This vision was allied with a longer running theme in soccer, that of Chelsea win the European Cup. Repeatedly Chelsea had gone to the well and been repeatedly denied. And just when their star was beginning to dim, they get every piece of luck going to finally land the big one. Was it too unreasonable to expect such a fate to befall Waterford?
And arriving at Thurles, you got another sense that something big was brewing in the world of hurling. We came in along the Two Mile Borris road having spent the previous evening/current morning at a wedding in Carlow and recent experience told me that coming off the motorway with about an hour to spare would be time enough. A crowd of 20,000 or so would be plenty, especially given the habits of our betters in Kilkenny and Cork of waiting until September before opening up their wallets. So imagine my surprise as the traffic was bumper-to-bumper right at the motorway. Even more surprising was to get to the ground and find not a single stand seat available, good thing is that there is this Stream Fodbold Live. And you know what? It was great to see. I’ve been to enough games in recent years where you could hear individual voices echoing around the venue to be able to take a simple pleasure from the thought that there was going to be a close-to-capacity attendance. Hopefully everyone saw something in Waterford that I hadn’t rationalised up until this point.
We scampered up the Killinan End a few second after throw-in and a barely-overheard radio commentary suggested that “it went in off the post” so it felt almost like a success when we got in and saw that no-one had scored. Such a pessimist/realist to think that early goals would always go to Cork.
They took the lead soon enough with a simple tap-over for Patrick Horgan but John Mullane soon had us level as he hooked over a score from under the stand. The early stages felt a little bloodless with Shanahan and Horgan swapping frees and Waterford giving Cork a bit too much room in the half-forward line. Such space nearly proved damaging early on as Horgan got in for a shot but Liam Lawlor stood tall/got his arse in the way to block the goal-bound effort and get the ball clear via the goalkeeper. It was a brief respite as Pa Cronin scored a splendid point from a long way out and it was obvious that Waterford were struggling in the half-back line. Jamie Coughlan added another score and it was he who was given the freedom of the park to stroll through the half-backs and around the full-backs and drill the ball past Stephen O’Keeffe. It was bad, even if only because they didn’t chop him down when it was clear he was motoring.
I was seriously worried at this point that we were going to be stuffed. The fate of the underage teams in recent weeks has added to the fear of 5-31 style results and missed efforts from Mullane and Shanahan, the latter from a free that had the Cork intelligentsia on the Town End whooping with delight, added to the sense of impending doom. You need someone strong in the circumstances, and who currently competing in London is more citius than Tony Browne who landed a long-range free to steady a few nerves. I’m going to save a few superlatives for the inevitable retirement post.