Tag Archives: Wexford

Semi-final non-draw

There’s been much confusion online since the weekend as to how the semi-final pairings for the Senior All-Ireland (nice to have to make the distinction from how the Minor All-Ireland will work) will be decided. The GAA have nipped all speculation in the bud:

Depending on the winners of next weekend’s quarter-finals, the semi-final pairings will be as follows:

– If Limerick and Galway win (both provincial runners-up are eliminated, Galway previously played Kilkenny), then the semi-finals are Kilkenny v Limerick and Tipperary v Galway.

– If Dublin and Waterford win (both provincial runners-up), then the semi-finals are Kilkenny v Waterford and Tipperary v Dublin

– If Dublin and Galway win (Dublin are provincial runners-up), then the semi-finals are Kilkenny v Galway and Tipperary v Dublin

– If Limerick and Waterford win (Waterford are provincial runners-up), then the semi-finals are Kilkenny v Waterford and Tipperary v Limerick

(H/t to johnnycool and De Paper)

The logic is impeccable. Provincial finalists can not meet. If the quarter-finals throw up two teams who one of the provincial champions have already played (e.g. Dublin and Galway, or Waterford and an imaginary Clare) then those champions play the team they played earliest in the championship. It’s just a pity that this rationale had not been applied in 2007 when we would have ended up playing Wexford in the semi-final rather than Limerick. Then again, maybe it’s just as well; contriving to lose to Wexford might have been too much for our fragile egos.


Not my province II

Considering it is believed to be tempting fate to contemplate matches that are not yet cast in stone (see: Waterford’s supposed dismissal of Limerick before the anticipated clash with Kilkenny in 2007 All-Ireland final), would thinking about potential opponents in the qualifiers doom us to avoiding the qualifiers altogether? Ah, if only . . .

Following today’s qualifiers clashes, it struck me that there is a theme dominating what I want from each game: defeat for the Munster teams. Familiarity breeds contempt, and there isn’t a single county in Munster that wouldn’t draw an angst-ridden groan were we to draw them in the qualifiers. Just look at all the baggage that would come with drawing Limerick. There’s Justin McCarthy, the fact that we’ve played them already this year with decidedly mixed results, and we can do without rehashing the events of 2007. The seemingly never-ending clashes with Cork were great for the neutral but they need to be put in mothballs for a while to regain that sense of excitement for the committed. It’s doubtful whether the scars of ’98 have truly healed with Clare, and after watching their limp exit to Galway tonight it’s not a stretch to say their good efforts last year were built on the back of sticking it to Waterford – as usual. And Tipperary . . . the less said about their love of piling the pain on us, the better.

It’s fair to say that all counties relish the prospect of catching Waterford on one of the days when the demons are are just below the surface waiting to be coaxed out by a poxy goal or a sub charging into the right player. It was a concept famously commented on by one the Wexford Larry’s – can’t remember if it was Murphy or O’Gorman – after they defeated us in the 2003 qualifiers. He said words to the effect that “you always fancy your chances against Waterford”, a putdown all the more galling for being true. But at least with non-Munster counties there is the prospect of something different. It’s not too much to ask for.

The end of the beginning

The Cork hurling saga has had another twist. Initially the players won. Then the County Board won. Now? It’s ostensibly a win for the players, but all those people quoting Zhou Enlai have the right of it.

Let’s get the platitudes out of the way first. The threats against Gerald McCarthy are outrageous, and the players should feel some small sense of shame at the antics of some members of the mob that they unleashed to try and get their way. Had they done at the start what they did in recent weeks, i.e. get the clubs onside, then none of this would have happened. Instead they thought that the way forward was to make as big a song and dance as possible and . . . what, exactly? Frank, Gerald and co were going to have the scales fall from their eyes and admit the error of their ways? Imagine if some loon had decided to follow through on the threats, and with self-righteousness such a common condition down Leeside it’s not hard to imagine. Allied to suggestions that an instruction was issued that no one should attend McCarthy’s mother’s funeral, there seems to have been no level to which the players would stoop to get his head.

