The massive disappointment of Waterford’s crushing Munster Minor Hurling Championship semi-final defeat by Cork in Walsh Park last Wednesday throws up a few questions. Did we expect too much from this young group of players or did self-expectation prove too great a burden for them to bear?
What was responsible for the second half tail-off, which, irrespective of whatever breeze was blowing in Cork’s favour after the break, could hardly have been described as Old Testament-like in its proportions?
Finally, what sort of long-term impression will this leave on the Connors, O’Neills and Shanahans of this world?
It’s often said that a team and its constituents learn more in defeat than they do in victory and if that is the case, then the young Deisemen learned a great deal at Walsh Park.
For a half-hour, they competed well and certainly looked a match for a Cork side which took to the physical side of the battle with greater intensity than the hosts did.
In saying that, neither team looked like they’d go on to dominate the second half to the extent that Cork subsequently did.
The pre-match word from Cork suggested that their latest minor panel wasn’t particularly top-loaded with the sort of talent that the Leesiders have often possessed at this grade.
Yet by full-time they’d put together one of the most authoritative halves of the hurling summer, at least from a purely statistical perspective.
It’s 13 years since Waterford last reached a Munster minor hurling final, which is far too long an absence for a county which has aspirations of staying at the senior grade’s top table.
While there’s little doubting the talent at schools level bewteen the Suir and the Blackwater currently, moulding the best of these teams into a successful county unit ain’t like flicking a switch.
“There’s always next year” is a refrain that neither player nor supporter can ever draw comfort from.
Many of the players involved this year won’t get another chance at this level and will spend many a night this summer pondering what went wrong on the night of June 25th.
But let’s not get too melodramatic here. The world has kept turning, life does go on and looking down the line, there’ll be plenty of better days for all involved in white and blue colours. Surely.
* See report on Sport 5.