Tag Archives: Gaelic Grounds

Waterford 0-13 (13) Tipperary 5-19 (34)

Tipperary add to Munster haul after crushing Déise – RTÉ
Five star! Tipperary’s goals see them storm to Munster title with 21-point win over Waterford – The42.ie
Proud Premier wallop Waterford – HoganStand.com
John McGrath the executioner as Tipperary bombard dismal Waterford – Irish Examiner
Gaelic Grounds massacre – Tipperary ease to 21 point win – Irish Times
Tipp torrents wash Deise hopes away – Irish Independent

Waterford v Tipperary 10 July 2016

I can’t say I wasn’t warned. Speaking to an ITK Tipperary man the Thursday before the game, he said two things: Seamus Callinan would be fit, and Tipp would be gunning for goals at the expense of everything else. Good luck with that, I thought. This was Tipp’s grand plan, attacking a defence that had conceded three goals in five Championship matches under Derek McGrath? With the addition of Shane Bennett and Patrick Curran to our attack from last year, I was now feeling very confident, confidence that was not dissipated when Curran pointed within 20 second of the start.

A lot had happened to get to this place. We had travelled to Limerick via a circuitous route involving Cahir, Mitchelstown and Ballyneety. Travelling through the latter I had to suppress invocations of Patrick Sarsfield. After all, the good guys lost the Williamite wars. It was a route that made a lot of sense as we zipped into Limerick city centre, although the arrival in Limerick city centre suggested this wasn’t going to be a remake of a Cecil B DeMille epic. Reports from earlier on in the week said the crowd would be well down on last year and I felt a rising dread as we approaching the Gaelic Grounds, a combination of the foul weather which matched all of Frank McCourt’s most feverish imaginings and the possibility that we would be severely outnumbered. I had heard stories of people who refused point blank to go to Limerick on the principle that they wouldn’t go to Limerick. Were we about to be humiliated by such nonsense?

Thankfully this didn’t look to be the case as there no visible or audible differences between the respective crowds. The feeling of dread didn’t dissipate until Curran’s score, and even then I wondered what the hell I was doing here. The last time I had been at a match in such evil conditions had been in Dungarvan when I was only an hour away from home. Once you factored in walking back tgo the city centre it would be four hours to get home from here, if we were lucky. The tens of thousands of people who had stayed away, for whatever reason, had been the sensible ones.

Eventually the feeling subsided – the dread perversely co-existed with confidence of victory – and after the first quarter everything seemed to be going smoothly, with one notable exception. Two points from sideline balls from Austin Gleeson certainly lifted the spirits and he was making a splendid nuisance of himself in the full-forward line. Tadgh de Búrca was hurling oceans of ball, as is his wont, and the scoreboard was kept ticking over thanks to a few frees, at least one of which was ridiculously soft. Keeping up a rate of a point every two minutes would do just fine, especially if the goals could be kept out. But that’s your problem right there. In the middle of all that we could see Tipp’s first foray at goal as evidence in favour of my ITK contact’s hypothesis, going straight for the jugular from which Stephen O’Keeffe pulled off a routine save. Alas, it looked a bit too routine as he spooned the ball into the air and John McGrath was on hand to put the ball in the net.

Okay, no need to panic. Waterford had a goal chance not long after but Curran (I think it was) would have needed a pooper scooper to have been able to pick the ball up while running towards goal and his attempts to bring the ball nearer the target with his feet were eventually shepherded out wide. We were soon back in front anyway, and that was as good as it got. We began to spurn some routine chances, with Gleeson in particular guilty of a rash turn-and-strike when he had time and space to adjust the radar. At some point he had moved back out the field and any threat of a goal from Waterford went with him. Tipp did hit a few poor wides in the first few minutes but were being far more economical with their chances. Not that this would be difficult as the minutes racked up without a single white flag for Waterford. There was one incredibly lucky escape when a short puck-out went straight to a Tipp man and (natch) they went for goal. O’Keeffe managed to do his bit but the defence couldn’t clear the danger and it took a couple of backs to clear it off the line, and even then we had to rely on a poor wide to ensure no damage had been done. This was looking like it was going to be a dour, low-scoring affair so it was possible it was going to be a pivotal moment.

That was the hope anyway. We play a possession game and work the ball up the field at the best of times so maybe that would work in the second half. Mahony had missed a couple of frees before finally notching one just before half-time and you clung to the notion that that had stopped the rot. During the break the Primary Games were on and a fingernail was lost looking at the Tipperary chiselers raining (pun unintended) shot after shot down on the lamentably exposed Waterford goalkeeper – although it should be noted that the goalkeeper at the other end was a ringer if ever there was one, towering over everyone else like LeBron James.