Having said all that, the County Board and the clubs also come out of this smelling of dung. I’ve been saying all along that we had to go with the County Board as they were the only ones with a mandate to run Cork GAA. It’s clear now that those who said that there was a democratic deficit in Cork have been proven correct. You have to smile / grimace at the way minds only became focussed in the clubs when the prospect of their hurlers being massacred by all and sundry became all too real – if the rest of us took that attitude then Cork would only ever be playing Kilkenny and Tipperary – but either the County Board misread the mood or didn’t care about it in the first place. Whether or not it was junior clubs who led the heave is irrelevant. They are Cork GAA, and their word is law. If the clubs are allowing themselves be led by an unrepresentative minority then shame on them too.  Whichever it is, we’ve got too many people doing too much and too many doing nothing at all. A plague on all their houses.

So what happens now? In the short run, the answer is ‘not much’. There’s a quote from one of the bould Zhou’s contemporaries that is less well known but equally pithy. Vermont Senator George Aiken said about Vietnam that the United States should “declare victory and go home“. This seems to be the philosophy of the 2008 Cork panel, as having previously stated that Frank Murphy and the Board Executive were The Problem, we now see that they are happy to work with him – a case of we’ve come for a head and any head will do. Seán Óg says that “as regards the issue of Frank, other people need to look at that and hopefully maybe the clubs will take it forward or whatever” which isn’t exactly a rallying call, is it?

In the long run though, these spats between County Boards and panels are going to become increasingly vicious. In fairness to players up and down the land – and I honestly include the Cork hurlers of 2008 in that statement – this was probably inevitable once the GAA decided that the senior inter-county championships were going to the association’s cash cow. Even if you don’t think that the demands being placed on amateur players are excessive, and I for one don’t think anyone is forcing them to do anything, the pool of people who are willing to do it is going to shrink and the members of that pool are going to naturally feel an increased sense of entitlement and solidarity with each other. I don’t for one second believe the Cork strikers all agreed with every element of their strategy, but they undoubtedly agreed that they would discuss the matter privately then present a public face. Factor in the displays of player power shown in Waterford, Wexford and Offaly and you can see that this resolution in Cork is merely the beginning of things, not the end.

And all this before we consider the influence of the GPA. Which is something best left until another day.

Result of the day. Just not today.

Given our mediocre record against them in recent times (21 point massacres notwithstanding), beating Clare away should have been the most notable result of the day in the National League. Except this was the day that Dublin dished out an 11 point hiding to Galway. Most GAA folk relish Dublin’s failings but I’m not one of them – there’s no place more difficult to be a Gael than the capital –  so well done to the Jacks on a great win. Limerick came close to toppling Kilkenny, but close doesn’t cut it when it comes to shocks. And the less said about the Cork hurlers (as opposed to the Cork “hurlers”) show against Tipp . . .

Managerial murder-go-round

When the Waterford hurlers staged their heave against Justin McCarthy back in June, comparisons were made with the infamous strike the Cork hurlers and footballers staged last winter. While there were superficial similarities, the core issue was quite different. The Waterford hurlers were rising up against an individual. The respective Cork panels were revolting against the entire body politic of the GAA; indeed, they were at great pains to emphasise that they had no issue with the personalities involved (that didn’t stop their supporters casting online aspersions against Teddy Holland, but in fairness to the Cork players they didn’t waver from their position and they can’t control the trolls, nor should they be expected to). You can argue about which is worse – I know where my vote on that matter is – but the differences between the situations are clear and unarguable.

Well, the situation in Waterford now has a companion in the departure of John Meyler as Wexford hurling manager. Faced with a situation where the players refused to play for the manager, the County Board decided to fire the manager.

It’s not unheard of in GAA history – Brian McDonald memorably faced an open letter from the Mayo football panel where they excoriated his management style, not least the indignity of pushing a car round a car park as training – but the proximity of two senior panels behaving in the same manner suggests it is becoming more common. At the risk of sounding like one of the tinfoil hat brigade, it’s easy to speculate that many managers are relieved of their duties after their counties exit from the Championship after a quiet consultation with the players, or at least the superstar ones who are to be found in even the lowliest of inter county panels.

