Tag Archives: Wexford Youths

Giving it 110%

From August 2001 to May 2002 I attended thirty-four Liverpool matches, including every game played at Anfield that season. I’m quite proud of that, which is why it gets mentioned so prominently in a Waterford United post. The reason it came to mind was that tonight I’m going to see the Blues play Mervue United. It’s only the fifth game I’ve been to the RSC this season and having seen them lose badly last weekend to Wexford Youths it feels like a bit of a chore to be going again in such quick succession. It’s odd how much easier it is to regularly attend matches where there are 40,000 people than to attend matches with 400 people. Who would have thought?

Thankfully it’s the FAI Cup tonight so there really is something at stake – the right to be in the quarter-final draw and hope you draw the winners of the Malahide United-Dundalk game before getting inevitably hockeyed in the semi-final by one of the big guns. The excitement is killing me!

With the League placings looking pretty much cast in stone – Limerick as champions, Longford and Waterford in the play-off – there is only pride at stake in the remaining home fixtures. Just to make things even more meaningless, a Blue worthy was overhead last Friday expressing a desire for playing Longford away from home, and you could see his point. When Waterford last appeared in the dreaded play-off, they got there by beating Shelbourne in a thrilling comeback win in front of a delirious travelling crowd. A few days later they flopped spectacularly in front of a stunned home crowd against Monaghan United – remember them? So maybe reversing the scenario might help. If it were on a Saturday night, I might even make the trip to sunny Longford myself.

Don’t hold me to that.

A passing thought about ‘playing for pride’. Eamon Dunphy was once asked on his radio show why he didn’t give out racing tips, preferring to concentrate on soccer accumulators. His answer was blunt – “footballers always try.” And you could see what he meant last Friday. With nothing at stake, not even pride of the parish, Wexford went at Waterford with all guns blazing and got their reward. Perhaps each player still secretly yearns to be picked up by Real Madrid or Barcelona if only they can be seen on the right day, but it’s laudable in itself that soccer players want to win every game, every time, just because they want to win. If you want to see how it could be, read The Economist’s take on corruption in Chinese soccer and be grateful for the honesty of the League of Ireland.

Update: and there was me, determined to go come what may . . .

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/waterfordunited/status/239027097585209344″%5D

Hope the Mervue lads got stuck in Newmarket-on-Fergus.

Waterford United 4-0 Wexford Youths

Well well well. Waterford United have managed eleven goals in eight games this season and Mr Part-Time here has been present for seven of them in just two ‘appearances’. Maybe the Blues should be paying me.

But then it would be giving money to a GAA head and we couldn’t have that. Even on an evening when I decided to devote myself to the Blues, hurling intruded. Well, sort of. Having a few hours to kill before the game I decided to check out Philly Grimes’ pub, and lo! what did I discover but a pub that serves real ales. After a bottle each of Fuller’s India Pale Ale and Wychwood’s King Goblin, and surrounded by hurling memorabilia, it was tempting to carry on reading my book for a few more hours and give the match a miss. However, duty called. Or more pertinently, the opportunity to rehash re-visit a recent blog post for Tramore Hinterland called. If I was going to pontificate on the League of Ireland then authenticity was called for, so I abandoned a bottle of Brains SA with my name on it and headed up to the RSC.

And I’m glad I did, for the story in next Thursday’s paper has written itself thanks to Seán Maguire. At the Limerick game it was clear that there was something special about this boy, his nerveless finish to win the game having only been on a few moments stirring memories of Robbie Fowler in his pomp. After a decent start for Waterford with Daragh Walshe making the goalie work with a curling effort – more on that later – and Paul Phelan frustratingly wanting one more touch out wide when a quick cross into the box would have found numerous players in position, Maguire produced a moment of magic. It was a long moment as he got the ball about thirty yards out, cut across the flatfooted defender with ease and drilled a stunning low shot into the bottom corner.

