Tag Archives: Offaly

Armageddon postponed

One of my favourite television memories came in November 1987, when coverage of the Bulgaria-Scotland game in the European Championship qualifiers went back to the RTÉ studio after the final whistle. Michael Lyster – the fact that Michael Lyster was the presenter in my memory suggests that my memory is faultier than Waterford’s shooting, but it is my memory – claimed to have prepared a list of all the occasions that Ireland had gone close to qualifying for a major tournament but come up heartbreakingly short. John Atyeo, Jan Ceulemans, the 1965 qualifier against Spain (although Lyster couldn’t have known at the time just how lurid that last one was)  – all would have gotten an airing.

Then Gary Mackay intervened and we had the joy of watching Lyster ceremoniously tear it up. I really hope I didn’t imagine it,

I had an experience like that yesterday as Offaly raced into a seven point lead lead against the wind inside the first 15 minutes against Waterford. It was just like last season, seeing a promising start to a National League season evaporate in a blizzard of scores. It may not have been as crushing as John Atyeo’s goal was for Philip Greene, but here was another step on the road to hurling oblivion. Cue more infighting, defenestration of managers without any regard for what comes next, and defeats to counties where hurling is marginally more popular than Louis Kilcoyne would be among Shamrock Rovers fans. And yet, by the end of it all I was able to tear up such miserable thoughts, or at least park them for another day.

Giveitfong’s match report suggests that the early crisis was completely misleading. The gap between the two counties is far greater than the scoreline would suggest and the problem for Waterford is at the other end as a scary 22 wides were racked up. A curious facet of yesterday’s match seems to be the crowd, or more precisely how Waterford supporters were a disproportionately large presence in what was an admittedly small attendance. A sign of the wisdom of crowds, that we collectively think that Waterford are heading in the right direction? I should be able to tell more when Waterford roll into Walsh Park for the only time in 2015 next weekend, where there are unlikely to be many Gary Mackay moments.

Waterford 2-18 (24) Offaly 1-14 (17) – Giveitfong’s view

(originally posted on boards.ie)

Waterford could easily have run up a tally of around 5-25 against a really poor Offaly team. The wides tally of 21 only gives a hint of the litany of errors and missed chances which pervaded the Waterford play throughout.

The biggest error of all was not realising there was a match on against real opposition starting at 3 pm. For the first 15 minutes Offaly were first to every ball and winning every contest. They forced a series of frees which were meat and drink to Shane Dooley, who accounted for 1-10 (0-8 from frees) of Offaly’s total.

Waterford were seven points to nil down before they began to shake themselves a bit, led by the superb Tadhg de Búrca at centre back. Switching Kevin Moran to left half back also helped turn the tide, with Austin Gleeson moving to midfield. Shortly afterwards he sustained what seemed to be an ankle injury and was replaced by Martin O’Neill.

Waterford took over at this stage but some terrible shooting and an excess of high ball into a rather diminutive attack kept Offaly in the game. Waterford got a great boost when Colin Dunford used his pace to cut through the Offaly defence to lay off to Shane Bennett who finished expertly to the net. They finally managed to get their nose in front by the half-time whistle, 1-7 to 0-9.

The second half was almost all one way traffic with the Waterford defence completely on top and a better supply of ball into the forwards, with some good passing movement opening up the Offaly rearguard. At least twice Waterford forwards bearing down on goal were fouled unceremoniously with no yellow cards being issued by refereee James Owens, many of whose decisions baffled or angered the sizeable Waterford support in a small attendance.

Even then, Waterford could have had a hatful of goals, but the only won they managed came 15 minutes into the half when Colin Dunford forced the ball over the line from a goalmouth melee. Waterford brought on Shane O’Sullivan, Gavin O’Brien, Stephen Bennett and Maurice Shanahan during the course of the second half. Offaly’s goal was finished off by Shane Dooley after a typical catch and surging run by Joe Bergin (who otherwise was ineffectual).