So this looks like the future in the GAA, and it ain’t right. Watching the Wexford panel warm down after they had beaten Waterford in the League this year, there didn’t seem to be any personality issues as they cheerfully engaged in an activity that makes players look utterly daft. It’s only when the Kilkenny train smashed into them that the personality issues became a problem. As per above, we can instantly dismiss the statements for and against John Meyler online. If players had a problem with Meyler it was their responsibility to walk away from the panel, not collectively spit their dummy out.

The one consolation from the Wexford situation is that it makes the manner in which Justin was dispatched look almost dignified – this report on RTÉ tells a tale of county tearing itself apart. With the players in each county no longer a bunch who show up after the saving of the hay but a coherent group throughout the summer, it would be a strong County Board that could drive a wedge between any panel set on a course of action.

30½ v 1½

One of the more prominent themes about Waterford’s challenge to Kilkenny’s hegemony is that every other county will be rooting for the Déise boys come the first Sunday in September. This theme was challenged by a poster at KilkennyCats.com, suggesting all manner of reasons why people would be rooting for Goliath over David, and listing person or persons unknown who not only subscribe to this view but seem to form a majority of those canvassed.

One is tempted to suggest that this is evidence that you can get any answer you want if you phrase the question correctly. Ask anyone whether they’d rather see cool, clean, culchie hero Henry Shefflin come out on top against a terrace-baiting, jersey-kissing, townie yahoo like John Mullane, and even a few Waterford folk might plump for King Henry.

There are legitimate reasons why someone from a non-participating county might want Kilkenny to win. In the same way that people might root for Michael Schumacher in his pomp or Tiger Woods when he can walk, so people might root for Kilkenny. To see the excellent excel can be a great thrill to the passionate neutral. In addition, it would be naive to think that Waterford haven’t acquired a contingent of detractors over the years. The aforementioned terrace-baiting and jersey-kissing grates with some, the soccer tinge to much of the crowd annoys others. Clare people can’t forgive or forget what happened in 1998. Tipperary people must view Waterford as the single biggest barrier to success having lost five times to us in recent times. Whether you think any the above are reasonable reasons to want to see Waterford fail, they still exist.

For all of that, it seems unlikely that anything other than a small rump of malcontents (© Dessie Farrell) wish Waterford ill next Sunday. I base this not on a belief that any animus to Waterford can be washed away by a flood of Déise tears or any other romantic deus ex machina. It’s that looking back through my own observations on minnows come good over the years, people in the GAA always root for them – to begin with. The examples in the last two decades are legion, but I’ll limit myself to one example – Armagh in 2002. With the relative infancy of the internet leading to sad ignorance on how to handle people online, I imagined to get embroiled in a long-running feud on the GAA Discussion Board with a rather nasty character from Armagh. I swore before their matches with Dublin and Kerry that I would not cheer for them, but in the end found myself swept up in the euphoria of their release from eternal failure. I would be certain that people up and down the land would feel similar given the relatively trivial nature of their respective desires for Waterford to lose.

That doesn’t mean you have to cheer for the minnow in perpetuity. Minnows either become puffed up by their own self importance, thus no longer qualifying as ‘minnows’, or they get mown down by the next generation working their way up. Thus on both counts did I feel justified in cackling with delight when Wexford downed the Orchardmen a few weeks back.

It will be 31 v 1 next Sunday. Here’s to being on the other side of the equation in the not-too-distant future.

Wake me up when August ends

(NB photos lifted from The Wanderer’s Irish Rail Photos. Yes, really.)

I’ve been sitting here rather pathetically for much of time since returning from England, flitting between various websites trying to encapsulate my thoughts after Waterford’s win over Tipperary in the All-Ireland hurling semi-final. You wait 45 years for something to come along – okay, I’m not that old, but memes are pervasive in the GAA; the deeds of previous generations lie heavily on the current one – so that when it does, it can overwhelm. It’s like Godot has turned up.