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes. Some will look back at what unfolded and see parallels with the 2011 Munster final, and the margin of victory would certainly support that. Standing there on Sunday, what came to mind was the 1998 Munster final replay. This had none of the (ahem) poison of that day, but the manner in which Waterford set up the circumstances that led to total collapse had far more in common with the 1998 final than the 2011 edition. Having failed to make a strong wind count in vile, energy-sapping conditions, Waterford were going to have to show iron resolve. Instead they fell victim to a goal of almost comical simplicity as John McGrath was able to run through the middle and kick the ball to the net. A few minutes later a long ball was pounced upon by the same man and he had players rushing in from all sides with Michael Breen being the one to apply the finishing touch. Game over and still a good 20 minutes to go.

Man, how lonely it was to be in the Gaelic Grounds now. Literally so, as people began to stream towards the exits. It’s not nice, and we were determined to stay to the bitter end, but it was miserable enough up there without events on the pitch making it more so. It was training ground stuff for Tipp, right down to their fourth goal which came from a penalty from McGrath that had an experimental feel to it, opting for placement rather than power. It went in anyway via a valiant effort to save it from O’Keeffe, and there was no place in the world more lonely than his spot lying prostrate on the ground as the Tipp fans cheered. Or maybe it was Pauric Mahony’s spot as he sent a few more frees, whose only function was to put a slightly less grisly gloss on the scoreboard, wide of the target as the Tipp fans cheered.

Players went and substitutes came, the most consequential of them being the departure of Austin Gleeson. Saving him for the Under-21’s on Wednesday night? It would be nice to think that they were thinking that far ahead. The thoughts in the present were to avoid the result ticking over into the 20+ point territory, but the harsh truth is that Tipp could have driven well past that had they been so inclined. Even without trying they could cough up a few more goalscoring chances, one of which Callinan took to more it into that territory.

The best way of demonstrating how beat-down I was came as the game entered the final minute of normal time. All those goals produced a series of que-sera-sera shrugs but when Brian Gavin, who had been relatively generous to us, i.e. his mistakes fell more in our favour than theirs, indicated that there would be four minutes of injury time, I exploded with rage. What kind of jackass is so impervious to all manner of blunders, which every referee will make in every match no matter how good they are, yet engages in a flint-minded tapping of the watch when one team is being absolutely blown out of it? Is a referee’s assessor seriously going to say “you should have played an extra couple of minutes there, Brian”? Stronger words than ‘jackass’ came out of my mouth that would have embarrassed me if there had been anyone around to hear them.

If I’m being honest with myself, and what is the point of all this if I’m going to lie to myself, the rage was a blessed distraction from the unexpected unravelling that had just taken place. It was really unexpected. The whole point of The System was to ensure this kind of debacle did not take place. You hope that this was a perfect storm, that any team that had failed to ram home the advantage of the elements might fall apart in the manner in which we did. We’re not just any team though. We’re a Waterford team, and we’ve been here soooo many times before. The evidence of this game suggests that little has changed. We’ll give Wexford a good rattle. We’ll probably even be favourites. And if we do get past them, we’ll be gunned down for the umpteenth time by Kilkenny. I had really hoped the paradigm had changed, even unto thinking after the loss to the Limerick Minors (themselves gunned down by Tipperary earlier in the day; maybe that’s where the Primary Game ringer came from) that we just had to keep at it and we’d eventually get across that finishing line one year. This game suggests that, despite Derek McGrath’s best efforts, things have not changed apart from the initial lurch forward we made in the late 90’s. You wonder how many times we can maintain that position before we begin to go back at a rate of knots.

Tippecanoe and Thurles too

Damn you, John Mullane. I had been pondering a post on the general subject of playing in Thurles for a while and had come up with a delightfully cryptic title. But the likelihood of Thurles staging the Munster final against Tipperary are surely dead in the water as the Great Man has spoken:

Oh well. It’s not as if anyone would have bothered Googling such a daft title, let alone understood it to begin with, so let’s just leave that remnant of the youthful time wasted reading about dead American Presidents in the set of encyclopaedias my parents bought back in the early 1980’s where it is and imagine there might be a debate to be had on whether the Munster final be played in Thurles or Limerick.

