Saturday, 18th November 2017
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Heartbreak continues for Déise

There was a real belief within the county that finally 2017 would bring that ever elusive third All-Ireland hurling title. Opponents, Galway, who have been unbeaten since their opening round defeat to Wexford in the Allianz National Hurling League, have become a formidable force. Waterford however with a system devised by manager Derek McGrath and his backroom team are a battle hardened outfit who have "bought in" to the way of the management.

With wins over Offaly, Kilkenny, Wexford and Cork throughout the Summer, they were going to mount one formidable challenge to the favourites. Not having won an All-Ireland Senior Hurling title since 1959 the supporters of the Deise travelled to the Capital in their thousands and were in confident mood before the game. Indeed car loads of travelling fans were on the motorways to Dublin from as early as seven o'clock such was the fever of anticipation and excitement. The Tribesmen have also seen a barren twenty nine years since Liam McCarthy crossed the Shannon into the Province. Like Waterford many of their greats have never had the opportunity of climbing those steps in the Hogan Stand and so we had two teams, the winner to celebrate a long awaited victory and the loser to mourn for another year.

As part All-Ireland weekend the proceeding were opened by the Minor (under 18) final which featured Cork, winners over Waterford (1-24 to 0-8) in their Munster campaign, and Galway who were hoping to set up a winning hurling double. The Rebels were justifiable favourites going into this game and looked all set for victory in the opening half with goals from corner forwards Brian Turnbull and Evan Sheehan. Indeed the opening goal from the ever impressive Turnbull came after just ten seconds. leading 2-7 to 0-10 at the break, it all appeared to be going smoothly enough for the Leesiders. However on the resumption the game began to take a dramatic change with Portumna forward Jack Canning (yes, the next generation of the Portumna clan), coming into the game. he fired to the net immediately after the restart to level and edged his team ahead on 39 minutes with another goal. Galway held the upper hand from then to the end despite the heroic efforts of a very skillful Cork outfit. Galway had reclaimed the Irish press Cup having won in 2015 and relinquished it in 2016 to Tipperary.

HUGE RECEPTION FOR SENIOR TEAMS

Galway were first to make their entrance followed a couple of minutes later by Waterford. Both teams received an earbursting reception as they entered the field of fray. Deise manager Derek McGrath and his selection committee made one personnel change, from the programme lineout, before proceedings with Kieran Bennett who started in the Cork semi-final, retaining his place in midfield. Otherwise it was all go with Waterford defending the Davin end of the ground. However Galway began in a blaze of fire with Joe Canning landing a superb point after less than a minute. fair to say that throughout the present campaign Galway have masterfully worked their way through the championship with some huge point scoring returns in their campaign to date. The Waterford management would have stressed the importance of not allowing the free scoring Galway attack to get those opportunities. In the opeing minutes however we saw the danger with Johnny Coen, Joseph Cooney and Conor Whelan setting up Cooney for another and all within the opening three minutes. The Waterford backlash was quick and clinical. Michael Walsh, as he can so expertly do, sent Kevin Moran in on goal and the captain clinically finished past Galway keeper Colm Callanan. Back in the game 0-4 to 1-0.

Two points for Galway from Conor Cooney and the outstanding David Burke who found himself in space to point. In the 8th minute Waterford sharpshooter Pauric Mahony pointed following a foul on Shane Bennett and a minute later Kevin Moran added a point following good work from Shane Fives. The men from the Claddagh then had three unanswered scores in two minutes as Conor Whelan play Cathal mannion in for a point followed by one each from Joe canning and Conor Cooney 0-9 to 1-2. Waterford were finding it hard to settle as Austin Gleeson was just wide. However a point from Pauric Mahony, set up by Michael Walsh and one from "Brick" who collected a Jake Dillon pass, saw the lead back to two points 0-10 to 1-4.