I’ve been subjected to a blizzard of thoughts in the last couple of days, probably a consequence of not being there and therefore lacking a firm narrative. So to try and overcome the writer’s block, I thought I’d ruminate on what went so right after those horrific failures in 1998, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2007 (and writing it down really hammer home the horror). I think we can discount the defeats in 1998 and 2006 because we were simply not good enough those years. This may sound strange given they were our narrowest defeats, but the manner in which we staggered through the Championship like a punch-drunk boxer was not redolent of someone preparing to get their hands on the McCarthy Cup. sid wallace over at AFR put Waterford’s efforts in 1998 into context when reviewing Ger Loughnane’s recollection of the Clare years:

No thought is given to the contrary analysis that Clare wound themselves into a frenzy over opponents who at the time weren’t worthy of it. Whatever about Waterford’s front and attitude in 1998, they were a mediocre bunch as was proved by the way the rest of the year played out. Even playing at half pace Clare were much too good for Waterford in the drawn game and only a series of freak events (best encapsulated by Anthony Kirwan scoring 2-1) allowed Waterford to steal a draw. The writer had little doubt that Clare would have finished the job off with a full complement of players available for the next series of games without the need to drill into players that they had defecated on their own jersey.

As for 2006, this was the year that we shipped our biggest Championship defeat since that replay against Clare. An uncharacteristically cool last few minutes against Cork when it looked like the treble chasers – or, if we are to believe Roy Keane, the five-in-a-row chasers – were about to run away with it moved us to within touching / heartbreaking distance, but that was not typical of a team that looked like it was out of ideas.

The teams of 2002, 2004 and 2007 though. Munster champions all, and League champions in one case as well. They really should have been good enough to close out the deal, especially when playing the likes of Clare and Limerick. It’s unavoidable after the events of the early summer of 2008 to not look at the issue of the managers. Did Davy Fitzgerald work the oracle? The manner in which Waterford imploded so spectacularly against a clearly inferior Clare team can easily be laid at the feet of a management team that fiddled while Urbs Intacta burned. Dropping Ian O’Regan into the Kilkenny cauldron was brave but ultimately foolhardy. And not being able to cope with a team that we had beaten convincingly mere weeks previous was not acceptable. Compare this with Davy’s battle plan, which if we are to believe Anthony Daly on the Sunday Game, and he’s a convincing pundit, consisted of the cojones-laden strategy of experimenting against Offaly and Wexford for the big tilt in the semi-final. Fail to prepare and prepare to fail. This time we were prepared.

Which is all true, but it isn’t the whole story. Who is to say that if Justin McCarthy had not had the luxury of being able to slap up a few middling (the likes of Westmeath and Laois don’t count as middling) teams that he wouldn’t have been ready for any of the semi-finals? Davy was able to toy with the notion of Ken McGrath at full back and a lot of heavy work in training at the expense of stick work, and it showed with some of the ten-thumbed efforts in those games. Justin had no such luxuries. When he sprung Ian O’Regan it backfired. Yet when he took a chance on a goalie in his late 20’s in 2005, it was the sowing of a harvest that we are still reaping today.

It’s corny to say it, but Davy has had all the luck that Justin did not have. It seemed so at the time, and history has proven that that draw was a gift from heaven. Davy had the wit to grab the chance, but a few random acts could have spelt defeat against either the Biffs or the Yellabellies and doomed Davy to unending enmity of everyone from Waterford for presiding over the end of our golden age. Luck was one of the things that got us through. Add in a bunch of talented opponents who were perhaps just a little naive in the semi-final, as opposed to teams high on their own manufactured outrage or the cutest bunch of hoors ever to play any game, and you have a recipe for success.

And luck got us through the Tipp game too.

Our time had to come. It could have come in 2002 or 2004 or 2007. It came in 2008. We don’t have the luxury of six pops at the final, but maybe we’ll only need one. With a bit of luck.

Bring Your Family To Work Day

Dan, Dan, Dan. It was obvious at the time that your claim that you felt unable to bring your daughter to the game because of the profanity being poured on your head was a rather crass use of your daughter as a shield against any form of criticism. But really, could you at least have made some concession to the idea of it being for real?

Great to have you back in the saddle.

