Rage Against The Dying Of The Light
by Brian Kennedy
(first published in the March 2009 Shelbourne programme)
Dylan Thomas once wrote that we should “rage against the dying of the light”, in his poem “Do not go gentle into that good night” (now you’re getting programme notes that also educate!)
It’s something that struck a chord with me after seeing the turnout for last weekend’s First Division opener against Sporting Fingal and seeing the small but significant hardcore support that Waterford United have.
As the rained battered down in the new stand and the cold reached Siberian proportions, the voices of a small merry band of fans, all standing, could be clearly heard, barking into the night and relentlessly trying to spur the eleven men in blue on the field into some spark, some moment that would light up the night and send the 600-odd crowd home happy.
For me these supporters hold just as much importance as the ones that piled into Kilcohan back in the late sixties to watch the phenomenal Blues side that won six titles in eight years. Why? Shouldn’t it be obvious? As fantastic as the support was back in the days of Hale, Maguire, O’Neill & Matthews, the thousands who converged on Kilcohan – and travelled in their droves - had a magnificent side that won League titles, Shields, League Cups and regularly entered Europe. Each week teams from Cork, Limerick & Dublin would get roasted out the road and return home with their tails between their legs. The supporters were almost guaranteed success.
The 21st century Waterford fan has been starved of this. It’s not the players’ fault, manager or staff; it’s just a sign of the times. But what makes the small support significant is that most of these fans never got to experience any major success. You might have expected a faithful band of supporters from yesteryear (which there’s still a good few of thank God) to be the majority of fans at the RSC, but it’s the 20-30 year olds who’ve known nothing but First Division play-offs, Premiership struggle and relegation that stand on their feet week in week out and travel to the middle of nowhere when the majority of their age group is getting hammered in a pub.
They could easily do that. After all they have had a long barren spell watching football in empty stands that others dismiss on the Monday morning work floor as pathetic, useless and just above Junior League status. Yet they rage on, burning with pride at a team stuck in a graveyard of a division and pay their money for a moulded plastic seat yet refuse to sit in it.
There’s no financial rewards (they’ll probably sell tickets for the club in work if it brings in money), no TV coverage, no Sky, Setanta or ITV. The only reward maybe an injury time winner off some defenders arse in the pouring rain or bitter cold that makes it all worthwhile. Every mind-numbing scoreless 89 minutes that they endure all changed by a woeful own goal which sends them out onto the ring road and the inevitable passers-by in cars rolling down the window with the usual “How did Waterford do?”
The outside world may laugh. Your friends may scoff. But pride in something you believe in is a beautiful aspect of any man or woman’s make-up.
Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light!