Tag Archives: Galway

You’ve gotta accentuate the positive

I was hoping Tipperary would win last Sunday, a function of a desire to see something new and thinking that Galway would have it easier against them than a resurgent Kilkenny (wanting Galway to win, how times change). In the end though, I was willing every Kilkenny strike over the bar and into the back of the net. It’s not right to lump all Tipperary supporters into the category of boorish yahoos, and I’d like to think I take people as I find them and keep my interactions civil. Still, they do have a tendency towards pomposity, more so (in my opinion) than their Big Three counterparts in Cork and Kilkenny. When Waterford succumbed to the Kilkenny avalanche in 2008 there were more than a few snide comments from the Premier County to the effect that Waterford had gotten notions above their station and how you can’t bate tradition. Having not taken as bad a beating since 1897, I guess this must go down as a re-affirmation of a 115-year-old tradition. Add in some shocking pulls from Tipp players that would have made the men of Hell’s Kitchen blush and a flawed physical strategy that has turned them into a colossal joke and there was some pleasure to be had on Sunday evening.

But not much. Kilkenny now go into a match against Galway bent on revenge. I’m not convinced by all the talk about what a mistake it is to rile the Cats and how Galway will live to regret their win in the Leinster final. The Kilkenny team were no doubt given the mother-and-father of all bollickings by Brian Cody at half-time in that game and it made no difference. Still, Kilkenny will have analysed what Galway did so right that day. The Tribesmen famously pulled the rug from under Kilkenny in the 1986 All-Ireland semi-final by taking a man out of the full-forward line and allowing the corner forwards to wreak havoc when the Kilkenny back followed his man out. In the final, Cork simply allowed the man to go and Galway’s attack was blunted, one of their two goals coming courtesy of penalty by goalkeeper John Commins. Kilkenny will have have learned and go into the final as justifiable favourites for the umpteenth time.

It’s getting a little wearing. Getting back to my original point, it’s hard to get the blood up for yet another appearance in the All-Ireland final for Kilkenny. You can intellectualise it all you like, arguing that it’s up to others to bring themselves up to Kilkenny’s level and expressing admiration for the domination – and I admire it, I really do. You can do all of that and still find it utterly demoralising. Every time you think you see a tiny chink in their armour, it turns out to have been the gap between their sword and your head. Tipperary looked to have their number in 2010 and with the age profile of the Kilkenny squad seemingly nudging into the red zone there was optimism that their reign of terror was about to be brought an end. Now it looks like it is Tipperary’s time that has passed and Kilkenny look stronger that ever.

What is a minnow like Waterford to do in the face of such opposition? We’ll keep coming back. We always have done, and you can almost make a virtue of the lack of games at inter-county level as it least it isn’t expensive to follow your team. But having routinely bemoaned Waterford’s penchant in recent years for taking knives to underage gunfights, it’s looking increasingly like the only ones packing heat at all are the Cats. And it’s getting downright scary.


Hex appeal

So there I was, sitting in a New Forest pub watching Andy Murray try to topple Roger Federer on Centre Court at Wimbledon. An idle text was fired off home asking whether anything was happening in the world of GAA. There was a quick response to inform me that Galway had roared into a 1-6 to no score lead over Kilkenny, and I watched with increasing disbelief as periodic updates informed me that they did not yield to win their first ever Leinster championship. Never mind Andy Murray’s chances of winning, this was as surprising as Laura Robson beating Federer.

A while back I was gloating over our tremendous record over Galway on the GAA Discussion Board especially in the light of our thrilling win over them in 2009, opining that the result hit Galway hurling harder than any other tough result in recent times. They really thought that could be their year and a Galway poster on the board, a man who is both very likeable and a ferocious admirer of Waterford hurling, bemoaned that it was a pity that Waterford had chosen that moment to suddenly flex our muscles for Galway would have had the confidence to take Kilkenny had they met that year. I was dismissive of such a point of view, reasoning that a) were Waterford meant to fall on our sword in the national interest and b) if Galway couldn’t beat Waterford what chance would they have against Kilkenny?

Rhetorical questions at the time but while point (a) still stands, point (b) doesn’t look so hot. Galway clearly have a hex (albeit a small one) over the Cats and the value of that hex was such that all through my week in England and France I was wondering whether we might be better off losing to Tipperary in the Munster final as not only would we avoid Kilkenny’s half of the draw but we’d be able to reach into our juju bag and assuming we could beat Limerick/Cork not taking them for granted play each game as it comes yadda yadda yadda we could bring Galway crashing down to earth. Hexcellent!