Waterford 2-19 (25) Wexford 3-14 (24)

Pre Scriptum: it’s a new era here at Come on the Déise. We’ve taken the plunge into the world of Sky+, and pretty darn slick it is too. Up until now, I’ve always adopted the philosophy that match reports should be as contemperaneous as possible. If you want to read a proper account of the match, there are plenty of sites for that. If you want to read an account of just when a grown man felt closest to a heart attack, you’re in the right place. However, with Sky+ the more obvious clangers can be nipped in the bud right at the start. For the moment we’ll carry on in the old vein, reserving the right to switch if trying to remember who scored what point – Eoin McGrath got 0-4! – becomes too obviously hard.

One of the more worthwhile exercises I’ve ever conducted online regards the accusation that the GAA has an unwritten rule encouraging the referees to ‘play for a draw’ – yeah, it’s worthwhile in comparision to conducting long drawn out battles with WUM‘s or checking out the results of the Boston Red Sox. It seems that since 1998, the year that is universally accepted to be when hurling began, Waterford have been involved in quite a few one score championship matches:

1998: Tipperary (won by three points), Kilkenny (lost by one point)
1999: Limerick (won by one)
2000: Tipperary (lost by three)
2001: Limerick (lost by three)
2002: Cork (won by one), Clare (lost by three)
2003: Limerick (won by two)
2004: Tipperary (won by one), Cork (won by one), Kilkenny (lost by three)
2005: Cork (lost by two)
2006: Tipperary (won by three), Cork (lost by one)
2007: Cork (won by three), Cork (won by three)

We’ve played fifteen championship matches where the refs have failed to engineer the draw so beloved of the GAA despite having an open goal, so to speak. In all that time, only three times (Clare in 1998, Limerick in 2004 and Cork in 2007) have they succeeded. Either they haven’t being doing a very good job, or they are playing it straight.

And yesterday we saw it again. Referee John Sexton announced with two minutes remaining that he would play one minute of injury time. It would surely have been politically sensitive to give Wexford one more chance past that additional period – one that is only ‘a minimum’ – to secure a draw / replay (more on that later). But he did not. The final whistle went with buttock-unclenching haste and Waterford were into their sixth semi-final in eleven years. Had it been the other way around we’d have been fuming, much as we have in the past.

Speaking of the past, it came as a surprise to realise in the build up that the pleasures of the Killinan Maher Terrace, as it is now known, had gone untasted for nine long years. This was a realisation that brought out a dose of reminiscing on the day when Mikey O’Connell put us to the sword, a day which my poor wife had to relive even though it happened three years before I met her, as I foamed at the mouth recounting how a player could score six points from the midfield then vanish from the annals of hurling, All-Ireland medal and all. Nostalgia sure ain’t what it used to be.

Waterford got off to a decent start, with Eoin Kelly knocking over his first two frees. Last time I noted the Jonny Wilkinson-esque routine he seems to have adopted (at least, I don’t remember him having as convoluted a routine before) and despite my sniffiness at the time it might well be having results. The first point from play was quite a laugh, a Wexford back clearing to the delight of their supporters – only to send the ball straight down the throat of Eoin McGrath who did the needful. Speaking of Wexford’s supporters, it was quite shocking how few fans they had at the match. Having been very impressed by the noise and the colour generated by the Wexford fans in defeat when I saw them in the 1999 Leinster semi-final in Croke Park, I’ve thought well of their fans. To see the paltry turnout for a match that everyone agreed they had a decent chance in shows how much the beatings they have taken at the hands of Kilkenny has reduced morale in the Model County.

Those who stayed away were to miss a stirring performance, one jumpstarted by as classy a goal as you are likely to see. Rory Jacob got in behind Eoin Murphy and sent the ball across the goal where it was gathered by Stephen Doyle. He cut inside and batted the ball past the helpless Clinton Hennessy. Simple as you like, and it makes you wonder why there aren’t more goals in hurling. I suppose it helps when trying to keep them out to have, you know, a good full back line. The match programme noted that Waterford were trying to keep three successive clean sheets for the first time ever in championship hurling. So much for that then.

