Tuesday, 18th September 2018
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Waterford remain pointless

The Waterford Senior Hurlers remain pointless and rooted to the bottom of the Allianz National League table following defeat to Kilkenny on Sunday afternoon at Walsh Park. This was a game that both teams felt was worth more than the two points on offer as the winner could build some momentum towards a playoff position while the loser might well be left behind in the chase for quarter final places. Over five thousand eight hundred patrons came to the Keane's Road venue in anticipation of a humdinger between two great rivals from the Southeast. Their last meeting, in the All-Ireland series of 2017, had seen Waterford claim the plaudits. Manager Derek McGrath had compiled a very strong opening fifteen in the hope of gaining a first win in this present league campaign. Indeed the recent form of the Deise at Walsh Park in the Allianz League has been worrying as one must go back to 2016 for their last triumph. Kilkenny manager Brian Cody was also in the worrying position of failing to collect a point in either of their opening games. In a much changed lineout from recent campaigns the Bainisteoir welcomed back both TJ Reid and Lester Ryan to the starting fifteen.

It was a misty afternoon in Walsh Park in the city as referee Fergal Horgan got this eagerly awaited tie underway.  The visitors were first to strike as John Donnelly hit a point. Two more from TJ Reid and one from Martin Keoghan to a solitary score from Pauric Mahony saw Kilkenny ahead 0-4 to 0-1. Reid continued to hit the target for Kilkenny but a magnificent point from centre back Tadhg de Burca on twenty minutes brought Waterford back to within three points 0-6 to 0-3. Tom Devine had a point for Waterford but TJ Reid was punishing the hosts with some excellent freetaking and this saw Kilkenny ahead 0-7 to 0-4 after half an hour. The Kilkenny rearguard was very nearly breached in the second quarter as goalkeeper Eoin Murphy was called on to make a superb save from Tom Devine. Directly from the break it was TJ Reid who pointed Kilkenny further ahead and it continued to the break with Reid and Martin Keoghan steering the Noresiders to an 0-11 to 0-5 lead as referee Horgan called for half time. Would a goal midway through the half for Waterford have swung the momentum? Maybe but we'll never know. Austin Gleeson had a long range point before the break but it was Kilkenny six points ahead and one must say they deserved that lead. Indeed it could be argued that the visitors would not have been flattered with another few points in the bag after the opening thirty five minutes. Waterford were fighting hard for scores without capitalising but the chances were coming much easier for Brian Cody's outfit.

To redress the situation the Waterford management introduced two substitutions which saw both Colin Dunford and Patrick Curran into action for the second half replacing Austin Gleeson and Mikey Kearney. 

In fairness to the home side they did make a huge effort in the third quarter with Pauric Mahony frees very much keeping them in touch. However it all unravelled once again in the 50th minute as Cillian Buckley and Pat Lyng made space for Lester Ryan to carve out an opening for TJ Reid and the Shamrocks clubman playing at full forward hit the net to see Kilkenny back, six in front 1-12 to 0-6. Waterford did have a chance to get back into the argument as a foul on Patrick Curran resulted in a penalty. However Kilkenny goalkeeper Eoin Murphy got to the goalbound effort from Stephen Bennett and with it went any chance of a Waterford win as the Cats added points from TJ Reid along with substitutes Luke Scanlon and James Maher in their drive for victory. The Waterford fans did get something to cheer about late in additional time as Tallow clubman Tommy Ryan eventually found the net with a low strike into the corner but it was all too little too late and Waterford went down to a third defeat in a row on a

1-20 1-12 scoreline. Although Pauric Mahony hit an unerring 0-7 the forward division for the most part never really got on top of the Kilkenny defence. Up front the Cats had some superb shooting from TJ Reid (1-11) and Martin Keoghan (0-5) which in the end put Waterford to the sword.

This was not a going day for Waterford particularly in the attack as five forwards were replaced throughout the game with Colin Dunford, Tommy Ryan, DJ Foran, Patrick Curran and Stephen Bennett all getting game time and three of them featuring on the scoresheet.

Next up for Derek McGrath and his charges is a visit to Pairc Ui Chaoimh to face Cork who themselves went down to table toppers Clare at the weekend. Still a whole lot to play for and, it all begins next weekend on Leeside. The Rebels with an opening day win over Kilkenny are just two points ahead of Waterford so this could very well define the progress or otherwise for both counties. I'm pretty sure Derek McGrath and his management team will be stressing the importance of the trip to Leeside in that regard. Mind you many are repeatedly saying that there is little difference between Division 1A and 1B but the overal attendances tell a different story.

It is expected that the Waterford starting lineout will feature the majority of players who faced Kilkenny so I expect a really big performance from the team as they are on a retrieval mission. A loss would see Waterford cut adrift and if they lose and Kilkenny gain a point then the league campaign would be over. Cork on the other hand having suffered two league defeats in a row will be looking to get back among the quarter final chasers and will look at this outing with home advantage as one where they could conceivably seal their place in the Division top four. Manager John Meyler has seen them in competitive mode particularly their second half display against table toppers Clare where they finished just four points behind having trailed by nine points at the break.

Waterford and Cork games either in Championship or League have always been close and entertaining so this will surely be no different. The Deise are due one big game and where better than down in the recently refurbished Parc Ui Chaoimh to set the year in motion.

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