Fourteen years ago, my siblings and I went to O’Moore Park to see Waterford take on Laois in the National League. We went in anticipation of a thumping win having won four-from-four up until that point, and Laois were in a pretty sorry state. I’m not sure if my suggestion in the match report I wrote at the time, that their Under-21 footballers were playing that day, was correct. My memory tells me they were playing a challenge match in preparation. But what I can say with some certainty is that we outnumbered their supporters by anywhere from five- to ten-to-one. As it happened, that day is as close as they have come to beating us in the last thirty years, a run of ten straight wins across League and Championship. Things were bad for Laois. And they were about to get worse.
Five years ago, the first of the next generation arrived in our family and he happened to be born in Laois. This gave me cause to consider their place in the GAA firmament again. Would my nephew have cause to support his father’s county, like we had done in our youth when Waterford were a complete mess and Cork, the land of our forefathers, were bossing it in both hurling and football? Things can change. After all, in the time it had taken us to reach adulthood we had gone from being stuffed by Cork at every opportunity – three defeats in the early-to-mid 1980’s averaging a 24-point loss a game – to a level where we have won as many games as we have lost against them since the turn of the millennium. But it didn’t seem likely in the case of Laois. Could they turn it around from a point where they had lost to Carlow in the first Championship season in which my nephew had been on this planet?
Looking back on those two memories now gives one a hollow feeling. The lack of hoopla in the county in the lead-up to the game on Sunday against Cork – I’ve only seen two cars flying flags, and that may have been the same car twice – testifies to the lack of confidence. The parallels with Laois all those years ago are stark. There were no more than 5,000 Waterford supporters at the Championship opener against Clare last year, so there’s not going to be any more than that this year. Cork fans will likely be cock-a-hoop after a year which saw them come within a whisker of winning the All-Ireland. How close were Cork? Had James Owens, who notoriously blew the final whistle right at the end of injury time in our match against Kilkenny last year, been in charge of the drawn game against Clare and done the same thing, Cork would be All-Ireland champions. That’s how close. As with the Laois fans on that day in O’Moore Park, we’re going to be outnumbered by a factor of several on Sunday. As with the Laois fans on that day in O’Moore Park, the underage team are likely to get a bigger following when the Minors take on Clare in the Munster semi-final than the Seniors will get this weekend.
I fear a battering, the like of which we haven’t seen against Cork in a generation – literally; the last time we took a proper beating from them at Senior level was in 1990. Are we on the cusp of a crossover, on the way down while Laois, Leinster Under-21 finalists two years ago and Leinster Minor finalists last year, are on the way up? Will I be living vicariously through the happiness of my nephews in the way I thought they would be doing through their father only a few years ago? I’m probably being overly pessimistic. In case you haven’t heard, we’re the All-Ireland Minor hurling champions. Still, everything changes. Might as well brace ourselves for the possibility.
I’d love to have been a fly on the wall a few years back when the Munster Council decided on the current system for the Minor hurling championship. The principle would have been that each county should get two games, but with six counties involved the challenge would have been to ensure that, after all the games leading up to the semi-final had been played, you wouldn’t have two teams who played each other in the ‘quarter-final’ meeting up again in the semi-final. I haven’t exhaustively looked at the permutations, but it doesn’t look possible to me, and you’d like to think that those looking at it did so thoroughly before concluding that it wasn’t possible and saying “feck it, alea jacta est!” Okay, maybe I wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall, for fear of having my illusions ruined about the usage of classical quotations by members of the Munster Council.
The thing is, I like the system. The principle of ensuring each county gets two games is a sound one, even for Kerry. Yes, it’s hard to see them making it through but they’re clearly doing something right in the Kingdom if their Senior teams efforts in the League are anything to go by, beating Carlow twice on their way to the Division 1B/2A playoff against Offaly (it’s a scandal that they have to go through another playoff to get promoted, but that’s for another day), and they’re not going to improve if they shirk games against the best at Minor level. However, the issue with the possibility of teams playing their next game in the championship against the team they just defeated is a problem, compounded by the arcane manner in which the Munster Council treats home and away decisions.
