As buccaneering centre-back Shane Briggs said in receiving the TG4 man-of-the-match award, Waterford left Croke Park with regrets last Saturday. But it’s a measure of the massive strides they’ve made that Limerick, unfortunate to lose last year’s Munster final to Cork, were left counting their lucky stars after a hugely entertaining match that some of the game’s big-name coaches could have learned a lot from.
Both teams seemed glad just to have the chance to play in Croker, whatever the crowd (if you could call it that – thanks to various factors there were more in the VIP area at U2) and went at each other with rare abandon. Some of the scores would have adorned an All-Ireland final, never mind a Division 4 decider, with Liam Ó Líonáin’s goal struck with shades of the great Mikey Sheehy.
RTÉ Sunday Sport’s woeful wrap-up on the four National Football League finals contained no footage of Waterford’s missed goal chances in either half (inches separating gut-wrenching disappointment from glory), or the crucial late ‘45’ Limerick ’keeper Brian Scanlon kicked.
Analyst Anthony Tohill reckons their defeat will have dealt a big psychological blow to Waterford going into the championship. That’s one way of looking at it. The other is that, if they can overcome Clare, John Owens’ charges will have another crack at the Shannonsiders in a Munster semi-final.
At the end of the day it’s only a game that Waterford might have won, but by the width of a post and a shoe-size, just came up short. The tragic deaths of Philly McGuinness last week, and recently Mary Browne from Ó Líonáin’s club, An Rinn, puts such losses in perspective.