Having snuffed out Waterford’s early lead, Wexford proceeded to open up a three point lead of their own. Waterford were huffing and puffing at this stage, and it wasn’t until a rather splendid gather-pivot-and-shot effort from Seamus Prendergast that Waterford got a score that could be said to be all their own work. At the other end of the field, Ken McGrath was beginning to get on top of things. He had fluffed his first attempt to gather the ball for the third match in a row, but his next effort was a message-bearing scythe across the dropping ball and his third a clean catch and clearance. In contrast to Offaly, Wexford didn’t seem to be putting Waterford under that much pressure. Certainly the ‘tactic’ of getting space before driving the ball seemed to be reaping greater dividends as the half wore on. Some nifty play got Dan Shanahan into space and he bore down on goal only to have the ball flicked from his hurley when he was in position to pull the trigger. This brought the usual bout of carping from the assembled fans, but to me it was the first positive contribution from Dan all summer. Having demanded his head during the week this was definitely one in the eye.

Slowly but surely, Waterford began to assert their authority. Stephen Molumphy was creating havoc in the middle third of the field and Mullane was in dominant form – except that the ref was insistent on penalising him for overcarrying the ball. The odds are that Mr Sexton was correct, but I find it hard to believe that Mullane was the only player at it. Still, the amount of possession we were getting was a good sign, in no small part due to a towering performance from Tony Browne at centre back. Waterford played it cool at this point, confident that with all that ball that scores would come, and as it neared half time Waterford had edged two points in front. Mullane might have made it three but for one of those overcarrying penalties, allowing Wexford to clear and tack on a score as the clock ticked towwards the end of the extra two minutes. I’d have settled for that, but Seamus Prendergast had other ideas. A mighty catch in the middle of the field while surrounded by three Wexford players was followed up with a well directed ball into the danger zone. The ref gave Waterford a free and Eoin Kelly teed it up. “Take yer point” said some fool on the terrace (ahem) but he didn’t listen, instead opting to smash the free into the roof of the Wexford net.

What a turnaround, 1-5 to 0-1 in the second quarter of the match, a period that had been as good a display of control from Waterford as we had seen all year. Mentally ruminating on events in the first half, two things seemed clear to me: 1) this lot weren’t as good as Offaly, and 2) a goal early in the second half and we’d run away with it. A team whose fans were afraid to turn up for fear of the beating they’d get were surely one sharp push away from collapsing entirely. Of course, it didn’t work out that way. After an exchange of points Rory Jacob got the ball in the corner. “Don’t foul him”, roared the Nostradamus of the terrace and the ball ended up going out for a Wexford lineball. What happened next was a bit of mystery – no Sky+, remember – as the sideline ball seemed to fly through the entire Waterford back line before bouncning apologetically into the net. The fact that the goal was credited to Willie Doran would suggest to me that the ball did travel all the way without being touched by anyone in the full forward line. Then in the next attack, Jacob and Stephen Doyle were given the freedom of the park to walk the ball into the goal.

Well that’s just champion. Perhaps there was a karmic butterfly effect at work here and Eoin Kelly shouldn’t have been so brazen in going for that goal at the end of the first half. Whatever it was, we had gone from being four points up to being four points down without much effort on Wexford’s part. Yanking off Brian Phelan in favour of Kevin Moran did not inspire confidence that the bench knew what they were doing. Credit at this point to Jamie Nagle for an excellent score from the midfield, earning a gee-up from Eoin Kelly in the process. It was certainly a moment to calm the nerves, and with John Mullane working out how to avoid being penalised for overcarrying and instead drawing soft frees from frazzled defenders, Waterford began to climb back up the self-made mountain again.

It was, ironically enough, from a less-than-authoratitive moment from Mullane, that Waterford moved to within sight of the summit. Turning to shoot after some good supply work from Eoin McGrath, he either mishit the ball or hesitated at the last moment, sending a strange looping ball into the edge of the square. Lurking with intent, only moments after some yahoo on terrace had demanded he “win the ball at least once, ya lazy feck” – in this case, I plead not guilty to having said that instead tut-tutting sotto voce at such obnoxiousness – was Dan Shanahan. He plucked the ball out of the air like an ripe apple from a tree and this close to goal there was only going to be one result.

