Friday, 17th August 2018
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Double disappointment in Ennis ver the years Cusack Park has never been the happiest hunting ground for Waterford hurling and so it continued on Sunday last as both the Senior and Minor Hurlers went down to the Banner in the Munster Round Robin series. Going into their opening fixture of the competition the Waterford management were forced to field without the services of former player of the year Mount Sion’s Austin Gleeson and superb Ballygunner clubman and freetaker Pauric Mahony. However that said, training in recent weeks had seen the Deise in sparkling form with excellent performances in various challenge games. There was a feeling that they would "get the job done" in Ennis. Clare on the other hand were bitterly disappointed with their opening outing as they failed to Cork the previous weekend and another loss would seriously jeopardize their chances of progressing. The exodus from Waterford began early with patrons getting there in good time to claim a prime viewing spot and also to support the Waterford minor team who were part of this double header.

Unfortunately and despite a really heroic effort the minor team went down 3-21 to 2-14 to Clare. The Banner led 2-9 to 1-9 at the break with Clare benefitting from the accuracy of Mark Rodgers while the Waterford goal came from An Rinn player Caolain MacCraith. The home side continued to dominate the exchanges on the turnover and while Waterford, through James Power, had a second goal they could never breach the lead.

The Waterford Senior team very much as expected saw Shane McNulty back in defence with Tadhg de Burca employed as an extra defender, a role he has perfected over the past few years. The Clare management had made one change with James Shanahan replacing Seadna Morey before the throw-in.

The visitors had the better of the early exchanges with points from Shane McNulty and Tadhg de Burca giving them a 0-2 to 0-1 lead. The ten week layoff for Waterford since the league was not noticable as they dominated these opening minutes. Clare however edged ahead after seven minutes with points from James Shanahan and the very accurate Peter Duggan. Stradbally clubman Michael Walsh using all his experience opened the way for Philip Mahony to point 0-3 apiece. It was the Deise who had the first goal. Again Michael Walsh made the space for Tom Devine and the big Modeligo forward saw his shot saved by Clare keeper Daniel Tuohy. Maurice Shanahan was first to react and he billowed the net 1-3 to 0-3. The Lismore man added a point a minute later and Waterford appeared to be in the ascendancy.

The Waterford defence continued to make life difficult for the Clare attack who hit a number of wides although, the Deise were dealt a huge blow when influential de Burca was forced off to be replaced by Colm Roche after fourteen minutes. Team captain Kevin Moran had an effort saved by the Clare defence before John Conlon, who had a huge game for the hosts, was fouled within the square and Peter Duggan smashed the ball to the net. Within a minute Conor McGrath had the sides level 1-4 apiece. A point from Jake Dillon, having been put through by Conor Gleeson, edged Waterford back in front but James Shanahan levelled once again for Clare. The sides were again level after 23 minutes as Shane O’Donnell and Maurice Shanahan shared a brace of points.

Clare had an eight minute scoring spell which began with John Conlon evading the Waterford defence to goal. Points from Peter Duggan (3) and Colm Galvin saw the Banner ahead 2-10 to 1-7 as the game wound down to half time. A point each from Tony Kelly and a superb effort from Tom Devine saw Clare maintain their seven point lead. However Waterford did add a brace of points in additional time in that opening half as both Maurice Shanahan and Kevin Moran hit the target and closed the lead to five points 2-11 to 1-9 at halftime. The Waterford injury list appeared to grow as ever dependable corner back Noel Connors seemed to carry an injury into the break

The Waterford management tried to freshen up the attack for the second period and brought Stephen Bennett and DJ Foran into the play. It was however Clare who fired the opening shots of the second half with Conor McGrath placing Tony Kelly for a brace of points 2-13 to 1-9. Again the injury jinx hit the Deise as Daragh Fives was forced off and was replaced by Tallow clubman Tommy Ryan on forty minutes. The ever dangerous John Conlon fired a point on 41 minutes to extend the lead but the Banner defence was breached by substitute Tommy Ryan a minute later as the flying forward evaded the defence to goal 2-14 to 2-9. Maybe there was going to be one hell of a comeback by Waterford.

Colm Galvin burst through the Waterford backline but his effort was saved. Waterford fullback Barry Coughlan was then forced off to be replaced by clubmate Ian Kenny. A Peter Duggan free put six points between the sides 2-15 to 2-9. Bad as things were for Waterford they were made progressively worse as captain Kevin Moran was red carded for a shoulder charge on Tony Kelly. It really was now a mountain to climb for Waterford.

Conor McGrath and Stephen Bennett had a point apiece but Clare, with the extra player, hit four unanswered scores with three from freetaker Peter Duggan and one from John Conlon 2-20 to 2-10. Maurice Shanahan (1-4) had a point for the visitors but two from Peter Duggan extended the lead for the team from West of the Shannon to eleven points. Tommy Ryan had an effort blocked by Patrick O’Connor before Jamie Barron added a point for the Deise.

In the final ten minutes and the game winding down John Conlon and Tony Kelly had Clare points to extend the lead 2-24 to 2-12. Waterford never gave up and burst into life with five unanswered points from Stephen Bennett, Tommy Ryan, DJ Foran, Jake Dillon and Maurice Shanahan to bring the Deise to within seven 2-24 to 2-17. The deise were giving everything. A Clare point from Colm Galvin and a brace from Tony Kelly to one from Maurice Shanahan left Waterford behind 2-27 to 2-18 and the unhappy Cusack Park "hunting ground" continued.

Waterford must now focus on next weekend where they face a rejuvenated Tipperary in Limerick in a game that perhaps both teams must win. The Premier had a superb second half to force a draw with Cork.

We can only wait and see if the Waterford players have recovered from the injuries and exertions of Sunday. Waterford finished the game last weekend with just five players who started the All-Ireland.

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