Tag Archives: South East League

Could it be magic?

Dublin beat (yep, pronounced ‘bet’, BBC-accented Mrs d) Kilkenny yesterday in the final of the Walsh Cup. Much effort will be expended to minimise the significance of this victory, not least in Dublin where no one will want to be getting their hopes up too high. But I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that in a few years time we will look back on this win as the tipping point from which, looking back from that imaginary point in the future, we will be able to say ‘so that was when Dublin went from being whipping boys to winners of the National League / Leinster title / . . . ” (okay, let’s not get carried away with the last part of that series).

As supporting evidence for this theory, I present Waterford’s win in the South East League, what is now the Waterford Crystal Cup, in 1998. Hindsight is a marvellous thing, but even given it’s lowly status in the hurling hierarchy it felt significant at the time. It was standing room only in Walsh Park as the muintir iománaíocht of Waterford sensed something was afoot. Presumably Cork would be trying to win the game too, and when Waterford eventually staggered over the finishing line in dramatic fashion, it felt great to be able to put even this small one over the Auld Enemy. It wasn’t just the win in itself. We had had a decent run in senior hurling in 1997, beating Galway in the League quarter-final and putting in a good showing against Limerick in the Championship. At long last, it seemed as if we were building on the achievements of the Minors and Under-21’s in the early part of the decade. And it looked certain there would be more to come.

The same sentiments seem applicable to Dublin thirteen years on. There can be no firmer feeling-in-yer-waters than Shane Ryan and Conal Keaney choosing to spurn the big ball game in favour of hurling. It’s not as if Dublin are less likely to win the Sam Maguire, but they clearly are sensing great things from the current Dublin setup. As for performances up to now, Leinster Minor championship wins in 2005 and 2007 have been supplemented with Under-21 wins in 2007 and 2010. Senior triumphs on which to hang their collective hat have proven harder to come by – they were none-too-impressive in squeaking past Wexford in last year’s Leinster championship and the loss to Antrim was sickening – which makes their recent League win over Tipperary and now the Walsh Cup look all the more important.

Dublin really need to do something spectacular in the next few years. I’m skeptical about the suggestion of culchie Jonahs who fret that Dublin’s gargantuan population base would make them unstoppable should they ever get their act together. The infrastructure simply doesn’t exist in Dublin GAA to turn them into a rival to other dual counties like Cork and Galway. Besides, that’s a bridge we should cross when we get to it. For now, a successful Dublin would enliven a hurling championship that is in serious need of enlivening. And it would just be nice to see the efforts of Dublin Gaels bearing fruit. Oliver J Flanagan – it’s hard to get away from Blueshirts in the week that’s in it – once said that “there is no better Catholic than an English Catholic”, by which he meant it was easy to be a Catholic in Ireland, hard to be one in England (one wonders whether he’d ever been to Liverpool). If a time comes when I’m hoping Dublin crash and burn in every game, it’ll be a good time for the GAA.

The way we were

This week, a prehistory lesson for all the kids. Before hurling began in 1998, there was a competition that was analagous to the National League that we won in 2007. This competition ran for a couple of rounds in November before a break and resumption in the spring. So when the GAA adjusted this competition for the new recorded era, there was a gap in the market for a little competitive inter-county hurling in the winter.

Thus was born the South East League, a two group round robin competition with a Grand Final in, uh, Walsh Park. Certainly the trophy was very grand, and it’s fair to say that when Waterford won it in 1998 it seemed a big deal. The myths and sagas of prehistory suggest that Waterford were not very good  at winning anything (this being prehistory, there are no records of such a state of affairs) so to win something was a marvellous thing.

Twelve years on it doesn’t seem to matter as much, partly because the notion of a ‘Waterford Crystal Cup’ is so poignant, but mostly because we’ve got bigger fish to fry. You’d rather win than not win, so last Sunday’s result against Clare was nice. But when even the winning manager is scoffing at the outcome, you know something isn’t right. Roll on the final against UCC, and may the best B team win.

Waterford 2-8 (14) Tipperary 1-16 (19)

Waterford surrendered their Waterford Crystal South East League title in rather tame fashion in this game. The start was certainly very encouraging with some excellent hits from Anthony Kirwan and Dan Shanahan bouying up the large crowd in Walsh Park, mostly Déisigh predictably. Tipperary were more wayward in their shooting than Waterford and dropped some real clangers late in the half. Tipperary were leading by 0-2 to 0-1 when Waterford got the first goal. The ball was hoisted into Dan Shanahan on the edge of the square. He turned and unleashed a fearsome swing of his leg. Pity he didn’t actually connect with the sliothar. Still, in the ensuing ruck he managed to get the ball across the line if not into the net.