Consider this scenario. Tipperary and Limerick were playing each other after the other two games in this year’s Minor championship, so each county knew who they would meet in the next round, whether that be in the semi-final or in the loser’s round. With Waterford beating Clare, they would have known that the winner would play Cork and the loser would play the winner of the Clare v Kerry game. Given the Munster Council’s rigid adherence to rotating home and away advantage – the same rules that mean Waterford will next play Limerick as the away team, because the drawn Munster final in Limerick last year in front of tens of thousands of Shannonsiders was treated as a neutral venue – it is not inconceivable that one of the counties might calculate that a win would leave them playing Cork away, while a defeat would see them play Clare/Kerry and Waterford at home. No doubt the purists would recoil at such suggestions of chicanery and say that no Munster team is ever going to go out and deliberately lose, and this would be fair comment – when it comes to bitter rivals, everyone is. However, you find yourself seven points down with ten minutes to go . . . it ain’t the end of the world if you have to win two home games rather than bust a gut to get the ‘honour’ of playing Cork in their own back yard, is it?
Even if you don’t believe a team would ever put in less than 100% effort in a championship game, there’s the issue of fairness. As it happens, ceteris paribus – those Munster Council boyos aren’t the only ones who can talk real purdy – Waterford have a 2:1 chance of getting a home draw in the semi-final. We last played Clare (this year) and Kerry (2006) away and Tipperary (last year) at home. But it doesn’t seem right that we could be at a venue disadvantage in a match against Tipperary despite winning our only game, especially when it’s a problem that is easily resolved. The team that comes out of the losers round of games should always cede home advantage in the semi-final to the team that got there by winning their quarter-final game. This would mean that if Tipperary come through, they have to come to Waterford. It’s a simple, elegant solution to the problem, and as such has no hope of ever becoming the way of things.
If this tweet (which I’ve linked to before) . . .
— SportsFactsWaterford (@sportfactsdeise) November 17, 2013
. . . is correct, and while I’m always dubious about tweets from an account with that odd Twitter egg avatar it certainly looks plausible, then Ballysaggart’s recent success means they have won more games in the Munster Junior club championship this year than all previous Waterford entrants put together. It’s already an amazing story for a club that, according to their Facebook page, is the smallest in the county and with the potential to get even better. We’ll all be rooting for you in your quest for All-Ireland glory and petty East/West divides be damned.
(The thought that Tramore ended up getting knocked out by the Munster champions is also a nice one.)
From a countywide perspective, Ballysaggart’s success inevitably leads one to speculate on just how good Stephen Bennett is. I had the pleasure of seeing him strut his stuff from a very young age against the Limerick Minors two year ago, and having been such a star during the All-Ireland run this year , it looks like he might be the real deal. The level of bitterness expressed by Limerick’s Munster Council rep over the Hawk Eye fiasco was born of an underlying truth – Limerick beat a Waterford team that are now being feted as a gold mine of talent, with Bennett the most lustrous nugget of the lot.
The eternal question now presents itself – ease him into the team or drop him in at the deep end. Carrying his match-dominating habits into the Junior club ranks against teams who doubtless had several hatchetmen just itching to show the storied young fella a thing or two about what it is to hurl amongst Men having only previously played against Boys, the temptation is to throw caution to the wind. History will judge Derek McGrath on whether he can integrate the likes of Bennett, Austin Gleeson and Patrick Curran into the Senior ranks. As challenges go, I can think of worse ones.
(originally posted on boards.ie)
Two “handy” goals early in the second half proved the difference as Ballysaggart deservedly became the first Waterford team to win the Munster Junior Hurling Club championship today. This was a high-quality game of hurling which was a credit to both clubs. The pitch at the superb Mallow GAA facility was in fairly good condition despite the preceding game of football. It was strange that they played the football game first, especially as football is more suited to being played under lights, which were on from the start of the hurling game.
There was a stiff wind blowing straight down the field which assisted Feenagh in the first half. However, it was Ballysaggart who made by far the better start, with Stephen Bennett opening their scoring with a pointed free followed by a superb goal from 20 metres. Bennett added two more neat points struck off his right side (for the benefit of those who think he is too one-sided for senior intercounty level) with his brother Shane weighing in with two further points.
Feenagh gradually worked their way back into the game, with their centre back Edward Murphy scoring three excellent long-range frees from his own half of the pitch. With Ballysaggart playing only five (and sometimes four) up front, we repeatedly saw unmarked Feenagh defenders picking up Ballysaggart clearances falling short into the wind and driving them back with interest. This pressure yielded a sequence of frees all of which the Feenagh freetaker converted.