I was surprised Derek McGrath left Pauric Mahony on the pitch for most of the game, given his Fitzgibbon Cup commitments and the fact that he was having little effect and missed numerous frees. While it was great to see Maurice Shanahan back on the pitch, he was only given a few minutes towards the end, when he could readily have relieved Mahony of his duties at a much earlier stage. Similarly, one wonders why Shane O’Sullivan (for example) was not brought on instead of Martin O’Neill when Austin Gleeson was injured early on, although it must be said that O’Neill put in a good shift.

One might have thought that Waterford’s Fitzibbon Cup contingent could have been held in reserve, given the quality of the Waterford bench which, apart from those already named, also included Shane McNulty, Paudie Prendergast and Donie Breathnach. Giving some of these players a start might also have countered the team’s slow, lethargic, start.

Colin Dunford wore the No. 26 jersey which was allocated to Maurice Shanahan in the programme, which explains the Midland Radio commentator’s confusion (although the guy on the public address did point this out before the game). Maurice wore the no. 23 jersey which was allocated to Thomas Connors in the programme. While Brick Walsh wore No. 14, at no stage of the game did he play at full forward, although he did miss a sitter of a goal chance in the second half (as did Jake Dillon).

Waterford’s best players were in defence, where Noel Connors gave a master class in corner back play and Tadhg de Búrca was also excellent, especially in the first half. Shane Fives had a terrific second half. Kevin Moran hit a lot of ball, but as often as not it went straight to an unmarked Offaly player.

It was great to see Colin Dunford back in the colours, and with 1-2 from play and the assist for the other goal, he was Waterford’s best forward. Jake Dillon worked very hard and notched three points. Shane Bennett was well policed by his marker in the first half (notwithstanding his goal) but was much more effective with a better supply after the change of ends.

Waterford: Stephen O’Keeffe; Shane Fives (0-1); Barry Coughlan; Noel Connors; Philip Mahony; Tadhg de Búrca; Austin Gleeson (0-1); Jamie Barron; Kevin Moran; Colin Dunford (1-2); Pauric Mahony (0-7, 6 frees); Brick Walsh (0-1); Brian O’Halloran (0-1); Jake Dillon (0-3); Shane Bennett (1-1).

Substitutes: Martin O’Neill (0-1) for Gleeson; Shane O’Sullivan for Barron; Gavin O’Brien for Dunford; Stephen Bennett for O’Halloran; Maurice Shanahan for Pauric Mahony.

Other players listed: Iggy O’Regan; Shane McNulty; Paudie Prendergast; Thomas Connors; Donie Breathnach; Tom Devine; Mikey Kearney.

Waterford 6-24 (42) Offaly 0-15 (15) – Giveitfong’s view

(originally posted on boards.ie)

Waterford romped to a facile victory over a poor Offaly outfit in this senior hurling challenge at the St Molleran’s ground in Carrickbeg today. Not only did they score 30 times but they also hit 22 wides, compared with Offaly’s fifteen scores and eight wides (all of the latter struck in the second half).

Waterford lined out with Liam Lawlor at fullback (in front of Stephen O’Keeffe) with Noel Connors and Barry Coughlan in the corners. Kevin Moran was at centre back with Jamie Nagle and Tadhg Bourke on the wings. Brick Walsh and Eddie Barrett were at midfield. Pauric Mahony was on the forty with Gavin O’Brien and Austin Gleeson on either side while Shane Walsh was at full with Brian O’Sullivan and surprise selection (to me, anyway) Colin Dunford of Colligan in the corners.

It was a fine day but a strong blustery wind was blowing towards the town goal and assisted Waterford in the first half. There were no indications in the early stages of how the game was to eventually turn out. Offaly started confidently enough, working the ball out of defence against the wind with some slick short-passing moves. However, once Brick took over in midfield with the assistance of the hard-working Eddie Barrett and with Jamie Nagle and Tadhg Bourke doing well at wing back, Waterford assumed almost total territorial dominance. They had some early difficulties with the wind but once they got their eye in the scores began to flow, with Offaly’s few replies mainly coming from frees.

