leap to suggest the burst of underage success that characterised the early 1990’s was down to him – too soon –  Waterford hurling was on a consistent upward trajectory from the nadir of the 1980’s. Hurling has burrowed its way into the collective psyche to a remarkable degree. When RTÉ’s Monday Night Soccer programme came to town to do a feature on the Blues’s run in the 2009 FAI Cup, they conducted a vox pop on what sport you associate with Waterford and the response was unequivocal: hurling, hurling and hurling. To be able to say that in a traditional bastion of the garrison game is something of which Waterford GAA can be immensely proud.

Yet watching us over the last couple of weeks, it seems clear we’ve plateaued. It’s not just Dublin. Clare have flattened us in successive Munster Minor finals and now we have Limerick roaring back from the brink. 100,000 people watched them win the Munster Under-21 title on TG4, an absolutely stupefying figure for a minority contest in a minority sport on a minority channel. God knows how many hurleys were picked up on Shannonside in the aftermath of that game. You could argue that underage success doesn’t necessarily translate into Senior level, and no-one could testify to the truth of that better than Limerick whose three All-Ireland successes in the early 00’s did not translate into a single bauble for the grown-ups. Still, it can’t hurt, and it might be said that while it is not a sufficient condition for Senior success it is a necessary one. And a necessary one that we’re struggling to accomplish.

With that in mind, the continued competitiveness of the Waterford Seniors for the last decade is nothing short of miraculous. The Waterford panel is stuffed with players who are routinely found wanting by the demands of summer hurling, yet they linger on like zombies because there’s no-one to replace them. An Moltóir does a fine job on his website analysing why Waterford came up short, but there’s no sense of what could be done differently apart from ‘don’t do stupid things’. Watching the Minors against Limerick, it seems the skill is there. But what separates the merely good from the great is the ability to make the right decision in the handful of picoseconds you have before the opposition get in your face. Nothing buys you a few more picoseconds better than having the physical chops to resist the first assault. And when you look at the lightweight nature of even successfully introduced players like Maurice Shanahan and Pauric Mahony, you fear that the robustness isn’t there.

What is to be done? I have no idea. Surely we can’t have genetically inferior stock in Waterford (although I’ve seen online Kilkenny know-it-alls make claims along those lines, sturdy Norman yeomanry and all that). Are we the only county not juicing it? The aforementioned Galway lad told me how a college room-mate from <county censored> had a regular regimen of, uh, vitamin pills. It’s not likely, but something has to account for the disparity between our scrawny pool of hurling talent and the seeming leviathans around us. If we don’t find out what we’re doing wrong we’ll be needing anti-depressants.

Hurling’s Andy Murray

One of the saddest sporting outcomes of 2011 was Rafael Nadal’s victory over Andy Murray in the semi-final of the French Open at Roland Garros (as opposed to the one at Le Golf National). It wasn’t sad because I like Murray. One shouldn’t need to expand on the reasons why he is more irritating than a can of Irn-Bru on a tooth cavity. What was sad was to see an obviously talented player, vastly superior to almost all of his peers, repeatedly bump up against the minority of his peers who are vastly superior to him. He lost to Novak Djokovic in the final in Australia and it’s always difficult to lose at Wimbledon given the jingoistic head of steam that builds up behind him every year, but it would have been the loss to Nadal in Paris that hurt the most. He matched the king of clay blow-for-blow for almost  the entire match – all three sets of it, as Nadal always had just too much for him on the crucial points. It would be enough to make you jack in all the blood, sweat, tears and overbearing parents and comfort-eat Mars bar fritters.

And so it is for Waterford. Not good enough for Tipperary and Kilkenny yet too good for everyone else. Sympathy for Davy Fitz was in short supply after the slaughter by the banks of the Lee, and rightly so. It was his roll of the dice against Tipperary that went so badly wrong so he had to carry the can. But today’s rampant win over Galway demonstrated the truth of the idea that he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Today’s lineup was breathtaking in its simplicity. A full-back at full-back, possibly the country’s best centre-back at, uh, centre-back, ball winners in the midfield and the half-forwards and a couple of additions to the forwards – admittedly enforced additions – who have been known to get a couple of points a game in the past. It’s so obvious, even I could have thought of it, and I’ve been told I’m particularly thick about these matters.

There will doubtless be lots of I-told-you-so’s from those who let rip at Davy in the tension-soaked 24 hours after the loss to Tipp when it looked like the county was about to descend into the tiresome internecine warfare that so characterised our internal relations in the past. Some of the off-the-record comments attributed to players would have made the creators of The Wire blush, and when even someone as mild-mannered as Stephen Frampton is rowing in behind those wanting Davy’s head, it was clear that gaskets were about to blow. If only we’d played the team that gave Galway the runaround against Tipperary, eh?

