Illusionist Keith Barry has offered his ‘mind coaching’ services to Waterford’s senior hurlers in their bid to end a 51-year wait for the All-Ireland senior crown.
The Williamstown native said he’s ready, willing and more than able when it comes to assisting Davy Fitzgerald’s men should the Waterford County Board prove amenable.
“Not a single Waterford supporter wants to go through what happened in the ’08 final again,” Barry told The Munster Express on Wednesday.
“The psychological damage that was inflicted on the players that day must have been huge, and they know that if they’re going to go all the way, the chances are they’ll have to play Kilkenny again, be it this year or next year – and beat them.”
Barry believes that the Championship defeats to Kilkenny in 1998, 2004, 2008 and 2009 have got to be weighing, even subconsciously, on the minds of the Deise’s 2010 vintage.
“There’s got to be some element of baggage from that All-Ireland loss, and fair play to Davy and the lads, they’ve shown great resolve since losing that game and they did brilliantly to win the Munster Championship.
“But the All-Ireland is what the players want, the All-Ireland is what Davy wants and it’s what every man, woman and child born in Waterford wants. And that’s where I think I could play a role.”
So what could Keith do? “I’d be willing to sit down with every player on the panel individually and help eliminate whatever fear, even the unknowing fear they have of that Kilkenny jersey, completely from their system.
“Now I’m not putting the cart before the horse, we’ve got to play Tipp in the semi-final first and Kilkenny have to play Cork too, but I know I can help the players get to where they want to be.”
He added: “I’d get them to focus firmly and solely on winning, concentrating on the challenge of winning rather than devoting all their subconscious energy on defeating one particular team – and when it comes to hurling right now, the team the whole country wants to beat is Kilkenny.
“By talking to each player, by focusing their minds on the challenge of achieving success rather than dwelling on the obstacle provided by one particular set of opponents, I’d effectively neutralise Kilkenny, making them a team as opposed to the team.”
Do the Deisemen fear Kilkenny? “I’d say it’s largely subconscious but it’s kind of hard not to think that there isn’t some fear there,” Keith added.
“But fear doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Facing your fear, confronting it and not allowing it to overwhelm you is the key to conquering it.
“By altering an age-old mindset, the ‘they’re better than us’ scenario, the identity of your opponent becomes an irrelevancy. And if you rise above what you fear most, then anything is possible.”
Barry, who recently completed a successful run of his ‘Asylum’ show at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre, says he’ll only ever make his mind coaching techniques available to his fellow Deisemen.
“I’m desperate to see a Waterford man climbing those steps at Croke Park on the first Sunday in September to lift the MacCarthy Cup. Desperate. One All-Ireland win would lift every Waterford person, whether they’re living in Ballytruckle or Beverly Hills. It would be one hell of a morale booster.
“I know I can help. So if the County Board want me to help – I know Bernard Dunne has been in with the lads so I think that indicates a sense of openness on their behalf – that’s their call.”
Keith Barry concluded: “I’ll put it like this: I recently got a mother and daughter, both terrified of leaving ground level, to walk across a flyover for the first time in their lives, and they were laughing while they did it. It took me just one hour to completely flip their mindsets.
“So if ‘mind over matter’ is the key to unlocking the door for Waterford’s hurlers when it comes to landing the big one, I really believe I can help.”
Intriguingly, it’s believed that informal approaches to Barry have already been made by figures close to several Waterford players.