It was beautiful, and you could see it lift the entire team. The not-unreasonable strategy seemed to be to get the ball to the number 10 (kudos to the Blues for dispensing with squad numbers this year; you dread to think of Maguire wearing something non-descript in the low 20’s) and at the very least he’d pull the Youths defence all over the shop. He nearly opened the defence in the 30th minute with a vicious cross but Daragh Walshe seemed to be caught by surprise as he headed over. Never mind though, Walsh would soon have his own moment to write home about. Taking a pass with his back to goal the ball flicked up in most fortuitous fashion and he took full advantage, spinning on a sixpence and hitting a pinpoint dipper over the goalkeeper. Another great strike. Truly our cup was running over.

It’s a sign that I’m not a proper supporter that I never doubted this would be enough. It’s a sign that I’m getting there that the caterwauling of a Wexford Youths fans sitting nearby got on my nerves. I mean, what were the odds? I could have moved but I liked the seat on the halfway line of the new stand, which seems to have a better view of the pitch. It doesn’t have unlocked toilets though and (not sure I should admit this in public, as if anyone is reading this) was reduced to taking a leak against the railing while the man next to me railed against the lack of facilities. Even Maguire managed to take him out of his isn’t-everything-a-disgrace rant, sensibly observing that he needs to be signed up, and fast. He doesn’t even have a sponsor at the moment if the programme is to believed.

If there were any doubts about the result they were snuffed out early in the second half, Waterford earning a corner after a good move was charged down and the subsequent corner flopped at he feet of Maguire. Even Andy Carroll wouldn’t have missed this one but as Napoleon might have said, don’t give me strikers who are brilliant, give me those who are lucky. There wasn’t exactly a party atmosphere around the RSC – for a party, you need party-goers – but the place was visibly relaxed compared to the usual angst-ridden demeanour of all and sundry. A stupid free-kick given away in a dangerous position threatened to take the shine off things but the shot was charged down and we could all begin to enjoy ourselves, a steward causing much mirth when he made a hash of an attempt to get the ball back and only succeeded in pushing the ball further into the stands. When the crowd didn’t go potty when two successive penalty appeals were waved away, you knew we had them licked. It was nice to be able to take things easy at a sporting event.

The only question was could Maguire get a hat-trick and he almost did with another piece of impudent brilliance. It wasn’t the best cross from Phelan, lacking any pace to give the forward a chance. But Maguire stopped dead on the spot and simply allowed the ball to bounce off his head and was unlucky to see it bounce off the crossbar. It was the kind of skill that can’t be taught, and surely he would have gotten the match ball had Paul O’Brien left him on. Still, substituting him gave us all the opportunity to give a well-merited ovation. And with a three goal lead Waterford could afford to attack with abandon. Walsh probably should have done better when out in two-on-one but dragged his shot wide. Paul Phelan did manage to hit the target a few minutes later, latching on to low cross after an excellent run from Peter White and thumping the ball into the bottom corner. The celebrations from the players were over the top for a fourth goal – at least, they were until you remember the six-goal battering at the start of the season. Vengeance? More informed voice than mine were certainly thinking along those lines:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/waterfordunited/status/193438429621653504″%5D

Alas, results since have left the Blues stranded. Longford and Limerick look like they’re running away from everyone else and with Mervue United and SD Galway proving to be cannon fodder they’ll be hard to catch. Still, the Blue flag is kept flying high by a young star in the making. Just don’t tell anyone about him. He’ll be our secret.

Six of the best (again)

If the title of this post looks familiar, that’s because it should be. The original title for my first column for Tramore Hinterland was ‘Six of the Best’, but the editor added ‘Simply’ to the front. I spoke to my wife about this because I thought the meaning of the original was obvious but when even she didn’t get it I had to admit that the reference was just too obscure. It refers to the euphemism used in comics like the Beano or, in my case, Buster for corporal punishment – not that the euphemism concealed the nature of the deed as we would get to see the teacher’s ghastly bamboo-like cane or Dennis the Menace’s dad wielding his slipper with purple-veined fury written all over his face.