Deep into added time, Stephen Bennett shot wide after the referee failed to whistle for an obvious jersey pull, and from the puckout Feenagh earned a converted free which amounted to a two-point turnaround which we feared might prove significant. Half-time: Ballysaggart 1-8 Feenagh 0-9.
Feenagh came out all business in the second half but were rocked back when conceding two rather soft goals within a few minutes of each other. The first came from a long ball in by Stephen Bennett which broke at the edge of the square, and despite the attentions of two defenders, Ballysaggart’s Ronan Walsh managed to get the ball into his hand and squeeze it past the keeper from an angle. Minutes later Shane Bennett ran onto a poor Feenagh clearance and powered forward to shoot for goal from 20 metres. The goalie should really have stopped a shot which wasn’t that strongly hit and came in at midriff height, but it passed through his diving body and into the net. This gave Ballysaggart a three-goal lead.
Feenagh were now shell-shocked and I thought Ballysaggart should have gone for the jugular, but they retreated into defence to deny Feenagh the goal which they knew they needed – always a bad idea in my view in a hurling game, but one which worked out on this occasion. At one stage in the second half, despite playing with the wind, Ballysaggart had no player inside the Feenagh 45 metre line. They had Stephen Bennett playing on the wing where he was rather marginalised when I thought he should have been located at full forward where he would have been more of a threat and would have required the attention of several Feenagh defenders. At the same time, Ballysaggart did create a number of good scoring chances in the second half but turned them into bad misses.
Instead, Feenagh owned midfield for much of the second half but long balls into the goal area were well defended with goalkeeper Matty Meagher dealing very capably with any ball landing in the goalmouth. Feenagh also tried running at the Ballysaggart defence but this proved equally unproductive. However, they did get the deficit down to four points, their best goal chance coming from a well-struck 30 metre free from their centre back which was deflected over the bar. Stephen Bennett closed out the game with two well-struck frees in the final minutes.
Apart from Stephen Bennett, I thought Ballysaggart’s best players were centre back Eugene O’Brien, left half back Cailean O’Gorman who had a really good second half, Shane Bennett at left half forward and right half forward Kenneth Cashel who came home from New Zealand for this game and turned in a really powerful first half before understandably running out of steam after the change of ends.
There was a great atmosphere at the game (official attendance 3,270), and the outpouring of joy and emotion from the Ballysaggart fans (who were there in force) at the final whistle showed what a wonderful addition to the GAA calendar these secondary club championships have become.
Ballysaggart: Matty Meagher; Bobby Ryan; Kieran Fennessy; Daniel Devine; Barry Murphy; Eugene O’Brien; Cailean O’Gorman; Christy Murphy (0-1); Kieran Bennett; Kenneth Cashel (0-1); Darren Meagher (0-1); Shane Bennett (1-2); Ronan Walsh (1-0); Stephen Bennett (1-7, 4 frees); Tom Bennett.
This week saw another abortive effort on the part of the County Board to stick their snouts into the Munster championship trough. About the best that can be said is that there is no direct sense of humiliation from the negative response, something that couldn’t be said the last time they tried it. Decision made, move on.
Ah, but where would be the fun in moving on? The situation contains much that is worth pondering, and a useful hook from which to start the pondering is this tweet from Brian Flannery:
If you added up all the monies spent on both Walsh Park and Fraher Field over the last 20 years you could have had a nice 20,000 stadium
— Brian Flannery (@BrianJAFlannery) November 21, 2013
In itself, it sounds right. The folly of splitting money for development of the two venues was surely demonstrated during the summer when poor light meant the Minor match against Tipperary came perilously close to being abandoned, and certainly would have been had it gone into extra-time. Meanwhile there was a venue twenty-something miles down the road with floodlights. The penny (pinching) had dropped when the venue for the match against Clare had been chosen, and presumably it’ll be quietly factored in for future evening throw-ins in Waterford, but the kind of farce we can do without after the Rhythm Fest debacle was avoided more by chance than design, and all because the Waterford County Board can’t decide on a primary venue for the county.
In fairness, there’s not much they can do about the attitude of the Munster Council. I can’t find any specific reason why the request to stage the Cork game in Walsh Park was turned down, although the RTÉ report above hints at capacity issues. Given our opening games in the Championship for the last two years against Clare have drawn crowds barely over 12,000 they are obviously putting a lot of faith in the idea that the Cork game next May will be what Hoganstand.com hilariously calls a “glamour tie“. There’s no way either of our venues will be brought up to the capacity that the Munster Council seems to think is typical of a Munster Championship match. Until that notional anticipated attendance changes, one that is currently more a reflection of their belief in the grandeur of the competition rather than the objective trend in these backdoor days, we can forget about having Munster games in Waterford. Unless Kerry return to the hustings. something that’ll only happen if they think they have a chance of beating us so we could probably cope without that.