Well, no. Does anyone seriously think that team today would have done the same to Tipp? Look at the team that started today:

Clinton Hennessy
Darragh Fives Liam Lawlor Noel Connors
Tony Browne Michael Walsh Kevin Moran
David O’Sullivan Stephen Molumphy
S. Prendergast Shane O’Sullivan Pauric Mahony
John Mullane Shane Walsh Eoin Kelly

Now look at the team that started against Tipperary last year:

Clinton Hennessy
Eoin Murphy Liam Lawlor Noel Connors
Tony Browne Michael Walsh D. Prendergast
Shane O’Sullivan Richie Foley
Kevin Moran Stephen Molumphy Eoin Kelly
John Mullane Shane Walsh Brian O’Halloran

No fewer than eleven of the players that started against Tipperary, a match where Davy was near-universally condemned for his tactical incompetence, were the ones who tore Galway a new one today, and the similarity from 1-7 is particularly striking.

This shouldn’t be construed as a criticism of the players, and doubtless brighter hurling brains than mine will analyse what tactically went right for Waterford today as opposed to that day against Tipp. What I’m saying is that the scale of our respective defeats against Tipperary in the last two years, when set aside our victory today, shows we’re good enough for anyone – except Tipperary and Kilkenny. And flogging the Murray metaphor a bit more, any attempt to speculate to accumulate could lead you to being exposed still further. Murray adopted a new type of tactic against Nadal at Wimbledon which worked up to the point when Nadal twigged what it was and then proceeded to kick his butt all over Centre Court. We tried something different against Tipperary this year and were taken to the cleaners. The lesson is that if we keep it simple against Kilkenny, we’ll lose, and if we do something spectacular against Kilkenny, we’ll lose.

Perhaps I’m just bitter that my Tour de Anglesey yesterday meant I was too exhausted to go to the game. It was a great win today,  one of the rare occasions when we battered a top order team. And things could be a lot worse as we face the prospect of another game against Kilkenny. We could be Galway who are looking increasingly like hurling’s Tim Henman.

Team news – tales of the unexpected

The team for Sunday has been announced and it contains three changes, one obvious and two, er, less so:

Clinton Hennessy
Darragh Fives Jerome Maher Noel Connors
Tony Browne Michael Walsh Kevin Moran
Stephen Molumphy Richie Foley
Eoin McGrath Shane O’Sullivan Pauric Mahony
John Mullane Shane Walsh Brian O’Sullivan

Richie Foley was always likely to come back. But Eoin McGrath? ‘Spanky’ hit some high notes during 2008, but other than that season he’s never entirely convinced and seemed to have fallen out of favour having only made one Championship start in 2009. Yet here he is, a slightly unnerving comment on the lack of forward talent in Waterford / the stubbornness of the management team [delete as applicable]. But at least he has started twenty-seven Championship matches for Waterford and made another fourteen appearances as a sub – yes, I have counted. Jerome Maher, on the other hand, has never struck a ball for the Senior team in summer hurling – yes, I have not counted. There can’t be any way he is going to start at full-back. One must assume that Davy has finally succumbed to the temptation to put Michael Walsh in there with Maher going into the corner and Fives filling the space left by Moran when he moves into centre-back. It’s as radical a move as picking McGrath is conservative. Let’s hope he’s gotten that balance right.

Team news

Lots of changes at the ranch, and I can’t help wondering: is the Sean Barron that the Blues signed for goalkeeping cover related to the Jamie Barron who played for the Under-21’s on Wednesday? Probably not, seeing as the older Barron plays for Fourmilewater.

I know, I’m such a tease. The team that lines out on Sunday is as follows:

Clinton Hennessy
Darragh Fives Wayne Hutchinson Noel Connors
Tony Browne Michael Walsh Kevin Moran
Shane O’Sullivan Richie Foley
Maurice Shanahan Stephen Molumphy Pauric Mahony
John Mullane Shane Walsh Brian O’Sullivan

Not that Davy Fitz would care, but it’s not far out of sync with the team I would have chosen if I were king. Declan Prendergast will likely be disappointed, but his lack of game time in the League surely did for his chances. And before you argue Tony Browne didn’t play much either, remember this – he’s Tony Browne. Pauric Mahony and Brian O’Sullivan, the latter fresh from a haul of 1-4 against Tipperary in the Under-21 match, will be well pleased with the vote of confidence, especially with Eoin Kelly lurking in the wings. The only selection I’m confused by is that of Stephen Molumphy at centre forward. I don’t think he spent a lot of time there in the spring, although reviewing previous reports it looks like he played there in the recent challenge against Kilkenny so this might not be just a flyer on the behalf of management. It’s a solid looking team, so it looks like I won’t be able to blame the management for getting it wrong. Ah well. There’s always switches.

Mr Rent-a-Quote strikes again

There was many a bitter tear among GAA hacks when Dan Shanahan called it a day. Who were they to turn to now for easy copy? Henry Shefflin? Well, they needn’t have worried as Dan hasn’t gone away you know:

Shanahan stands by retirement call

DAN SHANAHAN insists he’s at peace with his decision to walk away from inter-county hurling, even if he clearly feels he had more to offer Waterford.

Dismayed at his lack of game time under Davy Fitzgerald last year, Shanahan retired just two days after the Deise’s All-Ireland semi-final exit at the hands of Tipperary.

The Lismore man admits the decision to retire was based partly on self-preservation. He wanted to be master of his own destiny and feared he might have been forced from the Decies panel had he been available for 2011

“If I’m being honest I probably would have (stayed on had he been playing regular),” he said.

