Friday 20 April 2018

Val Doonican’s inspirational words can help Waterford fight Cats on the beaches

Waterford's Austin Gleeson celebrates after his side scored their first goal in the Munster quarter final against Cork
Waterford's Austin Gleeson celebrates after his side scored their first goal in the Munster quarter final against Cork
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

There was barely enough room for the laying down of a hankie. It was back sometime in July and the side-by-side beaches of Dunmore East in the land of the Deise were covered with rugs, throws and towels.

Children splashed for fun in the false dawn of the summer sun. Men with paunches sucked in their tummies like vacuum-packed rashers. Dogs who weren’t paid enough attention at home climbed strangers’ legs.

It was a perfect place for people-watching, and even if the waves were no more than a ripple in a jacuzzi where the owner hasn’t paid his electricity bill, I fell in love with Dunmore East.

It hasn’t stopped raining since and you’d wonder now if tomorrow’s All-Ireland semi-final between Waterford and Kilkenny will be played in National League weather.

It’s horses for courses and Waterford won the League but the Cats are reared to winning from pusheen time.

When I write about hurling, it’s like when one of my girls says ‘Dad, what do you think of my dress?’ I always say it’s lovely-lovely-tasty and a delight.

I know nothing about hurling either other than I love the game and I always praise every match. I often think there was never a bad game of hurling.


We were present in Thurles for the Munster final between Cork and Waterford. It was a tough battle with intermittent skill and what hurlers call the blanket defence.

You’d swear from listening to the hurling people the game was played in a telephone box. From what I could see there was only one sweeper on each team.

I wonder what the hurling folk would make out of game against a northern football team where there are often 15 behind the ball.

Soon some innovative manager will dig trenches for the Somme-ball and the team song will be ‘Don’t forget your shovel if you want to go Croke Park’.

They’re ruining the game and the hurling people are living in dread of a day when teams will grow even more defensive.

The day was won in Thurles with long-range points. As any Berliner will tell you, the only way to liberty is over the wall, and hopefully the far-out points should discourage the application of the accursed football tactics.

I looked and looked again around Dunmore East and out to the Hook, but there was ’ere a sign of a football.

A beach without a football is like a rock without a periwinkle. And if the periwinkle carries his house on his back, well then so too did the dappled hurling people of the south east.

Dunmore East is a hurling strand. The jerseys will tell you that. Kilkenny and Waterford and Tipp all meet on the shore.

So it was the hurling folk came to Dunmore East with their picnics and their hurleys.

I was astonished by the skills of the kids. There was no room for long pucks and the game was hurling keep-uppy. One young lad twirled the sliotar around the base of the hurl, and like the ball in a roulette wheel, the sliotar never left its orbit.

If there had been a circus scout present he would have offered the kid a job spinning plates.

I often wondered if there was small indentation at the bottom of the juggler’s plates for the pointy part of the stick. So now we’ve figured why there are leather strips on a sliotar. It’s to stop the ball falling off the base of the hurl during solo runs. I think.

The tide was in up against the sea wall just under the Strand Hotel where the dinner is top class and the view out to the Hook Peninsula would get you thinking that there can be little doubt but that God spent more time making up Waterford than most other places.

The crowd condensed and the towels were pushed further back with every lapping thrust. It was then I discovered where the expression ‘up against the wall’ came from.

And yes Waterford will have their backs to the wall tomorrow. Kilkenny are ruthless. And the hurls are wands in their hands. Maurice Shanahan from will lead the way for Waterford. He’d pick a point from the pockets of skinny jeans.

Power’s Bar in the upper part of the village was all a pub should be, with the best of order and lip-licking porter. I was jealous

We met up with Pat Sullivan, a former Ballygunner great. Ballygunner lies close to Waterford city on the Dunmore East side and I was primed in to asking Pat who was the greatest of all the Gunners.

It was a tough one for the veteran. Half the Waterford greats are Pat’s breeding, but the older man didn’t have to think for a second.

“Lily,” he replied.

“And who’s Lily ?” we asked.

“She’s my wife,” said Pat, who might well been blinded by love, but our scouts told us Lily was a very tasty camogie player. And I’m told by the very same scouts, there will be fun and fund-raising for the Waterford hurlers at the ever lively Tramore Races on Thursday night next.

We were lonesome leaving Dunmore East. Word came over the radio as we drove through the city that Waterford’s own singing star Val Doonican had just passed away.

The DJ played one of Val’s songs. It went “do what you do, do well boy”. And then there was another Val hit. The line that stayed in my head was “walk tall. Walk straight, look the world right in the eye.”

You can be sure Waterford will take Val’s advice.


Lacey returns but Tyrrell misses out

As expected, Kilkenny boss Brian Cody has been forced to change his team ahead of tomorrow's All-Ireland hurling semi-final against Waterford as injury has ruled out key defender Jackie Tyrrell and attacker John Power.

But in a boost to the Cats, Michael Fennelly returns to partner Conor Fogarty at midfield - Walter Walsh reverts to the half-forward line - while Shane Prendergast replaces Tyrrell.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that Brian Gavin will referee the game.

The Offaly native received a one-month ban during the week for remarks he allegedly made in the wake of an Offaly junior football quarter-final.

Gavin, who is the chairman of Clara, was reported by a fellow referee for alleged abusive comments he made after the recent club game.

He made an appeal and the hearing was due to take place next week but it was brought forward to yesterday evening where the ruling was made.

The four-week suspension has been overturned, which makes Gavin available to referee tomorrow's semi-final and potentially the All-Ireland final in September.

Meanwhile, All Star defender Karl Lacey has recovered from a knee injury in time to return to the Donegal team for this evening's All-Ireland football quarter-final clash with Mayo at Croke Park.

Manager Rory Gallagher has recalled Lacey at the expense of Eamonn Doherty after the centre-back missed his side's last-12 victory over Galway last weekend.

In the only other change to the side, Hugh McFadden drops to the bench as Martin McElhinney makes the grade at midfield, where he'll partner Neil Gallagher.

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