There wasn’t exactly joy unconfined on the Killinan End, but it was definitely what the doctor ordered. From this point on it felt as if it would be who ever was ahead at the final whistle would win – that might seem obvious, but play five more minutes and you’d have a different winner, another five another winner. This might have motivated Eoin Kelly when another Mullane jig – followed by crazy war dance for the benefit of the terrace – earned Waterford a free. Straight in front of goal, not much more than 21 metres out and only two extra bodies in the Wexford goal, a shot at goal seemed a no-brainer. Yet Kelly popped it over the bar.

Keeping the scoreboard ticking over had to be the reason. It wasn’t long before this didn’t look so reasonable. Stephen Doyle cut in from the right again and in the ensuing scramble Wexford got a penalty. Up trotted Damien Fitzhenry and mentally you were already adding three points to Wexford’s score. This meant it felt like quite a release when his shot raced into the nets behind the goal. While Eoin Kelly’s effort was deliberate, this must have been a mishit. Why send your legendary goalscoring goalie up for a penalty to do what every hurler in the country could do on their weak side?

So were hanging in there, sometimes level, sometimes in the lead, but crucially never behind – had Fitzhenry’s penalty yielded a goal it probably would have been very different. Wexford seemed to be on top in their back division, with David O’Connor mopping up everything that came his way. Why Waterford only used one sub on a day when the sun was beating down like a hammer is something the mentors need to think about before the next game. At this point we began speculating on the possibilty of the dreaded extra time. I was convinced that extra time would be necessary, but page 3 of the match programme seemed to blatantly differentiate between the certainty of extra time in the minor and the lack of said certainty in the senior matches. So a bumper pay day was in the offing for the GAA, if John Sexton played his cards right.

And perhaps Wexford were expecting that, because when the announcement went up that there were effectively only three minutes left, Diarmuid Lyng was standing over a free awarded after Kevin Moran had effectively committed a professional foul to sniff out the possibility of a goal. Three minutes left, two points in it: plenty of time left if Wexford didn’t dally, yet Lyng took a lot of time to take the free. Molumphy had the chance to leave Wexford needing a goal as the time ticked inexorably on but his shot went wide. The clock moved into the 72nd minute and Fitzhenry still showed little in the way of urgency. This tardiness meant that it was almost anti-climactic when the ref blew the final whistle. Where was the last minute scramble, the ball hitting the bar, the back emerging triumphantly with the sliothar in his fist – or the forward wheeling away in triumph having smashed home the goal to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Not that I’m complaining, though Wexford might legitimately gripe about the ref having no soul.

And thus it has come to pass. The leprechaun has given us his crock of gold, or at least a portion of it. It’s obligatory to say at this stage that there doesn’t look like there’s an All-Ireland in this Waterford team, and I’m loath to omit that which is obligatory. Still, after the rout against Clare it would have not seemed possible that Waterford would be the only team left out of the non-Big Three counties at the semi-final stage. It’s not progress but at least we’re not going backwards and anything is better than going back.

Waterford: Clinton Hennessy, Eoin Murphy, Ken McGrath, Declan Prendergast, Shane O’Sullivan (Jack Kennedy), Tony Browne, Brian Phelan (Kevin Moran), Michael Walsh (capt), Jamie Nagle (0-1), Dan Shanahan (1-1), Seamus Prendergast (0-1), Stephen Molumphy (0-1), Eoin McGrath (0-4), Eoin Kelly (1-8, 1-6f, 1 65), John Mullane (0-3)

Wexford: Damien Fitzhenry (0-1 pen), Malachy Travers, Paul Roche, Brendan O’Leary, Mick Jacob, David O’Connor, Colm Farrell (Darren Stamp), Eoin Quigley (0-1), David Redmond (0-2), PJ Nolan (Stephen Nolan, 0-1; Keith Rossiter), Willie Doran (1-1), Diarmuid Lyng (0-5f), Stephen Doyle (2-1), Stephen Banville (Barry Lambert), Rory Jacob (capt; 0-3, 1f)

HT: Waterford 1-10 (13) Wexford 1-6 (9)

Referee: John Sexton (Cork)