At half-time during last Saturday’s All-Ireland Hurling semi-final, former Kilkenny hurler Aidan Fogarty was sure his side were safely through to the 2020 decider.
Brian Cody’s side were seven points adrift against a stuttering and nervy-looking Waterford side and the win was “in the bag”. Or so Fogarty thought.
Although their eventual four-point loss came as a great shock, and a great disappointment, to the eight-time All-Ireland winner, he was quick to heap praise on Waterford manager Liam Cahill for how he has steered his side during his first year in charge.
“I have a lot of respect for him. I know him and he’s a humble guy but by God, he is driven.
“When I heard that he dropped Noel Connors and Maurice Shanahan, I said that is a statement for sure. He didn’t drop them for the sake of it. After dropping players like that, you have to make players buy into you because they are friends with a lot of the lads on the panel. So he’s made the Waterford players buy into his ethos.
“And his ethos is simple enough, it has a Tipp flair to it. It’s direct, it’s honest and he’s keeping hurling as simple as he can, there’s always tactics, but he’s keeping it as simple as he can. He has picked guys who are really skillful hurlers and who are used to winning.
“It’s absolutely fabulous what he has done. And it’s not very linear. Under Derek McGrath, I felt they were restricted in terms of they had to play a ball across the line, it was nearly too structured. Liam has a structure but he is allowing them to play off the cuff as well.”
Waterford will now face Limerick in the pair’s first-ever All-Ireland Final meeting on December 13.
“It’s a unique pairing. I do a lot of work in Waterford and across the South East and they are crying out for an All-Ireland, no one would begrudge Waterford an All-Ireland and no one would begrudge Limerick another All-Ireland either”, added Fogarty.
“It’s the underdog tag, 1959 since Waterford last won the All-Ireland so they will be absolutely craving it. Anyone I talk to this week has been hoping Waterford will win. For this time of the year, the whole structure of the GAA, I thought without crowds it wouldn’t be any good but by God, I am fair happy I have it now on a Saturday and a Sunday.”
Impact of the GAA
Though a condensed format, this year’s Senior Championships have provided a lifeline for GAA fans around the country who struggled through the second lockdown. They have provided a sense of normalcy when there is little to come by, especially to the elderly community, according to Fogarty.
However, the real joy came for the Emeralds GAA man earlier this summer when all the focus was on the club scene. In his opinion, the club calendar cannot now revert to its former self.
“I played club this year and that was absolutely brilliant. I thought the whole club scene in Ireland was absolutely fantastic because everyone in Ireland bought into it for a three-month spell. It wasn’t starting in January/February and coming back in September, I think that has to be scrapped.
“I think it has to be a club scene for about three months, completely buy into it and then inter-county.
“When I came out of the bubble of Kilkenny, I realised how much the hurling and the GAA meant to people and the elderly people especially and I can imagine that they are so delighted to have something to watch. They would be going to matches if they could and mentally, it’s probably keeping them going in some cases.”
Role of Minor players during 2020
Fogarty was speaking as Electric Ireland launched their 2020 Electric Ireland GAA Minor Star Special Recognition Awards and the announcement of the judging panel.
While the announcement on Tuesday evening that the Minor campaigns will kick off later this month will have come as a great boost for players, the 38-year-old is delighted that this award allows them to focus on life away from the games.
“For someone to go above and beyond in their community and to help out… I know it’s a cliche but this year, more so than another year, it really is about the community, it’s about helping people, connecting with people, staying positive. These guys are the future of the GAA, the future of Ireland in whatever industry they choose to go into.
The Electric Ireland GAA Minor Special Recognition Awards are open!
🏆 Nominate a Minor player who went above and beyond in their community https://t.co/EnUI3WRGUA #GAAThisIsMajor pic.twitter.com/93mdDcV0E9
— Electric Ireland (@ElectricIreland) November 27, 2020
“To see them helping out at a club level, at a community level, that is the GAA ethos. You travel all the way around Ireland, all the way around the world, the first thing I look for is a GAA club or if I meet a guy at a bar, I mightn’t know anything about him, but we can have an hour conversation about hurling, that is the community spirit.
“That is what this prize is all about, it’s about the community spirit and helping out. You talk about how much the senior games going ahead means to the elderly, well if you have a young lad in their parish and they are bringing out groceries to them or raising money for them or maybe putting the GAAGO app on their phones for them, it’s fantastic.
“It probably takes the pressure off hurling as well. It says ‘I am more than just a hurler, I can do more with my life than hurling’. At a young age, it’s so important to live your life off the field as well as on the field.”
Nominations are now officially open for the Electric Ireland GAA Minor Star Special Recognition Awards until December 14th. You can nominate your local Minor hero here: https://www.electricireland.