It’s a well known line from the great Shirley Jackson that no live organism can bear conditions of absolute reality for too long. It’s not as well known that Jackson was inspired to write it after an NFL game on a stormy February evening in Dungarvan.
An exaggeration, but forgivable in the circumstances. A screaming gale wind and slashing, sideways rain brought the footballers of Waterford and Wexford face to face not just with the absolute reality of life in Division 4, but with the most pressing questions of existence, starting with ‘do I really want to be here?’
Borderline football was Paul Galvin’s description of the game.
“Hard to really call it football,” said the Wexford manager afterwards.
“Possession being spilled, stuff on the ground . . . there wasn’t a lot of football being played, but the effort, the desire, the commitment from both sets of players was outstanding.
“Certainly by the end of the game it wasn’t playable. At the start of the game it was just about playable, but as it wore on it probably wasn’t (playable). By the end it was totally unplayable stuff, but it’s done, we have the points and we’re happy.”
Given the appalling conditions, great credit is due to both sets of players — as well as referee John Ryan — for producing a sequence of events recognisable as a game of football.
Wexford had the wind in the first half which meant Waterford had the wind. This in turn meant the home keeper Paudie Hunt had the freedom to come as far as his own 65 to augment his own half-back line.
Not to be outdone, Wexford ‘keeper Ivan Meegan kicked two frees into the wind before Ben Brosnan rattled the net. Waterford drew level through Conor Murray and Jasons Curry and Gleeson, but Niall Hughes restored Wexford’s lead just before the break: 1-3 to 0-5.
Waterford lost Corey Kennedy to the sin bin before the break and the visitors took advantage, with a Niall Hughes goal on the restart.
That was the visitors’ final score score as the weather deteriorated, as did the underfoot conditions. Neither side was able to get the upper hand, but eventually Corcoran hit another Waterford point on 57 minutes, making it 2-3 to 0-6.
Wexford had Gavin Sheehan and Niall Hughes sin-binned in the closing stages but Waterford just couldn’t capitalise. Murray pointed on 66 minutes and Curry hit an injury-time free, but it ended with Wexford just ahead.
Afterwards, as the spectators stumbled out of Fraher Field like survivors of Scott’s expedition, the press corps gathered to speak to the Wexford manager, who promptly won their eternal support by inviting them into the warmth of the dressing-room.
The game had tested more than his players’ ability, he noted: “You learn about their personalities, their stomach for it, and they showed loads of that. I think I knew that about them, but a game like tonight’s, that shows it.
“We made four substitutions and they all contributed positively which is maybe the biggest plus.
“I don’t think I’ve seen conditions like that before, there’s not much you can do (as manager) but hope the players can see it through.”
And the opposition?
“We were very wary of Waterford coming here,” said the former Kerry star.
“I like them a lot, they have players who can hurt you, they have a bit of cheek about them which I like. They look to play football.
“I just have to commend my players for the heart, the togetherness - they showed real togetherness. I give them every credit because it was a battle of heart for the finish, and they had it in spades.
“We’ve gone at things with a lot of intensity over the last couple of weeks, so they probably need a break now.”
They weren’t the only ones.
Scorers for Waterford: C. Murray (0-3); D. Corcoran, J. Curry (frees)(0-2); J. Gleeson (0-1).
Scorers for Wexford: N. Hughes (1-1); B. Brosnan (1-0); I. Meegan (0-2, frees);
WATERFORD: P. Hunt, D. O Cathasaigh, B. Looby, R. Flynn, D. Corcoran, S. O’Donovan, D. Ryan, C. Kennedy, M. Kiely, D. Guiry, J. Curry, J. Gleeson, C. Murray (c), B. Lynch, S. Curry.
Subs: D. Fitzgerald for Kiely (50); A. Jones for Looby (52); N. McSweeney for Gleeson (68); A. O’Sullivan for Flynn (72)
WEXFORD: I. Meegan M. O’Connor, G. Sheehan, S. Nolan, R. Devereux, B. Malone, C. Carty, E. Nolan, N. Hughes, G. Malone, J. Stafford, T. Byrne, M. Rossiter, J. Bealin, B. Brosnan.
Subs: C. Devitt for Nolan (46); R. Crosbie for Byrne (61); E. Porter for Rossiter (65); R. Barron for Carty (70).
Referee: J. Ryan (Tipperary).