However, that doesn’t mean that there’s no need for Brian Flannery’s 20,000 capacity venue in the county. Even a 10,000 capacity ground would be a worthwhile goal if it had one covered stand capable of keeping the rain off 3,000 people (without them having to huddle in the aisles) and three banks of stepped terraces around the other sides. The improvements to Walsh Park don’t come anywhere close to this level, so it’s still an open question as to which of the two venues would be best. A convincing case can be made for either ground. Walsh Park is closest to the largest section of the population while Fraher Field is at the geographical heart. Walsh Park is currently closer to an acceptable standard while Fraher Field has more scope for improvement – I can see issues with building a fully covered stand backing on the road in Walsh Park while there is space in Fraher for demolishing and starting again. What is required here is leadership. Someone to take a decision based on the merits of one or the other and give us something that we can all row in behind.
And this is where it gets depressing. Following comments around the web, it seems clear that there is an East v West divide on this issue. Any decision will be seen as a conspiracy from those lot on the other side of the county to drag us all the way to Waterford/Dungarvan. This is insane. No one is suggesting driving salt into ground at the venue that is not selected to be the primary one in the county, just that the lion’s share of any budget go to one venue while the other is maintained to its current standard. If it’s really impossible to choose because the factors governing which ground suits our collective best is so finely balanced, then toss a bloody coin! Just make a decision and stick with it rather than have this continuing malaise. But I fear that making the decision based on something as objective as that would not disguise the underlying problem – that there really is an East v West divide that doesn’t just affect the Walsh Park v Fraher Field debate but affects everything and, as a consequence, inhibits everything as decisions are made to ensure neither nose is put out of joint rather than what is better for the collective county. All these years I thought I was following Waterford. Turns out I was following Belgium all along.
The main reason I got so effusive despite losing in the end to Kilkenny was a sense of optimism for the future of Waterford hurling. And with ten minutes remaining in the Munster Minor final the following day, it looked like the headline from the 1950’s section of Our Dumb Century of “Flint, Michigan, Enters Golden Age of Unending Prosperity” was going to be applicable to Waterford, Ireland. Students of 20th century American history will know it didn’t turn out that way for Flint, and two weeks later the Waterford golden age appears to be over before it has even begun.
The sting of the loss for the Minors will hopefully be mitigated by Sunday evening as they get a second/third chance against Antrim. And yes, I know one should never count yer chickens etc, but two years ago Antrim were beaten at this stage by an eye-watering 38 points by Galway. Simply put, would you rather we were meeting Galway? While it’s never nice to miss out on a Munster title, the lopsided manner in which the two games unfolded – Limerick requiring a late-burst to stay in the drawn game, Waterford relying on regular sucker-punches from Stephen Bennett to stay in the replay – suggests only a fool would confidently predict a third game. Let’s hope we get another third chance.
The Under-21’s loss was comprehensively dealt with by Giveitfong, and while I demur from his habit of listing everything that went wrong in a four-point loss and treating each as if it were an unforgivable transgression, it’s hard to dispute the logic of each of his complaints. The Austin Gleeson one in particular is a bizarre state of affairs. It wouldn’t bother me that any members of the panel might have been put out by him being parachuted into the team at such a late stage. Had he saved the day, everyone would be too busy celebrating to give a damn (see: Paul Flynn in 1992). But it was a very long-odds punt and had he taken a blow in advance of the Minor replay a mere five days later there would have been hell to pay. One thing I would add to Giveitfong’s analysis is a sense of frustration at failing to make home advantage count. We’ve fallen at the first hurdle in each of the last three years at this level, and when you consider how much closer we were to Clare this year than last, it’s galling that a lack of planning and a lack of discipline meant we couldn’t ram that advantage home. After their dismantling of Cork, Tipperary are surely going to take some stopping. But based on previous years of home-and-away arrangements we would have had them in our backyard. Definitely a missed opportunity.
