Tag Archives: Kildare

Waterford by the grace of God – or by choice

Dressing room, Tipperary, 2002

The cup was now paraded around the pitch. Brian Flannery set the ball rolling, charging toward the Uncovered Stand with the trophy held aloft. I doubt if it were planned, but he was an oddly appropriate choice, the outsider gone native. A newspaper article from earlier in the day had traced his development from Tipperary underage teams to the Waterford seniors. His statement that “every time I pull on a Waterford jersey, I give thanks for my second chance” was a lovely sentiment, especially when you think he might have ended up back at Tipperary a few years ago.

Waterford 2-23 (29) Tipperary 3-12 (21) – Part IV: The Aftermath, 30 June 2002

Listening to updates from the fourteen men of Waterford’s valiant effort to extend their stay in this year’s football championship – is it me or do we rarely seem to end big games with the full complement? – was a surreal experience as there was far more fuss made of the “thirty-to-fifty second” appearance of Seanie Johnston for the hurlers of Coill Dubh in the Kildare county championship.

I’m not going to get het up over the wider significance of Johnston’s switch to Kildare. There does seem to be something fishy about his eligibility to switch clubs but given the hoops he had to jump through to secure the switch it seems unlikely that his is a path that others will follow. There are plenty of ways of switching that honour both the letter and the spirit of the law so don’t expect a flood of Seanie-style refuseniks clogging up the in-trays of county secretaries any time soon.

And it was one of those who did it the ‘right’ way who came to mind while listening to Seanie trying to work out which end of the hurley was the bas. Walking through the L&N SuperValu in Tramore earlier on in the day, who should I spy but Brian Flannery. Cue a  farcical  scene as I tried to surreptitiously point him out to my wife and she assumed I meant the old man behind him because all the heroes in the GAA either have grey beards or are dead. Hold fast to the past.

When I got home and listened to the farcical scene in Clane, it struck me that Brian Flannery’s heritage didn’t bother me at all. Looking back through the blog via the search function in the top right, I was relieved to see that I haven’t left myself any hostages to fortune about Flannery. I remember a comment made by a Waterford supporter in the vicinity at a match when he was a little bit loose with the hurley where said supporter noted how Flannery brought “the Tipp stuff” to Waterford. As if no-one in Waterford ever lowered the blades, but Tipperary didn’t spawn Hell’s Kitchen for nothing. In short, Brian Flannery is now one of us. He didn’t have to go through a charade like Johnston did on Saturday to play for Waterford, he did his thing in the trenches of Mount Sion first, to the extent that when they had the choice of captain for the senior captain in 1999, they chose Flannery.

You could argue that Seanie Johnston has the chance to rise to that level. All it will take would be a cup or two for the Lilywhites to eradicate any misgivings about the manner of his arrival on the Kildare. But Flannery earned his spurs long before that glorious day in Cork in 2002 (see above). Playing for a county team is a splendid thing, but there’s no point in playing for any old county team. You have to play for your own, and Brian Flannery did. I wonder whether we’ll ever be able to say the same for Seanie.

Video nasty

For years I was sceptical about the efficacy or need for video reviews in Gaelic games and soccer. It may have worked fine in cricket, rugby and tennis but these are stop-start sports, a series of set-pieces with obvious gaps in which to pause and review the action. There’s no such luxury in the more frenetic sports. Besides, would video really eliminate gross injustices? When Stephane Henchoz handled Thierry Henry’s goalbound effort early in the 2001 FA Cup final, it wasn’t until much later in the evening on Match of the Day that footage was produced to show he had definitely handled it. If a decision was marginal, video wasn’t going to show anything that enlightening and the ref has to make a binary decision which inherently will displease someone. And if an infringement is blatant, they’ll get it right the first time. Contrary to popular opinion, the referee usually has the best view of the lot, mere metres away from the action. A little more faith that they’ll make the right call would lead to lot less angst.

Then 2010 happened, and such highbrow objections melted way in the face of a litany of refereeing clangers. The first one was in the World Cup, when even watching from several metres away on a flat screen it was clear that Frank Lampard’s header against Germany had crossed the line. Yet the referee and the linesman, both of whom had the benefit of their two eyes to see it in three dimensions, somehow contrived to miss it. Worse still was Carlos Tevez’s goal for Argentina against Mexico, helping the ball into the net from a blatantly offside position. In both cases you were left wondering what on earth the officials had thought they had seen. What parallel universe did they inhabit in which the ball had not crossed the line / Tevez was onside? A classic case of justice not only being done, but being seen to be believed.

