Waterford gain hard earned win
Cusack Park in Ennis has not always been a happy hunting ground for the Waterford Hurlers. However on Sunday last a hugely entertaining match ended with the Deise securing a 2-21 to 1-22 win and the points to catapult them into the Allianz National League quarter finals. I suppose many will look on the result as compensation for the Allianz League final last year when some critical decisions went against the Deise and gave Clare the opportunity to claim the title. That said the most important thing about the result for this county was the securing of a place in the knockout stages and with it avoiding the dreaded relegation playoff where the Banner will face Dublin in a winner takes all match. Waterford go into their quarter final next weekend against Galway where a coin toss will decide home venue, both teams having played two home games in their group stage.
There was a sizable crowd of over six and a half thousand at the Ennis venue for this shootout on a lovely spring afternoon. Before the throw in from referee John Keenan (Wicklow) the Waterford Bainisteoir Derek McGrath switched Kevin Moran and Austin Gleeson into the engine room midfield. The visitors began in whirlwind fashion with Brian O'Halloran scooping the ball over for a point within thirty seconds. Austin Gleeson was just wide; Patrick Curran added a second point. Indeed the umpire originally waved wide but the referee intervened to register the score. A long delivery from back to front in the 4th minute eluded the Clare defence and Stephen Bennett was there to crash to the net. The Deise ahead 1-2 to 0-0 and it got better as Gleeson landed a point from midfield. In the 6th minute the home side finally opened their account as John Conlon placed Aaron Shanaghar who in turn found Ian Galvin for a point. Undaunted Waterford hit back immediately as a foul on Austin Gleeson saw Paudie Mahony convert from over 80 metres.
Clare centre forward was also beginning to find space and he landed two points in the the space of a minute. When Tony Kelly found the range from a loose clearance the lead was back to four points 1-4 to 0-4. Full forward Shanaghar was causing the Waterford defence all sorts of problems and he was at the end of another attack which saw Clare back to within two points. The breakthrough for Clare came in the 15th minute as Podge Collins raced onto a David McInerney pass to goal. The Banner in front 1-5 to 1-4. When Shanaghar and David McInerney added a brace of points we feared the worst 1-7 to 1-4. That was 1-6 without reply.
Again the Waterford team flexed their muscles and Stephen Bennett worked a point before putting Austin Gleeson through for another point. The lead was back to the minimum 1-7 to 1-6. This was exciting determined hurling from both teams, nothing asked and nothing given.
Clare had another purple patch which began with a Jason McCarthy point in the 21st minute. There followed three points from Tony Kelly frees as pressure mounted on the Waterford defence 1-11 to 1-6. Brian O'Halloran collected a loose clearance and pointed for Waterford. Clare full back Cian Dillon was blown up for overcarrying and Paudie Mahony converted 1-11 to 1-8. Kelly added a point from a free for Clare but just before the break Mahony added a brace for Waterford to leave the Deise trailing by two at the break 1-13 to 1-11.
No doubt Derek McGrath and his fellow selectors would have been quietly content with the opening half performance. Perhaps the team were not at their best but they knew that there was a lot more left "in the tank",
Within four minutes of the restart Paudie Mahony had Waterford level as he pointed two frees (seven to this point). Tony Kelly and Podge Collins edged Clare ahead but the home side were also guilty of driving scoring chances off target. Tom Devine replaced Patrick Curran in the Waterford attack. David Fitzgerald and Cathal McInerney stretched that lead to four as the clock ticked past 45 minutes. Tom Devine, who was working hard in the front line of the attack, placed Paudie Mahony for a point and the Ballygunner ace added another a minute later. Conor Cleary was wide for Clare before a John Conlon run saw a point 1-18 to 1-15. Mahony again added a point for Waterford but Jamie Shanahan and Cathal McInerney added a brace for Clare 1-20 to 1-16. We could see that Waterford were now struggling to bridge the deficit but we were also well aware that a goal could change the whole game.To freshen things Mikey Kearney and Tommy Ryan came into the Deise attack. Tom Devine and Shane Bennett put points on the scoreboard to reduce the lead to two 1-20 to 1-18. Tony Kelly and Podge Collins were wide of the mark as the pressure mounted. In the 62nd minute a superb run from Shane Bennett saw Tom Devine with possession but a magnificent save from Clare keeper Andrew Fahey prevented a goal. However Devine got to the rebound and his effort hit the net. Waterford in front 2-19 to 1-20.
Jamie Shanahan had a Clare point and there was but the minimum between the sides with six minutes plus left to play. Both sides again missed chances with Tommy Ryan and Podge Collins wide of the posts. As time passed the official seventy minutes Stephen Bennett capitalised to point for Waterford. Colin Dunford replaced Shane Bennett. Substitute Bobby Ryan had a Clare point deep into additional time but the last word fell to the deise as Tommy Ryan added an insurance point on the call of time.
Waterford had achieved their target and the 2-21 to 1-22 win saw them safely past this banana skin and into the quarter finals.
Next up Galway who come in on the back of a 0-24 to 2-16 win over Limerick. At time of going to press there is no indication of where this game takes place but it will be at either Walsh Park or Pearse Stadium Galway on Sunday next.
WHERE HAS THEIR FORM GONE?
The Waterford Senior Footballers were beaten last weekend by Limerick in the Allianz National Football League. After such a promising start to the campaign with wins over London and Wicklow there has been a complete turnaround in their form with defeat to Wexford, Westmeath, Carlow and now Limerick. I have said on many occasions that consistency was a problem but perhaps one could add confidence as, in many of those games a win was achieveable but slipped by. Fraher Field on Saturday night was no exception. Limerick began in whirlwind fashion and had slightly the better of the early exchanges with James Naughton, Brian Fanning and Danny Neville landing points while Michael Curry and Donie Breathnach replied for Waterford. Curry carried a lot of influence for the home side and was a major contributor, with three points, to the half time score 0-5 apiece. The start of the second half saw the Deise ahead for the first time as Aiden Trihy landed a point. The Waterford supporters would have been reasonably happy and confident with the effort but when Limerick goalkeeper Brian Scanlon levelled with a long range free the tide turned for the Shannonsiders. Ballysteen clubman Neville continued to be a thorn in the Waterford side until he was replaced near the end and his brace of points were instrumental in steering Limerick clear. Indeed five of the Limerick attack contributed to their total of fourteen points and in the end it was pretty comprehensive (0-14 to 0-8), particularly, their second half display.
Next up for Waterford is a visit to Leitrim on Saturday for the final game of the group in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmuida. Hopefully the lads can finish this campaign on a high note particularly with the championship on the horizon.
FOOTNOTE; It has been announced that following a coin toss Galway, who won the toss, will have home advantage and will play their Allianz National Hurling League quarter final against Waterford in Pearse Stadium on Sunday next.
The game will form part of a double header when Galway face already promoted Kildare in a "must win" game for the Tribesmen.