In the 20th minute David Burke was again in plenty of space to collect and score but the Galway citadel fell for the second time a minute later. A long delivery from Kieran Bennett in midfield dropped close to the Galway goal. With Waterford's Shane Bennett and Galway corner back Adrian Tuohy wrestling for the ball but not winning possession, the bounce deceived keeper Colm Callanan and went straight to goal. Teams level 0-10 to 2-4. In the play Shane Bennett was injured and was replaced by Maurice Shanahan. The goal unnerved Galway as they hit three poor efforts wide of the target. Joe Canning fired over from a line ball in the 28th minute but Waterford through a Mahony point were back level within a minute. Two points from Conor Whelan, who was being well shackled by Waterford corner back Noel Connors, and Joe Cooney who pickpocketed the Deise defence, and saw the Tribesmen back in front 0-13 to 2-5. In the remaining minutes of the half Austin Gleeson and Michael Walsh played Jamie Barron in for a brace of points but Joe Canning added a free for Galway just on the call of time to see them ahead 0-14 to 2-7 at the break.

No doubt Derek McGrath and his management would have been very happy with the situation. Just a solitary point behind but knowing that his charges had played second fiddle and there was a lot more in this team. Raise the game and the Liam McCarthy would be returning to Suirside after so many years.

Within a minute of the restart Waterford were level as Mahony converted following an over carry by the Galway defence. A foul on Conor Whelan saw Canning edge his team ahead 0-15 to 2-8. Maurice Shanahan under pressure was just wide as Jamie Barron opened the path for Pauric Mahony to point. In the 41st minute the Waterford support saw their team ahead as Johnny Coen was booked for a foul on Jake Dillon and again Pauric Mahony pointed.

The Galway management made a huge call in the 42nd minute as regular Niall Burke, who did not make the starting lineup, was called into action in place of Jonathon Glynn. On his first attempt to collect possession Burke was fouled and Joe Canning tied the game 0-16 to 2-10. Maurrce Shanahan picked out Pauric Mahony for a point and the lead but Galway captain David Burke levelled within a minute. John Hanbury picked the ball off the ground and Mahony pointed the lead from the resultant free. Two Niall Burke points in the 49th 49th minutes saw Galway in front 0-19 to 2-12 as Brian O'Halloran replaced Jake Dillon. A point a piece from Joe Canning and David Burke saw Galway three points to the good but an O'Halloran point and one from a Mahony free had the lead back to the minimum 0-21 to 2-14. Jason Flynn replaced Cathal Mannion in the Galway attack as Tommy Ryan saw action in place of Michael Walsh. With his first touch Flynn pointed for Galway but Tommy Ryan did likewise for waterford as the Tallow man accelerated past the defence to score 0-22 to 2-15.

Three unanswered points from Joe Canning, Conor Cooney and Jason Flynn saw Galway 0-25 to 2-15 ahead and driving on for victory. The pressure was mounting on both teams. The prize was so great. A series of wides followed from both sides. Colin Dunford and Patrick Curran saw action for Waterford in place of Jamie Barron and Kieran Bennett. The substitutes had "worked the oracle" for the Deise in this championship and we hoped it might ring true again. Mahony was off target with a free but made amends a minute later. Lead back to three points. A foul on Niall Burke saw Canning hit the target 0-26 to 2-16. Pauric Mahony landed a point as waterford now went long in the hope of a goal. It was not to be however as the final action saw a long Austin Gleeson delivery escape both attack and defence and wide. To utter scenes of unbridled joy among Galway supporters and utter devastation among the Waterford players and supporters, nineteen points from play from the Tribesmen tells it's own story. Whatever way one looks at it this was a fantastic year for Waterford. They may not have won the All-Ireland but they sure have won many friends and supporters on the way.

Roll on 2018 and thanks Derek, Dan, Eoin and all who contributed to a great year.

Let me finish by saying what Miceal O Muircheartaigh told me as we left the stadium "THERE IS AN ALL-IRELAND IN THIS TEAM" and he has been looking at All-Irelands far longer than me.

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