It wasn’t meant to end like this. As the light dissipated from the sky over Walsh Park last Thursday, County Board Chairman Pat Flynn emerged to the waiting media to deliver words which had become inevitable since the previous night’s players meeting.
Flynn, his voice quivering slightly, announced that Justin McCarthy had tendered his resignation as Waterford manager after seven years at the helm.
The Chairman thanked the departing manager for his immense contribution to Waterford hurling, during which three Munster titles and a National League crown had been annexed.
Most supporters will look to the silverware won during the Passage West man’s time in charge. It’s worth recalling that a generation of young Waterford hurling fans have grown up thinking their team ought to be in the hunt for an All-Ireland title. It wasn’t always so.
A good deal of us beyond spot-squeezing age had to settle for nothing more than the odd morale-boosting win during the fallow days of the 70s and 80s. And that’s worth remembering.   
Most supporters will also salute how he brought the Deise within touching distance of the McCarthy Cup, something we hadn’t been within an asses’ roar of for four long, success-free decades at senior level. That too, is worthy of recollection.
Most supporters, in the view of former county board chair Paddy Joe Ryan, are sorry to see McCarthy go.
And, while always a questionable barometer of public opinion, local radio vox-pops appeared to re-enforce the Fourmilewater man’s contention.
An online poll on the excellent An Fear Rua website adds further credence to that opinion. At the time of writing, 75 per cent of respondents had clicked their cursor behind the option labelled: ‘Disagree with players sacking him’.  
In Saturday’s ‘Irish Independent’, Cyril Farrell criticised what’s already been widely hailed as another sign of increasing ‘player-power’ within the Gaelic Games realm.
“I have always been a players’ man and I think those I managed over many years would know that, but in this case, I have to say that what’s happened to McCarthy is despicable and reflects very badly on the Waterford players,” wrote the ex-Galway boss.
“Players will always look for excuses when things go wrong. It’s a typical defence mechanism and there’s nothing wrong with it. But when it extends to blaming the manager to the point where they hound him out, they need to be damn sure they know exactly what they’re at.” 
Everyone with Waterford hurling’s best interests in mind will surely agree that the manner of McCarthy’s departure has left a sour taste in the mouth. It wasn’t meant to end like this.   
However, as tends to be the case when managerial departure-type stories have to be written, trophies and matches won tell only part of any sporting tale.