Following a trip on Saturday last to Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada in Carrick-on-Shannon the Waterford Senior Footballers returned pointless in their last game of the Alianz National League 2017. While there was no denying that opponents Leitrim were the better team on the day there were signs, particularly in the opening half and the closing minutes, that the Deise might just sneak a positive result. However all their efforts were scuppered as the Connaught side ran out 1-13 to 2-8 winners. The second goal for Waterford, coming at the death, gave a few anxious minutes to the winners but in truth they seemed to have the game under control at that stage. After a really positive start to the league campaign (two straight wins over London and Wicklow) the Waterford form has just unravelled and four losses will do little for the confidence as they face Cork in their opening Munster Championship match in a few weeks. Leitrim manager Brendan Guckian, on the other hand, will be well pleased with four wins and a top half table finish. He will also probably bemoan the fact that they had chances against promoted Wexford (0-16 to 0-14) and Limerick (2-11 to 0-15) but let them slip away.
Waterford manager Tom McGlinchy will now have to begin the process of building the team towards the Cork challenge. The Rebels remain one of the powerhouses of the game but it is still not too long ago that the home side beat them in the McGrath Cup and I'm pretty sure the management will keep reminding the players Cork are not unbeatable. That however is for another day.
Before the game on Saturday last the management made two changes from the original team sheet with Frank Galvin and Caoimhin Maguire coming into the starting fifteen. Very little separated the sides in the opening half with Leitrim through the exploits of Emlyn Mulligan and Ronan Kennedy just keeping their noses in front. The Leitrim defence was breached on 28 minutes as a shot from Waterford corner forward Conor Murray was deflected past a helpless Brendan Flynn in the Leitrim goal to edge the visitors ahead at the break 1-4 to 0-6. Leitrim did squander a number of chances but Waterford, with the outstanding Gavin Crotty, were giving very little away in contests throughout the field.
On the changeover the game took a huge swing towards the home side as a long delivery from Emlyn Mulligan was collected by Pearse Dolan who put Keith Beirne through and the Leitrim full forward made no mistake as he guided the ball past David Whitty in the Waterford goal. The score lit a flame in the Leitrim side and they proceeded to hit six unanswered points. Indeed but for a superb penalty save by David Whitty from Emlyn Mulligan it could have been so much worse for Waterford.
Leading 1-12 to 1-4 the game was as good as over or so we thought. With seven minutes still on the clock goalkeeper Brendan Flynn parried a ball away from goal but Waterford full forward Paul Whyte was first to react and slipped the ball to the net. Still five points behind there was a new enthusiasm about the Waterford attacks. Crotty continued to punch forward from midfield and three points in five minutes saw a real nervousness about the Sean Mac Diarmada venue. However the visitors while throwing everything at their hosts just could not claw back the deficit and so another game had slipped by.
In the end Tom McGlinchy and his management team will be disappointed with a number of games that could perhaps, have changed the whole league campaign but their focus will now be on bigger days ahead.