In the end, for what it’s worth, I wanted us to win yesterday. While a Munster championship would be nice, beating Tipperary is always better than nice. And then there’s the issue of the hex. That’s four defeats in a row to Tipperary now, and while Michael Ryan will take some pleasure from a fourteen point improvement on last season and the demise from this year’s championship of the team managed by his predecessor, the fact remains that a seven-point beating in the second-half shows we are not that close to beating Tipp, just as we can’t beat Kilkenny. And unless you think Limerick are going to account for Kilkenny, we’re going to have to beat at least one of them to win the All-Ireland.

I’m being too gloomy. Following the one-game-at-a-time mantra, we have to beat Cork which we have repeatedly shown we can do. Then there’s Galway – these games are mapped out, so no tempting fate here – which we have repeatedly shown we always do. That leaves the All-Ireland final, a one-off game where anything can happen, right? Maybe the Gods have decreed that it is not British tennis fans who will end a decades-long search for success this year but someone else entirely. It’s only fair – Tony Browne has had to wait nearly as long.

Voices of reason

I was in Galway over the weekend to see Mumford & Sons and was treated to a cosmic snarl-up of traffic as the crowds for the gig and the Galway-Sligo match at Pearse Stadium tried to squeeze into Salthill. How could this clash have been avoided? Obviously the GAA should have rescheduled the match. If ever there’s a clash between a GAA match and the Heineken/Ryder/Tiddlywinks Cup, it is the GAA who must give way. This is because . . . well, it just is, okay?

While trapped in the traffic, we were treated to the previews of the match on Galway Bay FM where the voices of reason were quite explicit in their belief that Sligo need not bother turning up. All was well in Galway football, they were heading in the right direction, Alan Mulholland was the man with the plan and Sligo wouldn’t be able to cope. Later on in the evening one of the Mumford boys would react to some soccer-style olé-olé-oléing by asking whether Galway had won. Bless him for his attempts at ingratiating himself with the crowd, but the answer (not that he received one from the crowd) was a resounding no.

What struck me was that I’d encountered such cockiness before, and also its antithesis. My brother says that analysis of Laois inter-county games on Midlands Radio, both in hurling and football, strikes a similar tone. The Laois hurlers could be playing Kilkenny and the talk would be of how with the hop of the ball Laois would stand a fighting chance. Nothing is impossible for the mighty O’Moore men.

Note that these attitudes stand in marked contrast to similar discussions on WLR. The Waterford footballers could be playing Kilkenny and we’d be warned by the voices coiling their way out of the wireless that we must treat them with the utmost respect lest we be caught on the hop. We’re always at our best when we’re the underdog. God forbid that we might get thoughts above our station and expect to win a game!

So what does all this tell us? I’ve always believed that Waterford teams take to the field four or five points down because of the baggage of history and the defeatist mentality on WLR has always contributed to that feeling. But if the experience in Galway and Laois is anything to go by, talking teams up doesn’t make a jot of difference. The Galway hurling team of the late 80’s and the football team at the turn of the century were good enough and didn’t need smoke blowing up any orifice to be able to win multiple All-Irelands. Although what that means is that we’re not doing the same because we’re not producing the hurlers, and blaming the ghosts of the past is an easy excuse. Who would have believed it?

At least we can rely on Mumford & Sons to produce the goods. Take it away, lads:


In the end, it wasn’t that close

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I’d like to think that it was a bittersweet win for Kilkenny today as they went medieval on Galway’s ass. Any suggestion there might be a chink in their armour had to be ruthlessly suppressed, and that was done in fine style. On the flip side, the scale of their demolition of Galway must have been very reassuring for the Waterford team at half-time at Fraher Field – a bit too reassuring as Waterford took their boot off Dublin’s throat, but never mind. It was a good day, even if I’m sure Kilkenny didn’t give a crap.

The return of King Ken(ny)

“A famous win!”, crowed Kieran O’Connor at the end of today’s win over Galway. He was likely referring to it being our very first win in Pearse Stadium, and strictly speaking he’s right.

It’s a bit of a stretch though to say this is a really noteworthy event in Waterford’s hurling history. We’ve played a grand total of six games in the Salthill venue – I’m saying six because that game in 1972 in ‘Galway’ is most likely to be Pearse Stadium but I haven’t the resources to double-check it at the moment. It’s hardly a statistically significant sample size. You might as well view Ballinasloe as the new bogey venue while yearning for a return to Gort where we have a 100% record.