The first goal was a typical Brian O’Sullivan effort, picking up a good low ball into the corner and then skinning his marker to finish emphatically. Colin Dunford notched the second, also finishing well after being set up by Shane Walsh, who had an excellent first half. Half time score Waterford 2-16 Offaly 0-6.

Waterford started the second half with the same fifteen, and kept up the pressure with Colin Dunford notching a good second goal. Waterford then rang the changes with a whole slew of substitutions (I counted 13 in all but there may have been more). These included, unexpectedly, Jake Dillon but he did not last long before himself being substituted (I was told afterwards this was only precautionary).

Although Offaly had wind assistance it took them 15 minutes before getting their first score of the second half while Waterford piled on the pressure, including two goals from Seamus Prendergast (who replaced Shane Walsh) and one from Killian Fitzgerald (I think, although someone else thought it was Ryan Donnelly – he was wearing no. 22).

Despite all the substitutions, Waterford probably played better in the second half as, playing against the strong wind they had to be more constructive and precise in their play. They put together a lot of good movements and regularly tore the Offaly rearguard apart, but ten second half wides shooting into the wind kept the margin of victory down.

Such was the poor calibre of the opposition and the open nature of the play that this game will have been of little use as championship preparation. However, the game did show that, even with several players injured, Waterford still have a strong panel, with their domination of this game continuing even after most of the starting fifteen had been substituted.

For Waterford, Liam Lawlor, in his first game back, had his problems against big Joe Bergin. Barry Coughlan played the whole game and did well. Paudie Prendergast replaced Noel Connors at corner back in the second half. It was good to see him finally being given some game time and, as usual, he gave a polished performance. Ian O’Regan also replaced Stephen O’Keeffe in the second half.

Tadhg Bourke was very impressive in his first outing in the half back line (following up on what I believe was an excellent performance at centre back with UCC in the Cork senior championship on Saturday – a game in which DJ Foran, Shane Roche and Mark O’Brien also played). In the second half he and Kevin Moran were replaced by Richie Foley and Shane Fives.
Brick and Eddie Barrett were replaced by Shane O’Sullivan and Shane McNulty who has strengthened up a lot and gave some excellent ball into the forwards. Barrett came on again to replace Jake Dillon.

Gavin O’Brien had a good first half on the wing, notching four points, but Austin Gleeson didn’t seem to have much impact. They (and Pauric Mahony, who played well) were replaced by Jake Dillon, Tomás Connors and (I think) Killian Fitzgerald. Colin Dunford appears to have put on a bit of extra muscle but has retained his lightning speed and was going past Offaly defenders as if they weren’t there. He finished with 2-2. He was replaced by Stephen Roche, with Seamus Prendergast (who looked very sharp) coming on for Shane Walsh and Brian O’Halloran replacing Brian O’Sullivan. It was good to have O’Halloran back and he played to good effect. I was told later on that Donie Breathnach was supposed to have played but I didn’t notice this.

Missing on the day (apart from long-term injuries Stephen Daniels and Philip O’Mahony) were Darragh Fives, Stephen Molumphy, Jamie Barron, Ray Barry and Maurice Shanahan. The general view after the game was that Fives, Molumphy and Barry all have a good chance of being ready for the Cork game but that the immediate outlook for Barron and Shanahan was not as positive.

Waterford play Tipperary behind closed doors in Thurles next Tuesday. This is likely to be a more serious test and it is likely that the starting line-up here will be more along championship lines.

Waterford scorers: Colin Dunford (2-2); Seamus Prendergast (2-1); Pauric Mahony (0-6, five frees); Brian O’Sullivan and Killian Fitzgerald (?) (1-1 each); Gavin O’Brien (0-4); Jamie Nagle, Eddie Barrett and Shane Walsh (0-2 each); Tadhg Bourke, Austin Gleeson and Jake Dillon (0-1 each).