And ‘six of the best’ was what Waterford United got last night at the hands of Wexford Youths. I wrote a few weeks back about the difficulty of getting people excited about a league where the other seven teams have all the allure of drying paint. Underpinning that post was the notion that of the eight teams in the First Division, the Blues were a cut above the rest – we played Manchester United when they launched their defence of the European Cup, you know – and they’d all be delighted to see the Blues coming to town. It’s looking like I was right, but for the wrong reason – they’ll be delighted to see us as we’re three easy points. I wasn’t planning to go the Limerick game next Friday – Mass Effect 3 is out people, MASS EFFECT 3!! – but now it would look like I was staying away because they’re going to get stuffed. No, that would never be the reason . . .

It’s all very well going on about the financial constraints under which a Waterford manager must operate, but there was nothing in the second half of last season to suggest Paul O’Brien is a huge improvement on Stephen Henderson, and the example of Norwich City sacking Bryan Gunn after a six-goal shellacking from Colchester United in the opening game of the season three years ago then going on to successive promotions under Paul Lambert – Colchester’s manager that day; come on Mick Wallace, you know you want to* – must loom large. Things will need to improve dramatically against Limerick, surely the early promotion favourites, if he is to survive as manager.

*I know Mick Wallace is not the Youths manager. Poetic licence, okay?

A little consideration for my weak ticker, please

When it comes to my team, watching them on the telly or listening to them on the radio makes me want to puke. The tension generated by the fear of the unknown is overwhelming. To deal with this, I prefer to be doing something constructive like the housework rather than watching / listening to the match, periodically checking the score on teletext or online.

(Please note this sense of despondency doesn’t apply when at matches. Perhaps it’s because you can see the action unfold properly as opposed to what is happening in the letterbox of the camera or what comes from the commentator’s mouth.)

With that in mind consider this post to be a gentle request for the people who post updates on match scores in general, and the Waterford United Twitter dude in particular, to have a care with how you phrase things:

GGOOAAL! That’s the first thing you see and it has to be a Waterford goal, right? Wrong, and a moment of delight was swiftly crushed by the despair of knowing the match was lost. It’s fair enough that the likes of Jeff Stelling would go “and there’s been a GOAL! at ANFIELD!, who’s it gone to CHRIS KAMARA?!” as most of the viewers would for that moment be neutral about the outcome – although even those occasional moments are enough to put me off watching Soccer Saturday when Liverpool are playing. But the only people watching the Waterford United Twitter feed think that a goal for the opposition is a very bad thing. Keep the GGOOAAL!’s for Waterford goals alone. For goals against, how about . . .

Waterford United 3-0 Wexford Youths

During the week, I was talking to a friend who went off on a rant about how all-pervasive is the bitterness in County Kilkenny towards Waterford City and County. The details are irrelevant for the purposes of this post, it is enough to observe that this hatred is bound up with the tribal loyalties generated by the GAA. I’m as prone to that as anyone – anyone not from Kilkenny, at least – and that is why I was eagerly anticipating what Wexford Youth would be wearing. While objectively I appreciate that there’s no requirement for a Wexford team to ape the GAA’s colour scheme, anything other than purple and gold wouldn’t seem like the real McCoy.

But pink! Again, I can objectively appreciate the homage that Mick Wallace is making to Juventus. It still looks terrible. In a world where fans universally ridicule players who wear boots that are any colour other than black, pink is asking for trouble.

Another thing which represents a departure from the norm was the price. I can’t recall the last time the price for a sports event fell, so fair play to the Blues for trimming two euro off the admission price. It may seem trivial, but having heard of the £32 that Liverpool charged punters for their recent clash with Unirea Urziceni, it’s good to see a sense of perspective in the League of Ireland.

