Wednesday 13 November 2019

Sinéad Kissane: Celebrating what's rare in a wonderful way with Waterford

No drink ban, no media ban, footballers in the Déise county have right outlook after qualifier heroics in Wexford

Waterford footballers relax by the dockside in Dungarvan last Saturday night following their victory over Wexford
Waterford footballers relax by the dockside in Dungarvan last Saturday night following their victory over Wexford

Sinéad Kissane

The Waterford football team had run out of water as they waited on the bus to leave Wexford Park last Saturday evening. An hour earlier they won their first game in the football championship since 2011 with a two-point win over Wexford.

Two of the Waterford players had been randomly selected to give urine samples for anti-doping tests after the game, so the rest of the team waited on the bus - for what was a 40-minute delay in returning home after a seven-year wait for a qualifier victory.

It was roasting hot in the bus, so two of the backroom staff went down to a local shop and bought bottles of water for the players. And they also brought choc-ices for everyone. There were no medals won last Saturday after the so-called 'El Clasico' of the Sout East, but giving out the mcuh-needed sustenance to the players was something that resonated with the manager. "Handing out the ice-creams on the bus, it was like Easter Sunday with your kids," Tom McGlinchey smiled as he recalled the memory. "It was a very simple gesture but a very meaningful one as well."

Later that evening photos popped-up on social media of the Waterford players sitting on the harbour outside The Moorings restaurant in Dungarvan soaking up the view, the evening sun, the beers, the win and each other's company. The photo would remind you of that iconic 'Lunch atop a Skyscraper' photo from 1932 of workers on their break sitting on a beam in the New York skyline looking like they didn't have a care in the world.

What's special about the Waterford photo is the players didn't seem to know it was being taken which makes it more authentic than the usual self-made selfies that social media is over-loaded with.

Most of us will never know what it feels like to play and win a championship game with our county, but the photo of the Waterford players together would be the way you'd want to celebrate it. What struck McGlinchey about it was that every player sitting beside each other along the line was from a different football club in Waterford. What was also striking was McGlinchey's reaction to their win straight after the game when he said they "don't do media bans, drink bans and we're definitely going to enjoy tonight". Hallelujah!

The Waterford footballers were sick of being the hard-luck story. They were sickened when they nearly beat Cork in last year's Munster SFC semi-final at Fraher Field, only to lose by a point in the end. "Absolutely. Even in the past year I don't know how many games we lost by one or two points," Waterford defender Brian Looby said this week after his first experience of winning a senior inter-county championship game.

"And that game against Cork it really was heart-breaking to get so close. So, it was nice to finally get the monkey off our backs this year and get the win".

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"People were very good like that saying 'god, ye're very unlucky' but you can't be the perennial Cinderella story all the time," McGlinchey added. "Losing last Saturday by a point would have done us no good, we worked to win it. We weren't going out for a hard luck story again."

The Waterford football team are in the unique situation of being in the championship longer than the county hurlers.

There were between 200 and 300 Waterford fans in Wexford last weekend and they should get more of a draw when they play Monaghan at Fraher Field in the second round of the qualifiers next Saturday (2.0).

"I said it to the players at training on Monday night that what's different about preparing for the next match is we're preparing for this on the back of a victory," McGlinchey explained. "Obviously, we're playing against a Division 1 team and it's going to be so much different and so much harder.

"There's kind of a sense after what happened the last day that they (the players) want that feeling again. So, whether that will happen this year or next year we'll seee, but they want that feeling again and they want to work hard to achieve it."

Whatever happens next Saturday, the Waterford footballers will always have June 9 - and they earned it.

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