Be still, my about-to-explode-from-my-chest heart

Back in 2006 I was lucky enough to be at Anfield when Liverpool beat Man Utd in the FA Cup, Peter Crouch’s first half header enough for the win. At the final whistle there was much rejoicing and I shook hands with the man beside me, because they just couldn’t have done it without us. “Thank God”, he said, “that really is no good for my heart condition”. No doubt about that, but I thought of him this evening as I followed events from Tullamore on Twitter. Because while it may be stressful watching your team in the flesh, it is a walk along the prom in 25° mid-afternoon Saturday sunshine compared to not being there.

Being there is a lot easier on the heart because you can see everything unfolding in front of you. Even the television can’t capture the nuances of an individual player dying on his feet or an entire team floundering as the game slips away from them. Anyone watching the game against Clare would have been completely flummoxed at how Waterford imploded in the manner they did. You really had to be there to smell the frustration on the wind, to see the hunch on each player’s shoulders as they realised a game they could have won was turning into a rout. You can only get some of that on television, and radio is far worse. At least on television you can see each individual play. On radio even the simplest passage of play is portrayed as if it were the butterfly float and bee sting of Muhammad Ali. It’s unbearable, so I don’t bear it.

I’m sure plenty of people would be aghast at the thought of following it on TwitterThe way I see it, reading text is wonderfully antiseptic. When it looked like the game was running away from us tonight as Offaly eliminated the four-point lead Waterford had built up with the wind in the first half, I was able to tell myself that we just weren’t good enough and start mentally preparing my best magnanimous speech – don’t want to be accused of being infantile now, do I? And it was a fine plan, right up to the point where it looked like we might escape from O’Connor Park with a win. Then followed ten frantic minutes of hammering the refresh button and relying on people who had better things to be doing than telling complete strangers what was going on. It was awful. And this was for a victory!

In a nutshell, I’d like to be there whether we win or lose. The reason for the former is obvious, and the reason for the latter is that I can cope better with the fallout. Maybe the GAA should add a qualifier to their marketing slogan “Nothing beats being there – because not being there could be the death of you”. As a wise man once said, it is much safer to be feared than loved.

Fitting a quart into a gallon pot

I hope Dermot Keyes doesn’t think I’m picking on him for using a couple of his tweets as the hooks for this post. I do so, Dermot, because I’m a parasite. I mean, because I care. Yes, definitely the latter. Anyway, the release of the Waterford team for Saturday’s big game – very big game, it seems – had me thinking in the general and the particular. In general, it’s refreshing to see Michael Ryan announce a team in advance that we can be confident reflects his thinking on how Waterford are going to line out. Recently we’ve seen Liam Dunne put out mock teams, leading Dermot to observe:

‘Juvenile’ is the perfect word for it. Liam Dunne’s rant reminded me of an Aprés Match sketch where Risteard Cooper summed up the philosophy of Jack Charlton: “I’ll play who I like, when I like. And if I don’t want to pick a guy, I will, because I can, if I like. I think”. Someone should ask Dunne how many points his exercises in acting-the-maggot are worth to his team because it didn’t seem to do them any good last weekend. The idea that the opposition will be blindsided by a lineup stroke so brilliant that it can be the difference between winning and losing is ridiculous. Pick your 15 and adjust them according to circumstances on the day.

In particular, and as for our starting 15, Dermot had some exciting news:

How intriguing! What stroke was Michael Ryan going to pull that would have us all talking?

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

Oh. Maybe I’m missing something here, but either they have backed away from a truly radical selection or they never intended to put one into place to start with.

