When you come from a county with 52 Munster Senior Hurling titles, perhaps one can see why Donal O’Grady might view a Munster Final as a mere throwaway fixture in the inter-county calendar.
If Waterford were to equal Cork’s total by winning each of the next 43 provincial deciders (which would bring us all the way up to 2058, incidentally), perhaps we on Suirside might adapt a different view by then.
Given that such a winning streak is as unlikely as a Labour-led government next year, it’s fair to assume that the Munster Senior Hurling Final will retain its lustre among the denizens of the Deise for many, many decades to come.
These are exciting times for hurling in Waterford, after a few relatively fallow years in the Championship. Talk of a panel in transition already reads like text from a museum scroll given the remarkable run that Derek McGrath’s side has been on since the Spring.
Those heavy League reversals in Ennis and Kilkenny, followed by the replay defeat to Cork in particular, already feel like a distant memory to supporters.
But you can safely bet that they don’t for those who played in those tough, soul-searching reversals.
What makes the great days all the greater is the memory of that stomach-sickening feeling when slouched in a dressing room after the beltings, the leatherings, the drubbings. The darkest hour being just before the dawn and all that. We’ve all been there.
The greatest criticism any player is subjected to doesn’t come from a team mate, a selector, a manager, reporters, supporters as well as those who masquerade as supporters on the social media. It comes from within.
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation,” said legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. “Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
During his epic washing machine carrying walk from Belfast to Dublin, Deise backroom member Enda O’Doherty echoed Wooden’s sentiments.
“When we won the National Hurling League, I was like a crazy man after the full-time whistle went,” said the De La Salle teacher.
“But what made me equally happy was to see Tom Devine in front of me, taking off his jersey and giving it to young David (O’Keeffe – who is wheelchair-bound). That’s the real victory for me. The cup of course was great, but that, for me, was the real victory that day.
“What we want on that team, and what I want to see in school is a group of young citizens who care, who will actually get up and so something and make a contribution. And I think we’ve got that in Waterford, and that’s something we all ought to be very proud about.”
This Waterford panel, so well-honed when it comes to self- analysis, looks like a group that will have a say in this, and several future Championship campaigns. Their humility is as key to their future development as their undoubted skill and unbridled energy.
But they shall not be favourites on Sunday next in Thurles, and rightly so. They face a Tipperary side that was just a Hawkeye away from lifting Liam MacCarthy last September but one that’s just as keen to lift the Munster crown as Port Láirge.
Their semi-final trimming of Limerick was their first provincial championship win in three years, and the quality in which Pauric Maher, John O’Dwyer and Seamus Callanan produced that day will have given McGrath & co food aplenty for thought of Sunday.
Waterford want this, Tipp do too, all of which suggests that a mighty 70 minutes awaits in hurling’s greatest theatre. Make no mistkake: this one matters. Every Munster Final matters.
And we don’t have to drift back to the 50s or even the 80s for proof of that.
Just look at the outpouring of emotion that greeted Limerick’s victory in the Gaelic Grounds two summers ago, or Cork’s trophy-winning farewell to Páric Uí Chaoimh last year. You could almost inhale the joy from the home support on both occasions and it was genuinely humbling to be there. The Munster Final is irrelevant now? I think not.
Of course, both counties will retain an interest in the MacCarthy Cup beyond Sunday next and this may not prove the last time Waterford and Tipperary face off in this year’s Championship.
Tipp remain the team most likely to wrestle the great prize from its black and amber grip, but the cup with no name on Sunday next is firmly up for grabs, and Waterford are capable of taking the second step towards a historic hurling triple crown at the Field of Legends.
There will be no finer place to be on this island on Sunday next than inside the gates of Tom Semple’s field. White and Blue versus Blue and Gold. The hurling world cannot wait.