“We’ll have a good Christmas on the back of this,” declared captain John Moore as he accepted the Conway Cup after The Nire had clinched their sixth county senior football crown. And so they should.
That the last point of the football season was a thing of beauty was most welcome, perfectly demonstrating the attitude and application that Sean Guiry’s side has exemplified all year.
Wide on the right flank, Shane Walsh, who’d barely put a foot wrong all game long, steadied himself, adjusted his footing, before despatching the score of the day from 20 yards.
A clenched fist from Walsh as the ball serenely sailed between the posts acknowledged what the chilled Dungarvan crowd knew well by that time: the title was heading back to The Nire once more.
That the trophy was secured with arguably the best score of the entire county campaign was the most fitting way to bring the curtain down on a ludicrously protracted championship.
Walsh’s midfield combination with Brian Wall yielded no less than 10 of the champions’ 12 points on a day when their defensive solidity and greater freshness proved vital.
That they finished the stronger was evidenced by the second half scoring, raising five white flags while a visibly tiring Ballinacourty could muster only two.
For ‘Courty, deprived the services of Richie Foley and Jamie O’Mahoney through injury, this replay proved a match too far.
And while The Nire undoubtedly merited their success, there’s no concealing the fact that a Ballinacourty team featuring many players who’d been in action on seven over the past eight Sundays, were running on empty.
That the Abbeyside club has ended the season with two county final defeats to their name shouldn’t in any way detract from the incredible effort that their players extolled in recent months.
In the modern, commitment-heavy GAA era, their feat this year has been a remarkable one and they should be afforded some formal recognition for that.
And had the football championship fixtures not been so disgracefully bottlenecked into the heavy underfooted Sundays of recent weeks, then their cause would undoubtedly have been served better. No question.
Dual clubs in our county – that is, clubs which genuinely and wholeheartedly invest as much energy into both codes – deserve better than what they’ve got in 2008.
That entire rounds of the championship over the past few years have been held up, mainly due to players’ commitments to the inter-county hurling team (also depriving John Kiely of many a footballer) is unsustainable.
It’s like beating an old drum at this stage, but what went on this year cannot be allowed to ever happen again. The unstinting effort that players put into the game nowadays is nothing short of extraordinary.
Family commitments are strained, social ties are moreorless cut and professional life, all the more critical in these tougher times, can be affected too.
Many of the players involved in Sunday will have a few short weeks off before the McGrath Cup and Waterford Crystal tournaments begin.
Gaelic games was never meant to be a 12-month-a-year operation from a players’ perspective, but that’s exactly what it’s turned into, also negatively impacting other local sporting clubs in so doing.
Nickey Brennan hoped he’d untangle this particular knot before stepping down as GAA President.
And while much has been achieved during his term in office, the fixture crisis remains and will be something that’ll rankle with the Kilkenny man upon his departure from Croke Park.
The Nire deserved to represent Waterford in this year’s Munster Championship. By half-time on Sunday, they’d scored more in one half than Drom-Broadford had in the whole of their provincial final win over Kilmurry/Ibrickane.
And while John Moore was right in stating how good Christmas will be for his and his hard-working team mates, it could have been a great one were there an even weightier prize resting on a Comeragh-side mantelpiece.
That we’ll never know for sure who the best Munster club team was in 2008 is a source of deep regret. It simply cannot be allowed to happen again. The Nire, and all football clubs in Waterford, deserve better.