I’m sure there are many people of my age and older will have read ‘Roy of the Rovers’ in their youth, as Dermot Keyes also alludes to in his news column this week.
Anyone familiar with the Melchester Rovers hero will recall the plot, which went along the lines of the following.
Something special would occur, often towards the end of the story that would change the course of the game. Victory was often stolen from the jaws of defeat by the one and only Roy Race.
Last Sunday at Semple Stadium was like a tale torn from the pages of the ‘Tiger’ comic book.
Having made a very good start courtesy of some well struck points from difficult angles by Eoin Kelly Waterford hit the ground running.
But once Andy Smith, Damien Hayes, Cyril Donnellan and Joe Canning began to strike good points from various distances it looked as if the writing was going to be on the wall for Waterford.
With just 15 minutes to go, Waterford looked doomed. Waterford had introduced Maurice Shanahan less then 10 minutes into the second half, and he was starting to make a difference.
The big Lismore man has a big future in the game and on Sunday last when he came on he made a difference, but something was still missing.
That something seemed to have come with a quarter-hour remaining when Shane Walsh was sprung from his seat in the stand and introduced for Shane Casey.
The Fourmilewater man is one of the most under-rated players in this county and beyond. Whatever team he appears on benefits from his being there and he always gives his all, as every Deiseman did last Sunday.
While many will argue that the introduction of Maurice and Dan Shanahan was the telling moments in the game, the introduction of Walsh was pivotal, the team trailing by six when he entered the fray.
Big Dan made an immediate impact and caused hassle in around the goal. The former Hurler of the Year offered something that we were lacking all along. Waterford need a big man in and around the goal to wreak havoc and in the seven minutes he played Dan did just this.
His first bit of action saw him leap into the air to pull down a well delivered ball, but his hurried shot went across the goal and wide.
Moments later, he expertly fielded Aidan Kearney’s pass and laid it off to Shane Walsh who stroked the ball into the Galway net.
Dan was also involved in the movement that drew Waterford level, having been fouled – from the resulting free Eoin Kelly slotted between the posts. Remarkably, the game was tied.
John Mullane only scored one point which might lead some to suggest that this was a poor performance from the De La Salle man.
Nonsense. Between winning frees and firing over a glorious winning point from over 60 metres, Mullane, not that he needed to, proved his worth again.
However, such notions would be foolish as the 2008 Waterford hurler of the year played a huge part in the win and won many frees for his team.
Declan Prendergast has been made a scapegoat by some following Waterford’s more high-profile defeats in recent years.
The big Ardmore man has time and time again been placed on the edge of the square for Waterford where he is clearly not as comfortable.
Playing in the half-back line for his club is his natural fit, as several outstanding displays in recent seasons have graphically illustrated. Credit to Prendergast who finished strongly, playing a huge part in the lead-up to Mullane’s winning score.
Throughout the game, skipper Stephen Molumphy was magnificent and led the team like any captain worth his salt should.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the Ballyduff Man lead the team up the steps of the Hogan Stand in a month’s time? If he did, there would be no more deserving man to do so.
Having suffered defeat in the Munster final, Waterford knew they had three huge steps to take if they were to win the All-Ireland title. One of these has now been negotiated and two more remain.
Next up is Kilkenny in a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland Final and we all know what happened there.
Going into the game Waterford will be the outside of outsiders according to the bookies. But this won’t faze Waterford as historically, our county teams tend to play better when considered rank outsiders.
It’s a firm belief of mine, that if the Waterford team is picked and placed rightly against Kilkenny, then the laurels will go to Waterford. After all, despite their greatness, Kilkenny have to be beaten sometime.
Croke Park on August 9th could be the day it happens and Waterford could well be the team that stops their historic march.