The manner of a soccer team

Now recall all the blarney activity at the top about channeling the spirit of chav mercenaries and fantasies that would have put Gerard Manley Hopkins to shame. It was all nonsense of course, but the feelings were real enough and now Waterford were about to put together a period of play that was tangibly real. Allied with the dreams, hope swelled in my heart, not just about this game but about the possible ending of 53 years of hurt. A point from Paudie O’Sullivan levelled matters but Waterford were clearly on top. The full-back line looked unperturbed, Moran and Molumphy were driving forward at every opportunity, Paudie Mahony was now looking like the summer hurler we always hoped he could become, Shanahan was keeping the frees ticking over, Walsh was a hair-trigger ready to wound Cork at every opportunity and Mullane . . . he was Mullane. A super solo effort from Mahony put us in front, Shanahan engineered and scored from a free and a point of impudent genius from right in the corner by Himself put Waterford three points clear with only fifteen minutes to go that you can check out here I didn’t just think we had a chance. I thought we had them.

It’s easy to see what went wrong in retrospect, although even at the time things happened that dented such a feeling of confidence. Shane Walsh going off to be replaced by Shane Casey was worrying. Shanahan missed a decent free chance and Mullane hit a wide when perhaps there were better options available. Either would have been the insurance score that you can see in Okay, there was still plenty of time to go but in a relatively low-scoring affair it would have been advantageous to put Cork in a position where they might feel the need to go for goals. What had happened though, and you would have needed to have been a soothsayer to have seen it coming, was that Cork had emptied their bench in the manner of a soccer team determined to start a fight.

It was one-part desperation on Jimmy Barry Murphy’s part, two-parts plan – the players that came on could not have been plucked randomly from the team sheet. But whatever it was, the contrast between the quality of the fresh legs Waterford brought on was stark. Cathal Naughton – remember how he broke our hearts in 2006? Will we ever forget? – got a fine point then we had to rely on a fantastically composed piece of goalkeeping from Stephen O’Keeffe to prevent a Cork goal. There was one more moment when Waterford could have landed a sledgehammer blow, Kevin Moran’s pinpoint clearance should have created a two-on-one situation but McGrath couldn’t take the ball and the chance was gone and with it, were we only to know it, the match.

Cork were now totally on top and everywhere there seemed to be a red jersey with a number 2 on its back. Waterford were forced to drag down Luke O’Farrell to prevent a goal chance and Horgan slotted over the free. O’Farrell put over a soccer score himself after another great run from Naughton and the teams were level. Horgan and Naughton added two more points and we were two points down only three minutes after being ahead by that much.…