Back to the game, and the big question was whether the Blues could cope with the loss of probably their two best players last season. Of the four games I saw, the player who was the most impressive by far was Kenny Browne and he has departed for Sporting Fingal. Over the course of the season, Graham Cummins was, despite this mullocking gait, the best source of goals so to lose him to Cork City Friends Of the Rebel Army Society Co-operative so late in the close season was a bit of a sickener. It would be fair to say I don’t know a hell of a lot about Vinny Sullivan, but I recall the ridicule heaped on Everton when Howard Kendall ended up back at Goodison for a third time – it’s rarely the charm in sport.

So it was tremendous, and pleasurable, surprise when Paul McCarthy’s apologetic effort at a through ball was inexplicably missed by a Wexford defender to allow Sullivan though on goal. It looked like he’d taken the ball too far but then he coolly slotted the ball past Packie Holden leading to a Fiesta in the stand. Only six minutes gone. Graham who?

Now all the Blues had to was keep a clean sheet and they’d be home and hosed. There were a couple of headdesk moments in the first half, perhaps a consequence of players trying to acquire an understanding with new goalie Chris Konopka who flapped alarmingly at one corner, but it also became clear that just about the only way Wexford were going to threaten was if Waterford gifted it to them. This was reinforced when Wexford were reduced to ten men after a crunching tackle between Kevin Murray and Warren Boarders. I saw ‘between’ because at the time it looked like a 50:50 challenge and it was 50:50 as to who had come off the worst. A few inches either way and it would have been Murray who saw red rather than Boarders. As it was, the ref had a better view than I did and barely hesitated before sending off the Wexford man, and speaking at half time to someone who had a clear sight of the incident it seems he got it right, but it was a fraught few seconds while waiting to see the direction in which the card would be brandished.

(I think Boarders volunteered to go off because he couldn’t bear to wear that kit any longer.)

If the Blues had a lot of possession up until that point, they had oceans of it now. Could they make anything of it? Everything seemed to going through Liam Kearney, clearly the great white hope of 2010 for the Blues. But those niggling doubts about the firepower up front will continue to niggle away. So let’s hear it for goalkeepers and strikers with inner ear problems. Willie John Kiely got off to a flyer last season but then ran out of gas so it was important for his confidence to get off to a flyer again this season. When some wretched defending allowed him the freedom of the park, it looked like once again a Waterford striker had taken it too close to the goalie. But inexplicably Holden threw himself at Kiely’s feet allowing Kiely the simplest of tasks to knock the ball into the goalkeeper-sized hole in front of the goal.

That was game over, and it got better when David Grincell, on as a substitute for Kiely, was once again found in oceans of space under the stand. Rather than putting the head down he decided to cut back in and effectively ran into the defender coming back. The two of them went down in a heap and the referee, to the bewildered delight of everyone, awarded a penalty. It looked so soft, but there was nothing soft about Alan Carey’s thunderous strike. It was just as well Holden flung himself out of the way, he might have had his head taken off otherwise.

The game petered out to its inevitable conclusion, only illuminated by Gary Dunphy crashing a shot from a ridiculous distance against the bar. The sending off prevented Stephen Henderson from telling too much about his team but given the opposition looming on the horizon – Cork Whateveryourhavingyourself and Derry City – three points might look great before too long.

Friday night’s alright for fighting . . . the apathy

A new League of Ireland season starts tonight in the RSC with Waterford United playing host to Wexford Youths. Just about every stratagem deployed by those involved in the domestic game is designed to boost attendance figures, and playing matches on a Friday night is surely no exception. It certainly suits me as I’ll be able to toddle down from work and arrive at the ground just before kick off.

I can’t pretend that the winter has seen any grand epiphany in my attitude towards the Blues. The mere fact that the evening they are playing on could prove decisive in whether I show up demonstrates that. Still, in a summer which has seen the edifice of the League of Ireland crumble still further with the calamitous experiences of Derry and Cork Cities, the calm manner in which the Blues have approached the new season is worthy of support. And the presence of those two heavyweights should inject some real energy into the division. Onwards and upwards, eh?