The only selection here that is a surprise is that of Stephen O’Keeffe in goal. What did Ian O’Regan do so wrong in the Clare game that it invalidated the decision to select him for that game? There is no coherent strategy in this position, and Ian O’Regan really must love his county (© John Mullane) to put up with these slings and arrows and never rise up against them. As for the rest of the team, there can’t be many quibbles. Shane Fives is fit, so he comes in and we can be certain Darragh Fives won’t be faffing around in the corner.  Jamie Nagle is fit and will probably be fit to burst now that his status as a Championship hurler of choice has finally been cemented. So the injury news is positive in the backs, but further up the field it’s all negatives. Anyone who watched the Clare game in isolation would think it makes perfect sense for Maurice Shanahan to replace Pauric Mahony in at full-forward, but they’d want to be very isolated not to hear the howls of frustration that echoed around the county when Shane Walsh picked up another injury last Sunday. You can argue the toss over whether Brian O’Halloran or O’Sullivan is a better choice, but we are definitely weaker for the absence of Walsh.

Not that the absence of O’Halloran is insignificant, because it shows how we’re running on empty. It’s hard to see where Michael Ryan could have been radical, even if he were inclined that way. Pick Gavin O’Brien, perhaps? The team is picking itself for the most part, and the hope must be that, as Tomás McCarthy suggested in his Clare report, that we were a lot closer to victory that day than the final quarter suggested. If we’re not, I fear the knives are going to be out.

The magical mystery tour

If cleaboy boy over on boards.ie is correct, and the lack of any RTÉ/TV3 logo among the match details on the GAA’s website suggests he is, the revolution against Offaly will not be televised. In what I am assuming is an email from someone in Montrose, they spell it out:

we will NOT be covering the game live.

The GAA decided before the last contract to reduce the number of LIVE games we are permitted to show.

One of the ten games we are now not PERMITTED is Preliminary Hurling Qualifier.
Live coverage on radio and extended highlights on Sunday night.

Thanks

I once got an email from no less a person than Ryle Nugent when I accused him of focusing on a brawl at a GAA match while ignoring a similar spat at an Ulster rugby match. His response was far more polite than I deserved, so credit to RTÉ for being responsive on this level, and it’s important to emphasis that RTÉ have nothing to do with the match not being televised. The GAA have decided live coverage is likely to reduce attendances, so unless something spectacular happens in the next week, I’ll be following the game on the radio.

Ugh. I hate following games on the radio.

Is this a good idea? I think we can all agree that bigger crowds at matches would be a good thing. But will taking away live television lead to a boost in numbers at the game? The problem is that there are so many variables. Crowds are down for all manner of reasons:

  • the back door reducing too many games to a phony war
  • Kilkenny’s dominance is sucking away people’s interest
  • prices are too high during a recession
  • poor venue choices are making it harder than it need be to get to games

If we wanted to find out what the main problem is, we’d change one of these variables and hold the others steady. Like we’d ever be that rational about change in the GAA. Even if we could do it in each case – making Henry Shefflin play with skates rather than boots, perhaps? – the temptation to tinker with everything is immense, and I don’t exclude myself from the ranks of the, uh, tinkers.

With respect to this latest attempt to meddle with what we’re not sure whether it’s working or not, the GAA have gotten it arse-over-tit, as Julia Gillard’s opponents might put it. Offaly are a good example of the folly of the current dispensation. Their supporters could anticipate seeing them get walloped by the Cats in stunning HD, and even if they had pulled off the shock to beat all shocks their satisfaction at having seen it or being able to luxuriate in watching it back would have been tempered by the knowledge that they hadn’t finished the job. Now we have a match where they have a real prospect of success, one that would allow them to puff their chest out (I like to think we’re a bit of a scalp) and look forward to a long summer, and it’s not on the telly. It gets worse in football, where some novel and exciting clashes in the qualifiers will be ignored while turkey shoots in the provincial championships like the recent game between Kerry and Tipperary are churned out year after year. You can retain the provincial championships without pretending that they’re still the jewel in the crown.

