Waterford must ‘keep the faith’ if they are to bridge a 55-year wait to land the Liam MacCarthy Cup in the view of Kilkenny hurling legend and all-time great DJ Carey.
The nine-time All-Star, who signed copies of his autobiography ‘DJ: A Sporting Legend’ in Waterford’s Book Centre on Saturday last, suggested that a third senior crown on Suirside “is not that far away”.
“You’ve got to keep plugging away,” Carey told The Munster Express. “You can’t give up on it and I don’t believe Waterford will give up on it any time soon.
“And I don’t believe it’s that far away for Waterford. They’ll have to keep plugging away, and like any team that’s come close to getting to their destination, the experience of those previous campaigns is something that can still be tapped into. And ultimately their day will come.”
DJ added: “Obviously, the minors winning the All-Ireland title this year was a massive boost and a great indicator as to how the game is developing at underage grades in Waterford.
“They were fantastic throughout the year and thoroughly deserved their success; it was a brilliant victory – and there’s no doubt that if Waterford do come good and win an All-Ireland at senior level, there’d be massive goodwill generated by such a success right across the country.”
As for why the swashbuckling Deise sides managed by Gerald and Justin McCarthy had failed to lift hurling’s greatest prize, Carey theorised: “Well, without wanting to be too critical, but looking at it from the outside, I’d suggest that discipline was a bit of an issue, maybe. There were one or two off-the-field problems which I think affected the team.
“But certainly there’s no doubt whatsoever that the talent is there. I believe that having a man from the county in charge of the team [Derek McGrath] is a boost – and that should help bring out the passion that Waterford need.
“But I have to say I think they’ve been very unlucky in the last few years as well because on a lot of the occasions when Waterford were very narrowly beaten in the Championship, most of the teams that beat them went on to win All-Irelands.”
In his riveting autobiography, DJ Carey speaks about the importance of spreading the hurling gospel in non-traditional strongholds of the game, and no doubt he’ll have been thrilled by Mount Leinster Ranger’s provincial title success on Sunday last.
The five-time All-Ireland winner said the failure to widen the net in Division One of the National League, thus leaving Carlow and Westmeath without top grade hurling, represents a missed opportunity.
“It’s a Catch 22 situation for anyone who sticks their neck on the block and suggests there should be something different done when it comes to promoting hurling outside of the areas where it’s generally always been strong,” he said.
“One the one hand, we’d a situation this year where you had Clare, who won the 1A play-off winning the All-Ireland, Cork, who were relegated to 1B reached the Munster and All-Ireland Finals, and then you had Limerick and Dublin, who both hurled in 1B, reaching the All-Ireland semi-finals having both won their provincial titles, which suggests the standard of 1B hurling can’t be too bad.
“But for the likes of Carlow, Westmeath and Antrim, I really think they should be playing the likes of Kilkenny, Tipperary and Clare and so on, on a more regular basis. And if they’re getting beaten, they’re getting beaten – but in the long term it can only help them to get better.
“Can you imagine what it would for Antrim hurling to have the likes of Kilkenny coming up to Casement Park for a League match? It’d be great for the profile of the game in Antrim and, in time, it could only help their inter-county team to improve.
“And if they were getting beaten – and well beaten at that – well so be it. There’s only one way such counties can go from getting more outings against the better counties – and that’s up, and that’s the best way of learning, from playing the best teams in the country.”
Despite some less than pleasant front page headlines which he and those closest to him had to contend with, DJ Carey believes the reduced level of interaction between inter-county players and the sports media is regrettable.
“I find that disappointing because followers of the game like to hear about the players, their stories, what way they’re thinking and so on,” he added.
“And I think it’s sad that we seem to be getting less and less of that sort of stuff in print and on radio and television.
“Unfortunately, I think the media elements outside of sports journalism – and I’ve got many great friends who work as sports journalists – has made a lot of players more reluctant to engage with sportswriters – and that’s no reflection on the sportswriters, I should add.
“A lot of lads in my own county would look at my own experiences with those who operate in other fields of journalism and see that as a reason not to agree to interviews.
“Other elements of the media have damaged the work of sports journalist – honest reputable people who love the game as much as the players do – fellas working on a daily and weekly basis to get the stories that GAA supporters want to read, all of which feeds into the promotion of hurling and football.
“But the people who are working in the media outside of sports journalism, the type of journalism players and supporters like to read about in equal measure, those people are ruining it for the guys who go to matches, meet the players and managers at all levels of the game from one end of the year to the other.”
DJ concluded: “I find the way that things have developed down through the years, and the mistrust that’s developed as a result of that mistrust, very unfortunate – and something that doesn’t reflect on those sportswriters and broadcasters who do so much to promote our games.”