It was an amazing few days as emotions went from highs to lows.
Waterford fans going to Dublin were on cloud 9 as we left for Croke Park. There was a mardi gras feeling in the run up to the game.
Some people up in Dublin described it as like Christmas as Waterfordians waved at one another on the street. It was a weekend of great expectations.
On the way up to Dublin via New Ross, the signs in County Kilkenny, in hindsight, were ominous. “Beware of the Cats”, which proved right, “45 long years, a few more won’t matter”, true again. “Blaas welcome to hell”, it felt like that on Sunday at tea time
The best of all was outside Murphy Motors in Glenmore. “What have Waterford and Martin Luther King got in common – it has been 45 years since they’ve had a dream”.
Well they got one right too, but Barrack Obama might prove them wrong in November and we in Waterford could be back with some new talented young players in the Deise blue and white.
The experience may have overawed the team, before the game we saw the team bus bring the players to Croker and they looked tense, nervous and focused. We would rather have seen some smiles and waves, God knows what Davy said to them.
The fans beforehand were optimistic, knowing they were up against a great team, but we all hoped that we might be lucky on the day.
Driving up, one of the funniest sights was a mattress tied to a Volvo car with a couple of young Deise fans waving to us. Over the mattress was tied a Waterford flag, heading for Leopardstown and Blackrock on the south side there were a few goodwill waves from the Dubs.
They know wining a provincial championship is achievable but that the All Ireland can be very elusive.
Later on nearer the city centre hotels the blue and white was becoming more evident and then we found a hoard of Deise sprinkled with some Kilkenny fans in Mulligans on Sandymount, near the Green and not far from the East Link bridge, across the Liffey.
There was great anticipation as we popped along the night before with the Mulligans and their staff proving excellent hosts.
We met folk we had not seen since our youth and stories were exchanged. Sean Maher of the coach company and Gaultier told us that his brother Tony had come from Ocean Avenue, New Jersey, for the match and that even Bruce Springsteen, a neighbour, would be cheering for Waterford.
Dan Murphy of Slieverue was there with Gerry Walsh in Kilkenny colours and they were more than able to talk up the Cats and keep down Waterford expectations. Brian Deegan had come down from Limerick for the game, meeting up with his brother Aidan. Noel Frisby had said he would throw a party if Waterford won, despite his Mullinavat roots, if a good bet came in. Many former Waterpark players were there too. George Corbett was there with his wife Claire and her father, ex Waterford hurler Michael Gaffney.
What a pity that the late Jim Mulligan was not there to enjoy it with Ronan, Kieran and Garvan, he passed away two months ago.
Dermot Walsh provided the blaas there for Sunday morning and we must say they were tasty, a visit there and to the famous Brownes fortified us well.
Earlier we tried the waters at the Forty Foot, where a few other fans also sought some sea air.
Sunday was sunny and everyone seemed happy before the game, there seemed to be blue and white everywhere along Mountjoy Square and Jones Road.
Tickets for the Canal End were plentiful at face value or less, €50, one Cats fans the worse for wear gave away a ticket to a friend, other Waterford fans were also offered tickets which they did not need, with the Gardai ending up giving them away. Why was there such a drought earlier in the week?
There seemed to be 30,000 Waterford fans up for the game, the most we have ever seen and as a colleague said, 80,000 is a lot of seats to sell and in the end
it nearly proved too much.
The ticket distribution for the All ireland could be improved, some get too many, others too little. It certainly does not help people organising travel plans. We advised people to go up on the day and they would get tickets and so it turned out.
Some going to the game were the worse for wear from drink and on the way home bus loads of lads were seen relieving themselves along the road on what was not a good spectacle. Some fans even found it hard to get up the steps in Croke Park. Why do it, we wondered, having got an all important ticket.
Overall though Deise fans took great pleasure in the strong blue and white support on the day. The huge waves of blue and white in Croke Park filled us with pride, the Cats fans also admired us but they were there to do the business.
The late goal in the minor final that secured a Kilkenny victory was a bad omen for the blue and white.
We enjoyed the parade, but after that Kilkenny took over. Their catching, picking up loose possession sometimes given to them by Waterford blocks from puck outs gave them the advantage.
There seemed to be just one team playing, we thought that they had more players on the field so crowded was the midfield and half back line. Ken’s blocking saw him outnumbered as were so many Waterford players.
Kilkenny’s virtual lesson in magnificent hurling showed immense speed and efficiency. This was awesome and will be hard to repeat. As fans beforehand said, the hunger for the three in a row would drive Kilkenny and so it came to pass.
The Kilkenny fans invaded the pitch as the organisers shouted plan B from the mikes which meant open the barriers. The McCarthy Cup was presented and we looked on with some sadness but also admiration as Kilkenny played so well.
Leaving the ground we met two Waterford city councillors heading back to the train, Mary Roche and Mary O’Halloran. They felt there was a great fan turnout, pity about the result, but at least we got there.
This kind of summed things up on the day. There was little to celebrate in Dublin so we made the long journey home, delayed a little by the Wexford farmers at work.
Charlie Chawkes’ Goat Inn in Dundrum also had a big Waterford night just near the M 50 exit. This was a part supporter fundraiser. After the game on Sunday, there were some Kilkenny fans celebrating, we met John McConnell, deputy head of the WIT and commiserated.
We passed Graig, Thomastown and Mullinavat where the black and amber youth were out enjoying themselves, nice to be able to do it, maybe our day will come yet.
Well done to all for travelling and supporting the team and commiserations to the players and mentors, they gave the county a great lift and brightened up a wet summer.
The experience will be great for the future.