Tag Archives: Passage

A Passage to glory

While reading around in the build-up to the county final last Sunday, I was mildly surprised to discover that the last time Passage played on the big day was in 1997, also against Ballygunner. ‘Surprised’ because I was at this game and in an ongoing reductive assessment of my own relationship with Waterford GAA, I assumed that game must have been after 1998 because hurling didn’t exist before then, did it? I’m not as bad an arriviste as I had assumed.

These thoughts came up as I hoped that Passage might somehow turn back the tide of history. The loss in 1997 was their third in five years in the county final and while the current Ballygunner vintage might be a little more vulnerable than that team, for whom the win was their third win on the trot, even an arriviste would be able to see who were favourites. A prior engagement with the future Waterford All-Ireland winning captain meant I wasn’t going to make it but I wasn’t likely to miss much. Casting my mind back to the slaughter two years ago between the Gunners and Tallow and I was almost grateful to be missing out.

Well, damn it. What a game, what a finish. Things can change quickly in club hurling. The last team to win the county title for the first time are now the team to beat in Waterford, while that three-in-a-row Ballygunner team must wonder where they went wrong in bequeathing a legacy robust enough to appear in thirteen of the last fifteen finals but win only five of them. Maybe in a few year’s time we’ll be looking at Passage as the team to beat. Maybe it’ll be an outlier in a series of disappointments for them. But the first time will always be the best, and it can’t be taken away from them.

And then there were four 2013

After the Lord Mayor’s Ball of  the Minors triumph – and don’t think that party is forgotten about as far as this blog is concerned – it’s the back-to-work hangover that is the county championship. For the second year running the defending champions were felled at the quarter-final stages, De La Salle’s exit giving a headache to those who blithely assumed that Michael Ryan’s uneasy abdication could be swiftly followed by the coronation by acclamation of Derek McGrath. All that is neither here nor there to me at the moment. This year has seen a renewed interest in the goings-on in Cumann Lúthchleas Gael Michael Mac Craith, and the presence of Barry Whelan suggests there might be life in Tramore hurling yet – an old friend of my brother who was at the linked Portlaw game was of the opinion that Tramore is inexorably becoming a hurling club, with more hurling teams at underage level than football teams. Until that day arrives though, my interest in the Senior county hurling title is purely academic. And by ‘academic’, I mean ‘riddled with prejudice’. In short, who should a supporter of the county team want to see win? As always, the criteria are:

  • how long have you waited? The longer the better. A string of close misses in the recent past helps
  • have you undergone a rapid rise from the Intermediate / Junior ranks?
  • a slight bias towards counties from way out West to counteract the perception that the city is too dominant
  • Mount Sion will always be last. If that ever changes, we’ll know Waterford hurling has undergone radical change

The semi-final lineup looks like this:

Ballygunner v Abbeyside
Passage v Mount Sion

With De La Salle out, the Big Two from the city loom large, winners of forty-seven titles between them and fifteen in the last twenty years.  The Monastery men may not be the force they once were but old habits die hard, not least when hearing the tale last Monday at the Minor homecoming from an Erins Own man who was my mother’s neighbour in Poleberry, of how certain members of their alone-it-once-stood Harty Cup win in 1953 were ringers (money quote – “I asked him when Clover Meats became eligible to play in the Harty Cup”). Yes, I realise it was a very long time ago and I really should grow up about such a story rather than getting a perverse delight in it. Still, I’m not in the humour to grow up just yet, and it’s not really a tie-breaking story. You’d want to be a right killjoy to be neutral and wish ill on Passage (county titles: 0). The same is true of the other semi-final. It has to be Abbeyside all the way (county hurling titles: 0). When you look at the spread of clubs represented in the Waterford team in Croke Park on Sunday week last, it would be an affirmation of the robust strength of hurling in the county should we have new names on the county cup.

Given the criteria established above, it would look like Abbeyside would be the favoured choice of the neutral. Since Lismore won the title in 1993 the trophy has only once gone out past mid-county, to Ballyduff Upper in 2007. It would be nice to see that rectified. However, there’s one caveat to that – football. Abbeyside have had plenty of success in the guise of Ballinacourty, and there’s no one telling me that they are different clubs. So let’s all hope and pray for a Passage win. And prayer is what they’ll need, for with my imprimatur they are surely doomed.

De La Salle 2-18 (24) Passage 3-12 (21)

De La Salle took the first step on what they hope will be a journey to Croke Park next March – let’s be honest, it’s got to be on their minds – with a routine win over luckless Passage in Walsh Park.

The challengers faced into a stiff wind in the first half, one so strong that at one stage a puckout from Passage goalie Eddie Lynch dropped on his own 45. Passage seemed to cope well with this imposition though, two points from frees from Eoin Kelly opening the scoring. Perversely De La Salle were making a hash of the wind, numerous balls into the corner trickling out wide. When Paudi Nevin did manage to get around the back he got too close to the endline and his shot across the goal was saved with the follow-up from John Mullane going wide. He finally got De La Salle off the mark with a free and a Jake Dillon point after the aforementioned tornado held up the puckout levelled matter in the 1oth minute.

