Wednesday, 18th October 2017
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Job done without fuss

The Waterford Senior Hurlers travelled to O'Connor Park in Tuallamore on Saturday with high hopes of progressing in the All-Ireland qualifiers series. Huge favourites to win following their near-miss against Cork in the Provincial semi-final, the team under manager Derek McGrath had worked hard in the interim to iron out the faults of that Semple Stadium defeat. Offaly on the other hand under Mount Sion clubman Kevin Ryan were on a retrieval mission following a harrowing defeat to All-Ireland outright favourites Galway and having home advantage, there was some optimism in the Faithful camp.

Conditions in Tullamore saw a breezy day which was to favour Waterford in the opening half. Talisman and hurler of the year Austin Gleeson lined up at centre forward and was immediately in the action which brought a foul on the energetic Jamie Barron as Pauric Mahony converted. Shane Dooley replied for Offaly as both teams sought to settle. A number of wides ensued for both sides before Kevin Moran pointed for the visitors but again Dooley levelled. The Tullamore native then edged the Midlanders ahead as we waited for Waterford to get into rhythm. Welcomed back from injury Darragh Fives was proving a colossus in the Deise defence and time and again was there to intercept attacking positions. Shane Dooley was off target with a free but made amends in the 13th minute with a point following a foul on David King. At this stage the game had very little shape and we just wondered could Offaly maintain momentum to the break even with the elements against them. Kevin Ryan had placed his team in a defensive mode with two extra players working as cover.

An excellent point from midfielder Jamie Barron and a second from Kevin Moran a minute later saw the sides level 0-4 apiece. Indeed the Moran point finished a superb move involving Darragh Fives, Shane Bennett and Michael Walsh. The lead for Waterford came from Pauric Mahony in the 16th minute but James Mulrooney replied with a point as the Seir kieran man worked the space to shoot. Teams level again. In between however the Deise breached the Offaly defence as Kevin Moran sent Austin Gleeson in on goal. However James Dempsey was up to the task and brought off a terrific save. Pauric Mahony then added a point for Waterford but they were very nearly undone in the 19th minute as Birr club man Seanie Ryan burst through but was fouled for Shane Dooley to level.

That scare seemed to inject the Waterford side to new heights. Eight unanswered points followed in eight minutes with Michael Walsh, Pauric Mahony, Maurice Shanahan, Tadhg de Burca and Austin Gleeson all on the scoresheet. Shane Kinsella had a point in reply for Offaly but Waterford went a whopping ten points clear in the 31st minute when a long delivery from Stephen O'Keeffe eluded the Offaly defence and Shane Bennett was on hand to goal 1-14 to 0-7. The Deise added four more points before the break from Gleeson, Barron, Darragh Fives and Maurice Shanahan to a solitary Emmet Nolan score for the home team and so at half time the lead stood at thirteen points 1-18 to 0-8. Offaly came out for the second half minus the services of their star forward Shane Dooley and centre back Aidan Treacy while Waterford remained unchanged. The opening ten minutes saw two points apiece with Pauric Mahony and Austin Gleeson for the visitors and Joe Bergin and Oisin Kelly replying for the home side. As the half progressed the Deise continued to build the lead with Ballygunner club man Pauric Mahony and Austin Gleeson hitting the target. The Waterford management began to "use the bench" with both Jake Dillon and Colin Dunford, in for Maurice Shanahan and Michael Walsh respectively, landing points with their opening touches. It could have been so much worse for Offaly as goalkeeper James Dempsey was called into action on two occasions with marvellous saves from both Shane Bennett and Austin Gleeson. As the lead grew there was no great comeback for Offaly and Patrick Curran who came in for Pauric Mahony also claimed four points in the final ten minutes. The final score 1-35 to 0-14 perhaps a true reflection of the merit of the Waterford play particularly in the second half.

Derek McGrath will be happy to get a championship victory "under the belt" but he will be more than aware that the next hurdle will be so much higher. Yes! they were raging hot favourites (fifteen points on the handicap) but few have seen such a collapse from Offaly. The game may well have allowed Derek to give a number of players on the fringe of the first fifteen an opportunity of championship game time and that in itself will probably be a bonus. For Kevin Ryan and his Offaly charges the last two games have been a bitter experience and one they will want to consign to history as soon as possible.

NEXT UP IT'S THE CATS

The qualifier draw has just been completed. Waterford will face old adversaries Kilkenny while Tipperary will play Dublin. Both games take place in Semple Stadium, with the Waterford match at 7 p.m. The Deise and their neighbours have not really shown their true form this year. Both came through their respective qualifier round although the Cats had the closer call. As reported above Waterford hit a huge score without easing through the gears against Offaly. The challenge from the Midlanders was really disappointing. Now the main aim of Derek McGrath and his management team will be to curb the attacking threat of Colin Fennelly, TJ Reid and co. I'm pretty sure the Waterford lads are eagerly looking forward to this challenge.

LADIES FOOTBALL

Waterford enter the cauldron of the Ladies Senior Football Munster Final on Saturday next in Mallow. The Kingdom claimed their place having beaten Cork (2-15 to 2-13) in the semi-final and now face a Waterford side who are showing a rich vein of form. The Rebelettes who have dominated the Ladies Provincial and All-Ireland series for more than a decade will be looking to the qualifiers for the first time since 2004. Incidentally their success included nine Provincial titles in a row. However the Deise ladies have been superb and have beaten both Cork and Kerry in the round robin series on the way to the Munster Final. That win over reigning All-Ireland champions (3-11 to 1-11) and over the Kingdom 2-9 to 1-9 being particularly impressive. This Waterford side has the players to annex this crown. The defence will be well marshalled by Abbeyside's Caoimhe McGrath while the outer line with both Karen and Michelle McGrath from Ballymacarbry will give little away to the Kerry attack. Both Mairead Wall and Emma Murray in midfield will drive the engine room. In attack Waterford have threats all round with Grainne Kenneally (Eadestown) driving through from number 11. The inside line of attack have all the ability to create and finish scores. Aileen Wall and Michelle Ryan will pose threats in the corners while full forward Maria Delahunty is one of the most clinical attackers in the game. We wish them all the success

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