The Super 8 is the advent of a form of professionalism in inter-county football but “true Corinthians” like Waterford will have to soldier on, says former manager John ‘Jackson’ Kiely.
The Kilrossanty man envisages nothing but a Monaghan victory in Fraher Field this Saturday as he expects Malachy O’Rourke’s side to reach the new All-Ireland quarter-finals phase despite their setback against Fermanagh.
He also sees Monaghan being part of a new elite that will be remunerated for their efforts as the best compete against the best for the Sam Maguire Cup. “It’s quite obvious the way the GAA is going,” Kiely opens. “We have the Super 8 now and in the future there will be eight professional teams fighting it out for the All-Ireland and a second competition for the rest.
“Kerry might not be in the same league yet but they’re well looked after too. Whether we like it or not, this is what’s coming down the road, an 80,000 stadium in Dublin being filled out nine or 10 times a year because of football.
"Four games between the eight teams every weekend for seven weekends. Maybe one team will be relegated and the winners of the second competition will be promoted.
“I know I’ll be laughed out of court but this is the way it’s going to happen. Dublin are so far ahead and they aren’t going to stop — more money is going to continue to be pumped into them. AIG, the largest insurance company in the world, is their sponsor. Kerry and Mayo are following them and Monaghan might not be at that stage yet but they’re a long way ahead of Waterford.”
A “moral victory” is all Waterford can hope for against Monaghan, admits Kiely. “One of the best performances in living memory for Waterford was last year when they ran Cork to a point. It mightn’t have been a vintage Cork but it was still Cork.
"They’re not playing with the same deck as Monaghan, who are an out-and-out football county whereas we are a dual one where some of the best footballers are inter-county hurlers. Like, Austin Gleeson is a massive footballer and Brick Walsh is a better footballer than he is a hurler.
“Monaghan are in a different league in more ways than one whereas we are the true Corinthians of the game and you might throw the likes of Carlow in there too. We play solely for the love of the game and we’ll continue to do it that way.”
Kiely wouldn’t class 2018 as already been a success for Waterford having beaten Wexford in their first-round qualifier but knows the significance of it only too well, having led the Déise to their first win in the All-Ireland SFC 19 years back in 2007.
“It was an important win because we hadn’t won one in seven years. We beat Clare in Fraher Field in 2010 and London the following year but before that it was a gap between 1988 (v Tipperary) and 2007 (v Clare). We’ve won four Championship games since 1988 so that tells its own story.”
Monaghan are in recovery mode, Kiely knows, but their sights are set beyond Dungarvan.
“I never saw Conor McManus play as bad and he’s one of the finest footballers in the country. They’re a genuine football team. Unless they come up against Mayo the next day, they will be in the Super 8s.
“We’re missing Paul Whyte and he’s a big loss but there will be no need for Waterford to play a sweeper if they put Thomas O’Gorman on McManus. There will be no dirt, just skill and determination.”
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