You’d have thought it would be only so long before De La Salle got the measure of the wind so Passage were going to have to make the most of their chances, and Eoin Kelly did with their first goal, gathering the ball and shooting with what seemed just be the intention of hitting the target (© Alan Hansen), a poorly-struck bobbler than John Coady in the De La Salle goal made a complete hash of to give Passage  three precious points. It was as good as it got for Passage in the half though. Some loitering on a sideline ball by a Passage back caused the ref to throw the ball in and Jake Dillon punished such silliness with a point and a couple of frees from Mullane soon levelled matters.

De La Salle were beginning to find their range, dropping the ball into the half-forward line and letting them run on to it rather than putting it over the heads of the full-forward line. Successive points from Nevin and John Keane followed this template, then Nevin galloped onto an air-shot from a Passage back to create an opening only to be dragged down. Passage took their collective eye off the ball which allowed Mullane to take a short free to Dillon who smashed the ball to the net and suddenly the lead was out to five.

It was a moment that would come to mind a few minutes later when, having swapped points to leave the score at 1-8 to 1-3, Eoin Kelly drew a foul in a point-scoring area. Kelly, who had spent the half closer to the midfield than the full-forward line, tried to emulate De La Salle with a tapped-free to Owen Connors but they were more prepared for it and the shot was deflected out for a 65 which was gallingly hit wide. Kelly got a free not long afterwards to ease the pain but the need to score a goal was misplaced – any score would be useful in those conditions. De La Salle, on the other hand, must have been aware that four points wouldn’t be much of a cushion so were eager for another goal. Eoin Madigan nearly got in for one but was too close to the endline and couldn’t find his way between the goalie and the near post, although Bryan Phelan notched the subsequent 65. Then a sideline ball from near the halfway line went all the way through to Mullane who teed up an onrushing Dillon to hammer the ball home. And what a hammer blow it was. The lead had doubled from four to eight in injury time in the first half.

I wrote recently about the panic that comes when you find yourself a couple of goals down at half-time and Passage must have had that sinking feeling when an early free stretched the lead to three goals. A fine score over-his-shoulder by Stephen Mason was matched by one from Killian Fitzgerald on the run to keep the gap at nine. As the rain began to spit down Kevin Moran was exactly the man to have in such difficult conditions and John Mullane was now loitering in the midfield as Kelly had done in the first half for Passage to win some clean possession for De La Salle. A couple of quick Passage points hinted at a comeback but they put themselves right on the back foot again when a poor sideline cut – Passage were particularly shocking in this department all day – from Jason Roche was rammed back into the danger area with interest. Passage managed to scramble the ball out for a 65 and Phelan did the needful. When Passage did get a sideline cut right Eoin Kelly proceeded to smack a nothing ball into the forward line. He did strike a massive free from wat out but ultimately would cut a frustrated and occasionally frustrating figure for the entire second half.

Passage couldn’t unsettle De La Salle, mostly thanks to the doughty Moran. A point from Thomas Connors was matched by a free from Mullane and there were a couple of instances of Passage players throwing the ball away as they sensed the match ebbing away from them. They finally got a break when Thomas Connors slipped his marker in the middle and raced towards goal. The professional foul was committed but Eoin Kelly has previous in these situations and you knew he had only thing in mind. He thumped the ball high to the net and the gap was down to five with seven minutes to go. A cheap free awarded to Mullane settled any nerves De La Salle might have had, and when Patrick Walsh felt the need to go for a goal when most of the De La Salle team was between him and the net you knew Passage were clutching at straws.

There was time for Kelly to overhit another ball wide and for Dillon to score after a swashbuckling sashay through the Passage defence to put the tin hat on it. A goal scored after a long distance free dropped in by Joe Upton (I think – the person behind me said “well done, Joe” so I’ll run with that) went all the way to the net was purely academic as it obvious to everyone that this was the last puck of the game. I’d like to shy away from statements about how Ballyhale/Clarinbridge/Tippecanoe and Tyler too won’t be losing any sleep over that result, but it’s unavoidable. Twelve wides testified to De La Salle’s struggles to get to grips with the conditions and Passage were powder-puff in attack. Still, they won it pulling up and with Lismore out of the race things are looking a little easier for them in Waterford.

De La Salle scorers: Jake Dillon (2-3), John Mullane (0-5f), Bryan Phelan (0-3, 0-2 65, 0-1f), Paudi Nevin (0-2), John Keane (0-2), Eddie Barrett (0-1), Killian Fitzgerald (0-1), Eoin Madigan (0-1)

Passage scorers: Eoin Kelly (2-4, 1-4f), Owen Connors (0-6, 0-3f, 0-1 65), Joseph Upton (1-0), Stephen Mason (0-1), Thomas Connors (0-1)

Eoin Kelly vents his spleen

Passage’s finest is in fighting form according to Setanta Sports, hammering the GAA for an inter-county schedule that has left players “crippled” and labelling the All Stars “a joke” – thanks to Ollie over at Up the Déise for bringing these to the world’s attention.

His comments about the All Stars remind me of the manner in which celebrities attempt to play it cool while waiting for Jeremy Clarkson to tell them their lap time in the reasonably priced car on Top Gear, affecting disinterest until they find out then whooping with delight / looking like they’ve been mugged. Continue reading