As the half progressed Tipperary seemed to get control and some nice scores allied to a few dodgy decisions by Pat O’Connor helped them to a half-time lead of 0-9 to 1-5. Waterford flew out of the blocks in the second half after the now traditional extended half time lecture from Gerald McCarthy. Points from Billy O’Sullivan, Dave Bennett and Anton Lannon saw the Déise lead by two. Then came the decisive moment. The ref overlooked a ball being scooped off the ground, the ensuing high ball was fluffed by Brendan Landers and Declan Browne bobbled a shot past Sean Cullinane on the line.

Tipp never looked back. They reeled off five points without reply and the match was over. Paul Flynn came on late – after Peter Queally and John Leahy had exchanged pleasantries – and had an immediate impact. His trademark galloping run ended with the ball being flashed to the net by Billy O’Sullivan.

Hope springs eternal? Not likely. Flynn had another charge halted by the ref, Tipp scored two more points and the match was over. Best for the winners (grr) were John Leahy (double grr), Declan Browne, Raymie Ryan and subs William Maher and Tommy Dunne. Brian Greene starred for Waterford while Ken McGrath and Tony Browne also did well. Overall though Waterford need not be too upset. They definitely had their moments and the gap between us and Tipperary earlier on in the year has definitely narrowed.

Waterford: Brendan Landers, Tom Feeney, Sean Cullinane, Brian Flannery (capt.), Stephen Frampton, Ken McGrath (0-2, 0-1 frees), Brian Greene, Fergal Hartley (Tony Browne), Pat Walsh, Dan Shanahan (1-1), Anthony Kirwan (Paul Flynn), Billy O’Sullivan (1-1), Anton Lannon (0-1), Peter Queally, Dave Bennett (0-3, 0-2 frees)

Tipperary: Brendan Cummins, Hugh Flannery, Eamonn Corcoran, George Frend (William Maher; 0-3, 0-1 frees), Raymie Ryan (0-1 frees)(Conor Gleeson), David Kennedy, John Leahy (0-1 frees), Eddie Enright (0-1) (Gerry McGuire), Liam Sheedy, Paul Ormond, Eddie Tucker, Mark O’Leary (0-2, 0-1 frees), Liam Cahill (Thomas Dunne; 0-3, 0-2 frees), Brian O’Meara (0-2), Declan Browne (1-3)

HT: Waterford 1-5 Tipperary 0-9

Referee: Pat O’Connor (Limerick)

Waterford 1-11 (14) Cork 1-9 (12)

South East League Trophy, 1998

I can hear all the sniggering now. It was only a poxy tournament victory. But I don’t mind admitting that I was thrilled when we beat Cork in the South East League final. Looking at the bigger picture, it gave us confidence in ourselves that carried on through the year. But in itself it was a supremely enjoyable day. Seeing the Waterford captain receive a trophy. And what a fine trophy!

Waterford had much the better of the opening exchanges but a devestating end to the half including a belter of a goal by Sean McGrath saw Cork go in 1-7 to 0-5 in front. Gerald McCarthy gave the usual roasting to the team at half-time and the pattern of third quarter dominance that characterised so much of the year was set. Waterford reeled off six points without reply only for Cork to nose back in front with two points of their own. But with two minutes left on the clock Paul Flynn gathered the ball and – somehow – ended up beating Ger Cunningham. Waterford had to endure a heart-stopping moment when Stephen Brenner dropped Mark Lander’s long free but the ref had already whistled for a square ball and then blew the final whistle.

Stephen Frampton gingerly gathered the trophy after the game and the brevity he displayed in his victory speech (all twenty seconds of it) would have surely made Waterford universally popular had we won anything else. Hopefully this won’t be the last trophy I see the Déise win.

Waterford: Stephen Brenner, Stephen Frampton (capt.), Sean Cullinane, Mark O’Sullivan, James O’Connor (0-1), Fergal Hartley, Peter Queally, Gary Gater (0-1), Tony Browne (0-1), Dan Shanahan, Ken McGrath (0-4), Billy O’Sullivan (Ger Harris), John Meaney (Míceal White), Paul Flynn (1-4).

Cork: Ger Cunningham, Fergal Ryan, Diarmuid O’Sullivan (capt.), John Browne, Derek Barrett, Dan Murphy, Pat Mulcahy (Mark Landers), Pat Ryan (0-1), Michael Daly, Austin Walsh (Barry Egan), Fergal McCormack (0-1), Michael O’Connell (0-3), Sean McGrath (1-2), Alan Browne (K. Murray), Joe Deane (0-2).

HT: Waterford 0-5 (5) Cork 1-7 (10)

Referee: Pat Dunphy (Kilkenny)