This is all a prelude to the fiascos we have witnessed in Gaelic games this year. The eleventh of July should have been a day for referees to be quietly smug, as Johnny Ryan awarded the free that led to Tony Browne’s sensational equalising goal. The world and her husband were convinced that some gross injustice had been performed, until multiple replays finally yielded the holding of John Mullane’s hurley. A definite free, and one in the eye for those who think referees would be grateful for just one eye. Alas for the guild of officials Martin Sludden and his umpires were flushing any credit Johnny Ryan may have earned for the brotherhood down the pan with their inexplicable interpretation of Joe Sheridan’s goal. Add in Benny Coulter’s square ball goal for Down against Kildare and the notion that we can rely on referees to get the easy calls right and video won’t tell us much on the hard calls lies in as many pieces as Louth-to-win-Leinster betting slips.

The reactions of the respective authorities to these calamities has been revealing. Sepp Blatter has accepted the need to look at the issue again, saying “it is obvious that after the experience so far in this World Cup it would be a nonsense to not reopen the file of technology at the business meeting of the International FA Board in July.” It’s not often that the words ‘Blatter’ and ‘principle’ could be used in the same sentence, but my reading of Blatter’s objections to technology was one of *cough* principle, i.e. that soccer should be treated the same at all levels whether it’s a Junior League match in Ozier Park or the World Cup final in Soccer City. It’s an admirable position to take, but when the facts changed he expressed a willingness to change his mind. The same can not be said of Christy Cooney.

(As an aside, this shouldn’t be personal and I hope I’ve kept the invective against him to a minimum, but I’m finding it hard to warm to Christy Cooney. On just about every red button issue this summer – pitch invasions, various refereeing debacles, the staging of the Under-21 final at Tipperary’s home venue –  he’s managed to stand on the opposite side of the fence (pun unintended) as myself. When Seán Kelly took an activist position on the subject of opening Croke Park to soccer and rugby, many people objected that an Uachtaráin would take sides in the debate. This struck me as being wrong-headed on the basis that as the only nationally elected official in the association the President was exactly the man to take a position on a subject. Looking at Christy Cooney, it’s a case of ‘be careful what you wish for . . .’ )

Christy Cooney has decided technology is not the way to go. Why? There are myriad reasons such as the difficulty of deciding what should be subject to review or preserving the authority of referees, which are fair enough. But two comments really stick out. The first is that “our games are built on passion. Our games are about the continuous flow of the game. The last thing I want is a lot of stoppages. It doesn’t do anything to help us.” Putt ing aside the implication that a game like rugby lacks passion, why should this be a reason for not having video refs? When infuriated Louth fans spilled on to the pitch after the Leinster final they were certainly not lacking in passion, but this was clearly the bad type of passion which had to be eliminated at all costs. Then there is his observation that “in sport, you are lucky some days, unlucky on other days.” Imagine if Cork had experienced the same scenario as Louth did that day. The Cork man would ultimately shrug his shoulders. If it only happens to you once you’ll have 99 other chances soon enough. The same could not be said of the Louth man, who at the current rate will have to wait 5,940 years to get their 99 chances.

Video referees are inevitable at this stage – they’ve probably been inevitable for a lot longer than this, since the days when Hawkeye first showed a bale being nudged off the leg stump on live television, but it took England’s experience in the World Cup to make me see it. How long will it take the GAA top brass? When you’re lagging behind Sepp ‘tighter shorts’ Blatter in the innovation stakes, something is wrong.

Waterford GAA results archive – child of the 60’s

Some more random observations on the work-in-progress that is the Waterford GAA results archive, now correct back to 1964:

  • Waterford once played a match in Tramore, of all places, beating Laois by two points in February 1967. It’s curious how venues like Cappoquin have fallen off the schedule. Presumably this is because the investment, such as it has been, in Walsh Park and Fraher Field, increase the opportunity cost of using venues other than them.
  • We beat Laois that day, as we usually do. We’ve beaten them on 19 of our 23 meetings since 1966, losing three and drawing one. This is in marked contrast to our record against Kildare. We played Kildare seven times in the 70’s and barely came out ahead, winning four and losing three. Compare that with our record against Offaly who we played three times, winning twice and drawing once. Offaly won the All-Ireland in 1981. There’s a story to be told about what became of Kildare hurling.
  • When snooker player Fergal O’Brien won the 1999 British Open, he felt slightly cheated when a rejigging of the schedule meant he had to defend the trophy a few months later. The Waterford hurlers of 1963 would have sympathised. Having won the National League by beating New York in a replay on the 3rd November, they had to play Dublin in the first round of the 1964 League a week later. They lost. Some honeymoon.

There but for the grace of God

The football championship started in earnest today, and served up a moment that doesn’t get any less jaw-dropping the more often you hear it. Wicklow won a senior championship match at Croke Park for the first time ever. The people from Wicklow who were at Croke Park today stand alone among every native of their county who has ever lived. The next time someone claims that Waterford have somehow come up short by failing to win the All-Ireland, slap them about the face with that dead fish of a factoid.