Galway proved only a fool would write off the Deise
THE history books don't lie. Facts are facts, as they say. I've faced Waterford eight times in senior championship hurling. The first occasion was in 2002, when we went into a Munster final as reigning provincial and All-Ireland champions, but we were dumped on our backsides at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. And in those eight games, we've won four matches each.
Things really went against them last year, but Waterford will be looking to reverse that result. The final scoreline didn't do them justice.
Ten years ago, Waterford scored 2-23 in the Munster final. We managed 3-12, but were still well beaten. Going into that game, Tipp were odds-on favourites. They had all the big names. The match was down in Cork and Ken McGrath was supposed to be injured -- but scored seven points from play. Sound familiar?
Over the last 10 years, Waterford have won Munster titles in 2002, 2004, 2007 and 2010, and finished as runners-up in 2003, 2009 and last year. They have been the most successful team in the Munster championship in this period.
While the All-Ireland title they deserved has eluded them, they are a hugely dangerous team in a Munster final. And surely Galway's display against Kilkenny last Sunday goes to show what can happen on any given day? Only a fool would write off Waterford.
Here are a few things to consider: De La Salle won Munster senior club hurling titles in 2008 and 2010. De La Salle secondary school won back-to-back Harty Cup and All-Ireland titles in 2007 and 2008. Colaiste na nDeise won this year's Harty Cup.
The likes of John Mullane, Eoin Kelly, Eoin McGrath and Seamus Prendergast are going for their fifth Munster senior hurling medals. That's the same as the older members of the Tipp squad -- Eoin Kelly, John O'Brien, Brendan Cummins and myself.
The difference is that Brendan has been playing senior hurling for Tipp since 1995. It's taken him 17 years to win four Munster medals, but the Waterford lads have won four in the last decade.
People who know me will tell you that I deal only in facts. And there they are.
I'm fortunate enough to have been named in the starting line-up and it's great to be involved in another final. This is a special day and the Munster championship itself is fantastic, simply because there are five teams involved who are competitive and capable of beating each other.
Look at Clare v Waterford -- a two-point margin. Tipp against Cork -- one point between the teams.
When we played Limerick, we won by four points, but only after a real scare. Tight, competitive matches generate excitement, interest and crowds. Even with the back door in place, the three matches to date in this year's Munster championship have been fought on the basis that they have to be won.
I remember Tipp failed to win a Munster title from 2001 until 2008 and during those years, it felt like we might never win another one. During those years, Cork and Waterford ruled the province, but success comes and goes and so do hurlers and teams. The baton of glory is passed to new counties and it's up to each individual to grab the chance of a Munster medal when it presents itself.
We're lucky that we are appearing in a fourth final in five years, but you just don't know when the next one will come.
My earliest memories of Munster final day date back to when I was maybe nine or 10 years of age. My parents ran a pub in Thurles for the guts of 25 years, from 1981. I'd be collecting glasses in a packed pub, not yet tall enough to leave them up on the counter. So, I'd have to make my way in behind the counter with the glasses for washing. The crowds always struck me -- with cars parked out as far as Drish Bridge on the road out to Two-Mile-Borris -- and that's a fair walk to the Stadium let me tell you.
Cork and Waterford games brought high energy and colour too. If you were from Waterford you brought something white, with Cork fans cloaked in red.
But what always amazed me was the sight of people running past the front door of the pub with maybe five minutes left in the game, to beat the traffic. A glance at the TV might show a tight finish in store and yet these people were missing the most important part of the game. Why would you bother coming in the first place? Beats me.