Davy Fitzgerald had told his men not to read any press in advance of the initial tie, knowing the build-up it’d get given the Justin McCarthy connection.
Curiosity killed the cat, however, and if someone was writing or saying stuff about you, you’d want to know who and what.
Though they didn’t broach it when sat together the next night, new RTÉ pundit Paul Flynn had said of Michael Duignan’s ‘showboating’ swipe the previous Sunday (which was seconded by Pete Finnerty): “He made his point but I thought it was funny the way he did it. But knowing John and Eoin the way I do, they’re not your run-of-the-mill hurlers. They’re emotional lads… I wouldn’t agree it’s turning people off hurling.”
Ger Loughnane sees nothing wrong with it either, reckoning there are enough dullards in the game. Henry Shefflin often gives the fist a good clenching, though you might say his All-Ireland medals entitle him to do whatever he likes.
Fair enough the gesturing/geeing-up by Messrs Kelly and Mullane during the drawn game might have looked incongruous given the poverty of the Waterford performance; but love/dislike ’em they’re characters (as well as top-class players, don’t forget), and the GAA can’t get enough of those.
They wear their heart and soul on their sleeves, strut a bit in some cases, but confidence is an essential ingredient in any forward’s make-up. Certain players need to pump themselves up, give a few “jigs” as Flynn describes it. Kelly swaggers, has a Travis Bickle haircut (see Robert De Niro, ‘Taxi Driver’) and revs up the crowd. But a robot he aint. Great entertainer he is.
Sure there’s an element of playing to the gallery, but sport should be interactive. The spectators hardly sit in silence do they? Apropos of which, the abuse the above pair received on Saturday was abhorrent. And there are plenty of Waterford supporters who are no angels either on that score.
Wexford manager and former Waterford trainer Colm Bonnar, who’ll be renewing acquaintances with Justin in the qualifiers, was talking at the weekend about the relief he felt when he finally decided to quit inter-county hurling in the early nineties. People don’t appreciate the real pressure players are under.
Fist-pumping, jersey-grabbing, crest-kissing, whatever you’re having yourself, it’s generally a release valve. As is increasingly obvious, a lot rests on Kelly’s and Mullane’s shoulders, possibly too much. And as I say, anyone who witnessed the scurrilous name-calling both were subjected to, especially Mullane, from the stands and terraces the other evening, among many more, will wonder how they don’t do a Cantona on occasion.)
There’s a hell of a lot worse going on in hurling, on and off the field, than a bit of getting jiggy with it.