So I think the GAA have got their priorities wrong. Still, you have to marvel at the assumption that live coverage of every match is the divine right of every Gael. I can remember a time when we had two hurling matches a year on the telly. But we were happy! Actually no, we weren’t, it was mental that the only team we could ever be sure of seeing was Galway. But the sky didn’t fall in and the game did not wither on the vine for the lack of exposure. We like to tell ourselves that the worst hurling match is better than the best match from any other sport, and to the committed that is mostly true. But there have been plenty of matches shown over the years that were a dreadful advert for the game and one of the best of recent times, the Waterford-Limerick match in 2003, had its status enhanced by not being endlessly pored over by the Loughnanes of this world. Walter Bagehot wrote of the British monarchy that “we must not let in daylight upon magic”. Establishing a principle that the default way to watch hurling is by being at the game rather than on your couch might be a good place from which to start restoring some of the mystique.

Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!

I would rather not have gotten Offaly at this stage of the qualifiers. After the weekend’s games they look the best of the teams among those we know are in the qualifiers, and while there’s something to be said for the idea that we’re going to have to beat the likes of Offaly if we want to progress, I’d still rather build up to them than have to meet them straight out of the traps. Anyone who wants to win the French Open is going to have to beat Rafael Nadal but that doesn’t mean you want to meet him in the first round. And no, I’m not saying Offaly are the equivalent of Nadal in the All-Ireland, they look the equivalent among the other teams currently in the qualifiers, okay?

However, what is it with the rampant pessimism that seems to characterise Waterford supporters? I know we were well beaten in the end by Clare, and I know Offaly exceeded expectations against Kilkenny, but you can be certain that the same Cassandras would be out in force had we been knocked out of Munster in a one-point thriller and Offaly been handed their arse by the Cats. I’m already bracing myself for maudlin previews in the Munster Express and News & Star about how we must be wary of the Offalymen and this is a 50:50 game. Both might be true, but you’d have read identikit previews had we been playing London, Westmeath or Carlow. I don’t know how Offaly papers will react to the draw, but if the anecdotal evidence I have from their neighbours in Laois is anything to go by, where two of my siblings can testify to the brazenly cocky articles that precede every game, then we can expect rousing calls to arms rather than timid fatalism. And Offaly have had a lot more to be brazen about in my lifetime than Laois.

Talking us down doesn’t do us any good. Indeed I’d argue it does us harm. I’ve noted in the past (twice) how Larry O’Gorman/Murphy was quoted after Wexford’s win over us in 2003 that teams always feel they have a chance against Waterford. In fairness that was a better Wexford team than the current crop. They would be good enough to beat Kilkenny the following year, something of which no Waterford players of recent vintage can boast. But the essential truth that everyone thinks that they have Waterford’s number is chilling.

We are favourites for this game. Offaly may be on the way up and we may be on the way down, but one brave performance against Kilkenny does not suggest we’ve crossed paths just yet. If we lose to Offaly, so be it. Let’s not look back and regret that we were beaten before a ball was even thrown in.

All I want for Christmas is two home draws

That Santa is being a right git.

Preliminary Round – played Saturday 22 June 2013
A Offaly vs Waterford
B Wexford/Dublin vs Antrim
C London vs Westmeath

Phase 1 – played Saturday 29 June 2013
Team B vs Carlow
Team C vs Team A

As the first team has home advantage, it means we’ll have to play Offaly in Tullamore. Should we win that, we’d play London/Westmeath in Ruislip (gulp)/Mullingar. I’m not too upset about the prospect of playing Offaly. If we’re going to progress in this competition we’re going to have to beat the likes of Offaly at some stage. The away draw is irritating though. There’s no chance of me making it to any away games so I might well have seen my last Senior inter-county hurling in 2013. Thank goodness for Tramore, eh?

Through Gritted Teeth #1: Eamonn Cregan

(This is going to be an occasional item on people or things in the GAA that are instinctively unlovable but still manage at some level to be a source of admiration. The idea is shamelessly ripped off, right down to the title, from an ongoing series on the soccer blog, Twisted Blood.)

