There were bearhugs and handshakes aplenty before and after Sunday’s dramatic All-Ireland hurling semi-final at Croke Park – and County Board Chairman Pat Flynn gave and received quite a few of them.
There was a big embrace with Davy Fitzgerald before the throw-in. As for afterwards – he probably lost count!
Beneath the Hogan Stand on Sunday, as the players quietly loaded their gear onto the team bus, Flynn cut one of the happiest figures in the excited throng.
“Yeah, we’re finally there after all the years of heartbreak and heartache,” he told The Munster Express.
“All the players have been fantastic and eventually after 10 years, we’ve got through, into the final. It’s testament to them. They’ve been written off year in, year out, they’re finished, the team is gone, this is their last chance and so on, but they showed what character they have.”
Added Flynn: “They’ve got through tremendous work and shown great commitment over the last 10 years and it’s come now, they’re in the final, they’ve got their reward. And I suppose it’s great too for all those who’ve worked and played for Waterford over the years and all who’ve served the Association at various levels.
“Credit must be given to Davy, to Maurice and to Peter to the work and commitment they’ve given over the last few months to turn things around. It’s been an awfully traumatic year and hopefully we’re going to end it on a high.”
The knock-on effects for hurling across Waterford will augment the considerable input which committee members, parents and players have been extolling for many years.
“There’s tremendous work going on in the county at underage level and I don’t think people realise the extent of the work,” said the County Chairman.
“Coaching the games is huge work, having development squads at every level and I think it’s true, to get over this barrier of 45 years waiting to get to a final and it shows that Waterford are not a team of losers. We’re not just a team that loses semi-finals.
“We’ve got there, against all the odds, we’ve got there, we’re in the final. It’s a great day for hurling in Waterford. We’ve had success at underage, juvenile and colleges level and at inter-county level and it’s all helping the game to move forward. And this will give it another lift.”
You’re going to be one hell of a busy man between now and September 7th, said I to Pat.
“And I’ll enjoy it!” he replied, before embarking on another series of bearhugs and handshakes.