After a tough couple of weeks for underage hurling in the county, let’s end on a lighter note. Before the game my nephew was taking pictures of anything that happened to be in the viewfinder at the moment he clicked on the button. Shoes, close-ups of barriers, clear blue sky – you name something that had nothing to do with the match, he photographed it. However, amidst this frenzy of clicking he did manage to capture a certain former All-Ireland Under-21-winning captain:
As many an opponent has discovered over the years, you just can’t get away from the man!
(originally posted on boards.ie)
This was a game which Waterford simply threw away, and they are extremely lucky to have got a second chance at the end. I agree entirely with Horseboxhead’s comments on the game, and indeed I had already use the word arrogance in my post-match discussions of the game. When Waterford went eight points up they tried to bury Limerick with further goals rather than tack on simple points which would have put them out of sight. Patrick Curran had a simple tap-over point availabe in front of goal, but opted instead for a pass to the unmarked Stephen Bennett. If he had got it it would undoubtedly have produced a goal, but the pass was overcooked and went over Bennett’s head. Minutes later Mikey Kearney made a great run through the middle but instead of tapping the ball over the bar, he went for a blaster which whizzed outside the right-hand post. If either Curran or Kearney had taken the simple option, Waterford would be Munster champions today.
I also agree with Horseboxhead’s comments on Austin Gleeson. He is a lovely hurler and scored three great points yesterday, but I have reservations about his physicality and ability to stand up to the hits which come with the transition to senior intercounty hurling. And like his clubmate Pat McGrath (Ken’s father) he has a tendency to go on pointless solo runs which leave the other defenders vulnerable if possession is lost. A simple hand pass to a supporting colleague (a la Brick Walsh) is likely to be at least as effective and less risky.
I also have concerns with Waterford’s decision-making on the sideline. It was clear from the outset that – as in the Cork game – Adam Farrell was not at the races and he should have been substituted long before he was (especially given the quality of the Waterford subs). Tom Devine was also in serious trouble against Limerick’s Cian Lynch and again the selectors were amiss in not making an earlier switch between him and Shane Bennett. Lynch had hit four points before the switch and failed to score again afterwards.
As in the Cork game, referee Fergal Horgan did Waterford no favours. Early in the game he pulled two Waterford players very dubiously for overcarrying but when Limerick started running at the Waterford defence late in the game looking for goals there were several clear cases of overcarrying that went unpunished. Limerick’s full forward scored 1-9 from frees whereas Patrick Curran only got two frees to take. While Limerick did put a lot of pressure on the Waterford full back line, they also got what appeared to me to be some very handy frees which kept them in the game. Hopefully we will get someone else for the replay.
All that said we should emphasise that Waterford played some lovely hurling in the course of the game, and some of the their point taking – especially in the first half – was sublime. Nine Waterford players in all scored from play compared with just four for Limerick (one of them a sub). If we can keep tabs on their wing forwards (seven points from play) and cut down on the fouling we should be able to win the replay. I am a bit concerned that Tom Devine is not playing nearly as well as he did last year, or for Dungarvan Colleges this year. It is unlikely, but part of the problem could be that he is currently playing on the right side of the field whereas he had played all his hurling previously on the left. Playing behind a weak link (Farrell) may also not be helping him. For the replay I would start Shane Bennett on the right and Devine on the left, with Cormac Curran in midfield (where he played really well for Dungarvan Colleges), Mikey Kearney at right wing forward and Conor Gleeson in the right corner.
Having being given the hairdryer treatment for not being sufficiently worshipful to Clare after our first defeat in the year’s Championship, it is incumbent upon me to congratulate Kilkenny on their victory. The miles on their clock are beginning to show, but while Waterford may have shown amazing spunk in constantly getting up off the canvas, Kilkenny showed what great champions they are by never once getting flustered by this opponent that, contrary to the evidence of every encounter in recent memory, refused to give up. It’ll be fine, just tack on a few more points there. They didn’t win nine of the last fourteen All-Irelands for nothing. Who would have guessed?
And let’s have a big hand for the Kilkenny supporters around me on the terrace. Sure, during the match tempers got frayed, and there was one baluba who seemed determined during the first half to act as if the Kilkenny players couldn’t lift their arms without him being their puppet master. But I get the feeling he was told to wind his neck in by his friends at half-time, and everyone else was magnanimous after the final whistle. You could argue that it’s easy to generous in victory, but I didn’t sense any insincerity and it would also be easy to start crowing at the people who had spent most of the past two hours celebrating every score you had conceded. Credit where credit is due, they did themselves and their county proud.
