Monday, 21st August 2017
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Sweet victory for the DÉise

Semple Stadium in Thurles has seen many victories for the Waterford Senior Hurling team but I doubt there have been many sweeter than Semple Stadium in Thurles than Saturday last as the Deise beat Kilkenny for their first championship win over the Cats since that day way back in 1959 when the Liam McCarthy Cup came across the Suir. There had been much speculation about this game, a meeting of the two neighbours, with many pundits divided on how the result would turn out. Indeed before the match began Kilkenny who had been slight favourites during the week, were now available at evens, such was the confidence from the Waterford supporters. Waterford bainisteoir Derek McGrath and his management team started the fifteen as selected while Brian Cody made three changes with Jonjo Farrell and Kevin Kelly coming into the attack and Robert Lennon in defence. Eleven months on from their previous championship match at the same venue a crowd of over 34000 came to the home of hurling to witness what they hoped would be another classic. Despite numerous chances Kilkenny had been the victors in 2017. The Brian Cody record against Waterford in championship fare had been unblemished and players like longserving Kevin Moran and Michael Walsh had yet to see a win over the Cats.

Following a huge win for Tipperary over Dublin (6-26 to 1-19) in the opening game of this double header afternoon Waterford faced into the "town goal" after Wexford referee James Owens made the toss. Barely thirty seconds had elapsed when a foul on Jake Dillon saw Pauric Mahony point. Kilkenny fell short on three occasion as the Waterford defence, so brilliantly marshalled by Clashmore/Kinsalebeg clubman Tadhg de Burca, gave little room to score. Mahony added another free in the 4th minute following a foul on Shane Fives. A point from Richie Hogan in the 6th minute had the Cats on the scoreboard but Kevin Moran replied in kind for the Deise. Kilkenny marksman TJ Reid had a point from a free but Waterford who were gaining momentum added three more from the stick of Mahony. Fifteen minutes elapsed and the Deise ahead 0-6 to 0-2.

With de Burca playing the covering centre back role, one he does so brilliantly, there was very little space for Colin Fennelly and co. Both teams were off target with efforts before TJ Reid converted following a foul on Kevin Kelly (0-6 to 0-3). The latter then missed an opportunity to point as his effort went outside the post from a scoring position. In the 26th minute player of the year Austin Gleeson and Jamie Barron combined for the Mount Sion man to score and within a minute an excellent effort from Jake Dillon sailed over 0-8 to 0-3. Kilkenny goalkeeper Eoin Murphy had a point from a long distance free but a foul on Shane Bennett won a free and Pauric Mahony converted from 40 metres. With the deise leading 0-9 to 0-4 the Noresiders were handed a lifeline as a foul on Richie Hogan resulted in a penalty which was clinically despatched to the net by TJ Reid. Just two points between the sides 0-9 to 1-4 and the pendulum could have swung. Austin Gleeson and Kevin Kelly exchanged points as the clock passed the thirty five minutes. With time ticking by Waterford continued to press and Shane Fives opened the space for Michael Walsh to goal right on the break to see the Deise five points clear 1-10 to 1-5 as the Wexford official called half time.

The opening ten minutes of the second half saw Kilkenny come out with a renewed effort and a point from substitute Lester Ryan followed by a brace from TJ Reid saw the lead back to two points 1-10 to 1-8. The superb Jamie Barron added a point as Patrick Curran saw action in place of Jake Dillon in the Waterford attack. Austin Gleeson collected a loose Kilkenny line ball and pointed, immediatley followed by another from Gleeson in the 49th minute. The lead was back to five points 1-13 to 1-8. A number of Waterford efforts missed the target as TJ Reid added a Kilkenny point. The Cats net billowed for a second time in the 53rd minute as Shane Bennett burst through to goal and the Deise then led by eight as Kevin Moran pointed 2-14 to 1-9.

Fifteen minutes on the clock, and many supporters of the Derek McGrath outfit were beginning to believe. TJ Reid and Lester Ryan added Kilkenny points either side of a magnificent effort from Austin Gleeson 2-15 to 1-11 and just ten minutes remaining. Stephen Bennett replaced Shane Bennett in the Waterford attack. Five minutes remaining and still Waterford ahead by six points 2-15 to 1-12. TJ Reid was wide with a free before Colin Fennelly collected and made tracks for goal. In the ensuing play TJ Reid was "on hand" to bundle the ball over the line 2-15 to 2-12. A point apiece from Ger Aylward and Richie Leahy saw the lead back to the minimum 2-15 to 2-14. The momentum was certainly back with Kilkenny as Robert Lennon was wide with a chance. Michael Fennelly collected and slipped the ball through to brother Colin who split the posts. Teams level 2-15 apiece and some of the Waterford supporters were literally shell-shocked. Brian O'Halloran replaced Pauric Mahony in attack.

The final action of the allotted additional time saw a foul on Brian O'Halloran and Maurice Shanahan just in as a replacement saw his effort drift just outside the posts. Teams level and extra time looming.

Waterford had let an eight point lead slip away and there were fears that the momentum was now with the Cats. However Waterford through the efforts of Jamie Barron were back in front within a minute but two points from TJ Reid and Lester Ryan saw Kilkenny in front for the first time 2-17 to 2-16. Were the Deise going to suffer heartbreak once again. Time will tell as Patrick Curran tied the game with a point. TJ Reid and the ever more influential Barron added a point apiece for their respective teams. The game changed in the following two minutes. Maurice Shanahan pointed a free to edge Waterford in front and in the final minute of the half a magnificent run from Jamie Barron saw the Fourmilewater man crash to the net. Waterford were buoyed and led 3-19 to 2-18 as the half expired.

A minute into the restart TJ Reid had a Kilkenny point 3-19 to 2-19 but their defence was breached again as Maurice Shanahan collected, raced through and "tennis style" put a backhand shot in the back of the net. The surge of adrenalin was palpaple as TJ Reid and Tommy Ryan exchanged points. Richie Leahy and Maurice Shanahan exchanged points and the Deise led by six 4-21 to 2-21 with the game going into additional time. Again Reid converted a point but Maurice Shanahan also added one for Waterford 4-22 to 2-22. The bogey was laid and the final score of the game, a magnificent point from substitute Tommy Ryan copperfastened a huge win and a great day for Waterford hurling.

Waterford versus Wexford next up

The qualifier draw has just been completed and sees the Deise face their South East neighbours Wexford with Tipperary against beaten Munster Finalists Clare. The times and venue have also just been finalised with Tipperary facing Clare on Saturday 22nd July at 3pm while Waterford play Wexford on Sunday 23rd July at 4pm in the newly refurbished Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

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