Such a debate pivots on whether you think Thurles is a home-away-from-home for Waterford, to the extent that it negates any home advantage that Tipperary have. Back in the day I would have believed this to the case, and you could probably waste some time of your own locating worshipful comments on the subject in the archives of this blog. But like John Mullane my opinion has changed. If you suggest that it might be an advantage for Tipperary then you will be asked to quantify how many points it is worth to Tipp. This is the wrong way to look at it. Instead, imagine playing them one hundred times in a neutral venue. Then imagine playing them one hundred times in Thurles. Anyone who says the outcomes would be exactly the same is fooling themselves. And yes, it isn’t a real world experiment. But it illustrates the point that there is a small advantage for Tipp and, all other things being equal, Waterford shouldn’t be handing it to them.

Of course, not all things are equal. There are myriad little reasons for preferring Thurles over Limerick. Traffic, parking, pre-match atmosphere, the venue (facilities and capacity), the prospect of making a few quid for the perennially cash-strapped Waterford County Board, the prospect of putting the kibosh on the our-turn-to-stage-the-big-dance entitlement of the perennially cash-strapped Limerick County Board. Depending on how much weight you put on it, any of those reasons could reasonably be enough to tip the balance in favour of Thurles.

For me though, it’s a little reason that have tilted the balance against Thurles – I’m sick of the place. Since 2000 we have played 64 matches in the Senior Championship. 30 of them have been in Thurles. There’s nothing special about a trip to Tipp if you’re doing it an average of twice a year. Even Tipperary folk seem to feel the same way as they could only manage an attendance of 25,531 yesterday when combined with Limerick supporters – so much for Waterford fans being the ones who don’t travel in great numbers. Familiarity also makes you really appreciate the smug, self-satisfied air that hangs around Thurles like Lar Corbett marking Tommy Walsh. By all accounts Limerick is a bugger to get away from after a big match, but the way people bang on about Thurles you’d swear everyone is able to park right next to the greyhound stadium and zoom out of the town in their own ZiL lanes rather than having to pay to park in the mart, as opposed to getting a free space out by the golf course, and not get out for over an hour like happened to us at last year’s Munster final. Any crowd in the region of 40,000 is going to generate a lot of traffic, and half-baked tales about taking one of the 85 routes in/out of the town are not going to change that.

(I realise the above tweet is a joke, by the way.)

The primary reason I want to play the game in Limerick is to not cede home advantage. Other considerations come a long way behind. But the sense of ennui with Thurles is real. The staging of games in Munster has become completely ossified, a sign of clinging to the halcyon days back around the turn of the century when every game had the potential to be 50,000-capacity sell-out. I was surprised to find out today that we have played a grand total of two Championship matches in Limerick in 50 years. Those games – Clare in 2008 and Cork in 1983 – ended badly. Time to make some positive memories as we bring morning to Waterford.

Dialogue of the deaf

One of the biggest problems facing any sports organisation in the future, whether they be amateur or professional (all sports are amateur at the grassroots), is the need for volunteers to staff committees. Dealing with arcane principles, fuzzy precedents and appellants who are convinced of their righteousness to the point of completely abandoning reason, it’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it, and people are going to get increasingly unwilling to do it out as our time becomes increasingly commoditised. Faceless bureaucrats, I salute you.

With that feint offered, now for the thrust. The decision of the GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) to arrange a playoff between Waterford and Cork to decide who finishes second and who finishes third in Division 1A of the National Hurling League is unsatisfactory on every level bar one. There will be little desire among the populace to see such a match, the prize on offer of who gets to play Limerick being worth far less than, say, two league points. Staging it in Limerick must count as the wackiest use of the Ennis Road white elephant yet – JP McManus can keep his money, this will surely pay off the debt! When it was decided initially to give Waterford and Kilkenny a walkover in their respective league matches, the Cats pulled the stunt of offering to play the game anyway, an offer they knew would be rebuffed by the authorities but which made them look magnanimous and forcing Waterford to say that yes, we’d love to play the match but where would we fit it in in the club schedule? Now Waterford are going to have to play the match anyway when they’d have happily flipped a coin or even played it in someplace like Fermoy – did I mention the folly of playing it in Limerick?

In fact the only winners are Cork, who get to play a souped up challenge match against one of their main rivals despite their collective selfishness dragging the entire association to the brink of anarchy. Dostoevsky could have written a decent novel about it.

Update: some degree of sanity has been restored as the respective teams agreed to toss a coin over the venue thus sparing everyone the trip to Limerick. Karma dictated that Waterford would win the toss, and we did, so the match will be played in Walsh Park. Surely Fraher would have been a fairer venue, but sod fairness at this stage.