“It’s not being a regular or starting games, it’s just a bit more game time. I thought I deserved more but I didn’t get it and I made a decision myself then to call it a day.

“We all knew Davy was going to stay on (for 2011). I knew it, we all knew for a fact. He was going to stay on. And don’t be surprised if he gets another year with the county board that are there, but that’s their decision.

“I made my decision, I’m happy I made that decision and my club is benefiting big time from it. I started back with my club and I do think I owe them a bit more.”

Would he have been pushed from Waterford if he hadn’t jumped?

“Good question, yeah. I’d say it is 50-50. I could have been pushed a bit but if you train hard and work hard like I’ve done over the years, I can’t fault myself or my effort and it’s up to the management after that.

“If they don’t think I’m good enough to be worth more than five or 10 minutes in a game… it takes five minutes to get into the game at this level and to be getting five minutes to do it…

“I did it against Galway two years ago then took them out of jail again in Thurles in the Munster final last year.”

Ken McGrath recently followed Shanahan out the exit door as the Waterford team that thrilled for the best part of a decade slowly breaks up.

McGrath endured a difficult day at midfield against Cork in the National League and after being called ashore from the sideline, he walked away from the squad.

“You could see why he called it a day,” said Shanahan, who was in Dublin to launch the An Post Cycle Series, which encourages people to cycle.

“I was at the game and felt sorry for the man when he was taken off. He played midfield that day and you’re trying to deal with Donal Og Cusack’s puck-outs and he can put the ball in your mouth.

“And Pa Cronin takes off and the two boys are switching over and back and Ken is in midfield and is trying to follow them at over 30 years of age and with all the injuries he’s had.

“That’s the management team’s decision (to start him at midfield) but why not throw him centre-forward and see how he gets on there?”

Shanahan’s brother Maurice, who is currently out with a broken finger, also considered his Waterford future over the winter.

“Maurice didn’t know whether he was going to go back but he made his decision to go back. I suppose it was hard. Maurice, by a country mile, was the best club forward in Waterford last year.

“Yet he wasn’t one of the five fellas brought on in the semi-final against Tipp. That question answers itself there so at the end of the day he had to think himself whether he was coming back or not.”

It’s popular for GAA players to return from retirement at least once but, recalling the highlights of his career, Shanahan insist there will be no U-turn.

“The lads would have said to me would I be interested in going back. I’ve met them since and I get on brilliantly with them all,” he said.

“We’re great friends and that’s very important for me. We won all the trophies bar the big one but it was nice that what we won, we won it together. That’s the main thing.”

There’s a lot in there, and not all of it as inflammatory as the meeja would like. It’s not unreasonable for a performer of Dan’s calibre to think he could have eked a few more years out of his career, and he doesn’t seem to bear a grudge towards Davy Fitz over him disagreeing with that. He did what he could “and it’s up to the management after that”. You do wonder how much extra game time amounts to “just a bit more” – one wonders whether in reality anything less than a starting position would do – but he is surely absolutely correct that ten minutes, or even less in many cases, is an inadequate amount of time to make an impact on a game. Davy Fitz is hardly alone among managers in that department though.

So far, so reasonable. However, the reason all and sundry will be reading between the lines for criticism of Davy is because his next comments undeniably amount to a criticism of Davy. It seems that if Ken McGrath had been handled better everything would have come up smelling of roses. Yet you have to wonder whether he was watching the Cork game – I’m sure he was, but he didn’t see the game where Ken was absolutely stuffed. If he couldn’t cope with midfielders moving back and forth then how moving him to centre forward – where Donal Óg’s puck-outs really would have been dropping – would have granted him the elixir of life is unexplained. Ken’s race is run. How do we know this? Ken himself said so. Unless Dan has suddenly acquired the ability to read minds, we must assume that Ken thinks so too.

And let’s assume that Davy is a maggot who gets shot of players of whom he is not fond by making their lives a misery, whether it be not giving them enough game time or playing them in impossible positions. If this is so, little brother Maurice must be thrilled to see his doubts regarding the management shared with everyone and anyone. Maurice was peeved becasue he didn’t come on against Tipperary? Let’s look at who did come on. First we had Dan Shanahan and Ken McGrath. They had to come on obviously because, well, they’re Dan the Man and Big Ken. Of the remaining three, Seamus Prendergast and Eoin McGrath both scored so they must have been doing something right, which just leaves Thomas Ryan, a peer of Maurice’s who is surely entitled to expect some ‘game time’ as well. In short, there’s nothing to suggest that Maurice not playing was the result of some vendetta against him from the management. And if there is, having your brother mouthing off about isn’t going to make them come to their senses.

We probably should be grateful for Dan. For his big trap, I mean, not just all those happy memories. Newspapers and websites will cheerfully fill column and screen inches with any ráiméis from the English Premier League if the GAA won’t provide it. But given the potential for in-fighting and distrust caused by these streams-of-consciousness, you do wish it were someone else who were the GAA writer’s meal ticket. Come on Henry, tell us what you really think of Brian Cody!