I’m being churlish. What motivated Kieran’s outburst was pure relief after the hidings we’ve taken in recent games. Quite apart from being the first win for Michael Ryan, the thought that Ken McGrath coming into the fold has led to instant success would bring instant moisture to several parts of the body. It’s very early days on that score, but yet another quirk of the League format means that the path to survival has suddenly become much simpler. Throughout the game I was labouring under the impression that we would need to run up a cricket score to overturn Galway’s points difference advantage on us to get ahead of them. But it now seems that if two teams finish level on points, it’s the head-to-head record that counts. So if we beat Dublin and Kilkenny beat Galway, we’re safe. It looks like the weekend has told us that the world has only room enough for one miracle-performing Kenneth at a time, more’s the pity.

Update: Stephen Long has a summary of the permutations for the last round of Division 1A.

Waterford GAA results archive – knave of clubs

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With Ballygunner getting ready to have another tilt at the Munster club title, it seems like a good time to roll out the complete list of results for Waterford clubs since the competition started in such a half-assed fashion back in 1964. Complete, that is, except for Lismore’s result against Ballyduff of Kerry in 1992. The Irish Times didn’t think it was worth noting, Feel free to comment on the Old Lady of D’Olier Street (yes, I know it’s not there any more) and its derisory attitude to the GAA below (Update: got it. Unsurprisingly the Indo is a bit more thorough).

Our record isn’t as bad as I expected it to be. It’s certainly a lot better than our record at Under-21 level, a competition that started around the same time.  We’ve a winning record against Limerick teams and a surprisingly good one against Tipperary teams. Tipp’s county championship is ferociously competitive with nine different winners over the last 20 years compared to only five in Waterford, so their teams are probably not as robust as the likes of Ballygunner and Mount Sion.

Aha, you may say, how does that explain our crappy records against teams from Cork and Clare? Our recent efforts against Cork teams haven’t been so bad, but in the early days of the competition we were routinely mown down by the likes of Blackrock, Midleton and St Finbarr’s. It’s been a while since a team from Cork was inherently scary. The same cannot be said of the Clare champions. The hoodoo the Banner had over Waterford teams in the ’90’s was brutal, knocking us out no fewer than nine times in the twelve years between 1991 and 2002. Mount Sion didn’t beat Sixmilebridge in 2003 – they exorcised them. Now if only we could get all Max Von Sydow on the Galway champions . . .

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.

Croeso i Caergybi!

It’s customary to express relief that no-one was hurt in a car crash, and in the light of the horrors being faced in Norway it would be particularly churlish to bleat about something as trivial as missing a ferry. But having sat in a two-hour traffic jam on the A55 to Holyhead and thus missing our sailing because some boy racer modified car enthusiast was unfamiliar with the brake pedal, all kinds of medieval solutions do spring to mind. At the time of writing in the oh-so-happening joint that is the ferry terminal building, we’re still a good thirteen hours away from home. I don’t mind admitting that the thought of turning around a couple of hours later and heading up to Thurles isn’t particularly appealing.

But then you hear that the Minors toppled Kilkenny tonight in Walsh Park and you think that if they could show the courage to bounce back from adversity then why can’t I find a workaround for my little difficulty? We’ll see, but well done to the Minors, only the third Waterford team to ever beat the Cats at Senior/Minor/Under-21 level in twelve attempts. Now about that 100% record at Senior level against Galway . . .

Update: having read about the accident that has ended Conal Keaney’s season, may I just say how relieved I am that no-one was hurt in that crash on the A55. Shutting up now.

Giving it 100%

Congratulations to Waterford United on beating the Liverpool XI in the RSC last night. Okay, it’s hardly the most earth-shattering result ever, but the players will have enjoyed seeing the Red shirts laid low and perhaps a few of the throng that populated the ground to see those famous shirts (if not necessarily what was in them) will consider the RSC a more accessible venue than before. It really really really could happen . . .

Ironically I was in Liverpool at the time of the game and still am. Not so ironically – everyone else seems to be misusing the word so why not me? – the decision to change the throw-in time for the Minor match against Kilkenny on Saturday from 7.30pm to 7.00pm means I’m not likely to make it. Yep, the margins are that fine coming in off the ferry. So all that’s left is to wish them well and look forward (!) to the Seniors on Sunday as they attempt to maintain our 100% record against Galway, something the Minors also have to protect against Kilkenny. Do it for the ages, lads!