If ever there was a glossary for figures of speech and you were to look up the meaning of “found a penny and lost a pound”, the explanation would simply read “Eamonn Cregan, 3 September 1994”. When he became manager of Offaly, he must have been aware that there would be a possibility of winning the All-Ireland. In fact presumably this was his intention, and he could look forward to getting more pleasure out of sticking it to Kilkenny than Diarmuid Healy ever did when he was in charge of the Faithful. What Cregan would not have anticipated was that the county who would get it stuck to most was his own.

My first encounter with Eamonn Cregan was after his rather impressive hurling career had finished, popping up as a pundit on The Sunday Game where his TV persona stood in stark contrast to the avuncular Donal O’Grady. While O’Grady was the type who took great delight in keeping an utterly straight face when pronouncing that Galway and Antrim would win their respective provinces, Cregan would never dream of being so flippant. He was a crotchety old git, routinely denouncing players for such crimes against humanity as going for points from sideline balls. So it was a relief when he left to become manager of the Limerick hurlers. His three years in charge were an unremarkable time for the Shannonsiders. Heck, they weren’t even good enough to win the League! They did beat Waterford in what was my first Championship match, but we were so bad you wouldn’t hold that against him. When he left, he didn’t return to our screens and that looked like that.

Yet when he did return to the airwaves in more recent times (usually on the radio), what struck me as crotchety in the 80’s came across as a cussed honesty in the 00’s and beyond. He has the happy gift of responding to the question asked rather than what stock boy-done-good response is most appropriate. When asked recently by a listener on RTÉ whether the tub-thumping excitement of the Munster Under-21 hurling final was proof of the superiority of the winner-takes-all format, he paused and politely disagreed with the listener, observing that he had endured many a time when the season was over before it had even started. He had been at the match and managed to mix delight at the success of his county with enthusiasm for the quality of the hurling on display, all delivered in a cool Limerick drawl that belied the notion that he’d nearly had a heart attack during extra-time. The borderline-contemptuous attitude towards that of which he does not approve is still there – witness an exchange with Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh regarding what he thought of  those who are “a technical referee” – but  Cregan’s desire for excellence is not a function of vanity as it might be in the case of Babs Keating.  He wants the best because there’s nothing like hurling at its best, especially when produced by Limerick.

And it is that unexpurgated love for his own county that really makes Eamonn Cregan one of the good guys, exemplified by his reaction to what should have been his finest personal hour, i.e. finding the right blend among the notoriously mercurial talents in the mid-1990’s Offaly panel to win the All-Ireland. He would probably deny it were it put to him, but his reaction in the days following the victory was one of dazed disbelief. Every lash of those late scores from Offaly that turned a five-point deficit into a six-point victory must have felt so bittersweet that Mel Gibson could have made an anti-Semitic film out of it. He would get back to Limerick a few years later but that team’s moment had passed and he would not be able to work the oracle. Still, in a world where no one seems bothered that Italians are seemingly the only ones capable of managing international soccer teams it was refreshing to see someone for whom that sense of place was so important. Even if he didn’t find out truly how important until it was too late.

Waterford 2-19 (25) Offaly 1-19 (22) – Giveitfong’s view

Waterford always seem to struggle a bit against Offaly, and this game was no exception. When their second goal early in the second half put them eight or nine points up they seemed to be in cruise control, but a drop in intensity, poor tactics and some crazy decisions by Davy Fitzgerald left them hanging on by their finger tips at the end.

It was a bright day with a strong breeze blowing down the pitch, which was a little bumpy and soft following overnight rain. After a slow start, Waterford gradually began to put the scores on the board, mainly through Richie Foley frees (he scored nine in all from all distances and angles, with only one miss that I recall) and Shane Walsh, whose first touch was super and who ended up with 1-4, the goal coming after about 20 minutes when he seized on a mistake by an Offaly defender and finished expertly to the net from a difficult angle.