The Minors came within a whisker of being a victim of the kind of smash-and-grab that we nearly perpetrated against Kilkenny. I wasn’t at the game, but you don’t need to have been there to know that losing an eight-point lead with ten minutes remaining is never good. At least they have a second bite of the cherry and we won’t have to face Limerick in their own back yard, outnumbered by at least 20 to 1. While it requires a spectacular piece of mental gymnastics to rationalise having the replay of a game initially staged in Limerick take place in a neutral venue, I can just about give it credit. The Senior final is played at one of four venues capable of holding them – Thurles, Cork, Limerick or Killarney. If the Senior participants agree on a home-and-away arrangement, the Minor game follows. Otherwise, the games are played at a neutral venue. The logic works – just. What I don’t understand is why it has to be Thurles. There isn’t going to be more than a few thousand at it and the game is going to be swallowed up in the immensity of Thurles. Venues like Tipperary, Bansha and Fermoy all spring to mind as places that can be easily accessed by the supporters of each county. Maybe demand will be greater than supply, but is that such a bad thing? The Under-21 final was played in Fraher Field in 2009 and the buzz preceding the game as there was a scramble for tickets justified the decision to play it a small venue. I can’t shake the feeling that the Munster Council object to their showpiece occasions being played at the diddy venues. Bansha just wouldn’t be grand enough for the insecure Munster mandarins in Limerick.
Speaking of insecurity, Munster and Limerick, how wonderful it was to see the supporters of the Shannonsiders rejoicing in their first provincial title in seventeen years. I couldn’t suppress a wry smile at the scale of their joy though. For the last decade we’ve been routinely told that winning a Munster title means nothing if you don’t add the All-Ireland. Funny how no-one saw fit to mention that on Sunday. More seriously, in the wider scheme of things winning a Munster title isn’t all that for Limerick. A Limerick man in my presence once bemoaned winning five Munster titles between 1974 and 1996 yet not winning the All-Ireland. He got pretty short shrift from the pre-2002 Waterfordmen around him. A seventeen-year famine? First world problems. It’ll be interesting how they react should this sixth Munster title since 1973 not yield the McCarthy Cup. It’d be great if I didn’t get to see the results of that scenario.
And finally: is this the last time we’ll see this?
It’s been a while since I’ve been so nervous about a Waterford hurling weekend. In the last few years games have either lacked that killer edge, a sense that something glorious waited beyond the game, or that a win in the game itself was a possibility rather than a fantasy. In particular our two most recent outings against Kilkenny have felt like exercises in keeping it respectable rather than a serious tilt at winning through to the All-Ireland final.
And it’s still unlikely that we are going to win tomorrow. Last year we were beaten by Cork’s ability to empty the bench, and when you saw how Kilkenny could bring on players of the stature of Henry Shefflin, looking every inch the King when he came on against Tipperary despite his injury woes and the passage of time, you have to worry about our relatively lightweight panel, especially in a Thurles that is going to feel like a literal furnace rather than the metaphorical one of which so much is routinely said.
But for all of that, they are vulnerable. Dublin have chipped away at their aura – remember how you can never give the Cats a second chance? – and their underage teams are showing signs that the production line is not as Japanese in its efficiency as it once was. It has already been a sensational Championship year, and all eyes are going to be on us to see if we can send it into supernova.
And as if all that wasn’t enough, we have the Minors on Sunday. Obviously this game is not as gut-wrenchingly tense, both in terms of the level of the game and the outcome – still a backdoor to avail of here. But the possibilities! If the Seniors win they’re still going to be a long way from Croke Park in September. The Minors, should they win on Sunday, would potentially be looking at a semi-final against Antrim, Down or Laois. In case that comes across as disrespectful to those counties, defeat would give us a 50:50 chance of playing Galway in the quarter-finals and a semi-final against Kilkenny. Chipped aura or not, the good folk of Antrim, Down and Laois would understand if that’s a road we’d rather not head down.
It’s going to be tough for the Minors. Limerick beat Tipperary who looked pretty slick in beating us in the Munster first round and Waterford supporters are likely to outnumbered by a factor of 20 by Limerick supporters also there for the Senior match against Cork. With only four previous wins in the Munster Minor final, it would be a tremendous achievement. But the possibilities all round . . . I’m nervous. And I can’t wait.