Waterford went in at half time 1-14 to 0-10 up, and after some early exchanges of scores in the second half, Brian O’Sullivan scored a good opportunist goal after Shane Walsh knocked down a long delivery into the Offaly goalmouth. This was the cue for Waterford to relax and get careless, and when Joe Bergin goaled after about 15 minutes, Offaly raised their game and with Shane Dooley repeatedly punishing Waterford fouls (he finished with eleven points from frees), they eventually reduced the Waterford lead to three points but time caught up with them. Final score Waterford 2-19 Offaly 1-19

Waterford’s cause wasn’t helped by overelaboration, especially with handpassing, and what appears to be a diktat from Davy to go past your marker before releasing the ball. On numerous occasions today, Waterford players tried this when they had plenty of time and space to get the ball away and proceeded to lose the ball against hard-working opponents. Somebody should tell Davy that early, well-directed ball, is the key to opening up defences in hurling.

Further problems for Waterford ensued from the introduction of Eoin McGrath to replace Stephen Molumphy midway through the second half. I don’t know what Davy sees in McGrath, but suffice it to say that his contribution was the same as that when he was brought in against Kilkenny last week. Then, when Richie Foley went off injured with about 15 minutes to go, Eoin Kelly was brought in at full forward with Shane Walsh, who had been destroying the Offaly full back David Kenny, moving out to the half forward line. It was noticeable that Kenny stormed into the game after this switch with Kelly, for the second week in a row, offering no threat.

Clinton Hennessy had a sound game in goal for Waterford. He had little chance with Bergin’s goal, and did well to keep out another Bergin effort early in the game. Eoin Murphy was predictably a little rusty, but did okay at right corner back. Wayne Hutchinson did some good things but overall struggled a bit against Joe Bergin, who scored 1-2 and could have had two more goals, but he failed to get the ball past Clinton Hennessy when he got clean through in the first half and he had another point blank shot for a goal late in the game which Hutchinson managed to block down. In the left corner Noel Connors had his usual sound game, although his tendency to carry the ball out of defence rather than clearing it is a bit unnerving at times.

At right half back Tony Browne looked like he had never been away. For someone playing his first game of the year his first touch was excellent and his positional play was a good as ever. What a man! Brick Walsh was also excellent at centre back while on the other wing Jamie Nagle as usual hit a lot of ball without ever being convincing. He was replaced near the end by David O’Sullivan who made an immediate impression. His strength under the high ball and forceful play for me make him look a better option than Nagle.

In midfield, Richie Foley (apart from his freetaking) and Kevin Moran both had fine games. Seamus Prendergast started at right half forward but apart from one nice point made little impression. He was replaced late in the game by Paudie Mahony who had little impact. Shane O’Sullivan won a lot of ball but his use of it was poor enough. Stephen Molumphy as ever had a great work rate, winning his usual quote of dirty ball. Neither of these apply to his replacement Eoin McGrath.

At full forward Shane Walsh had a super game. Gavin Crotty had little impact at corner forward, apart from one neat point in the first half. Brian O’Sullivan ended up with 1-2 from play, which cannot be sniffed at, but his general performance was not great. In the first half in particular he was almost completely out of it. In the second half he got on the ball a lot more but more often than not ended up losing possession. Both Crotty and O’Sullivan lack physical strength, and this was apparent in their 50:50 exchanges with tougher opponents. However, O’Sullivan in particular has shown with Ballygunner that he knows how to score and this was apparent again today

Waterford scorers: Richie Foley (0-9, all frees); Shane Walsh (1-4); Brian O’Sullivan (1-2); Gavin Crotty (0-1); Kevin Moran (0-1); Shane O’Sullivan (0-1); Seamus Prendergast (0-1).

Offaly scorers: Shane Dooley (0-12, one from play); Joe Bergin (1-2); Brian Carroll (0-3); Colin Egan (0-1); Cathal Parlon (0-1).