Waterford 2-15 (21) Tipperary 4-15 (27)

Dave Bennett, Tipperary, 2000

He who lives by the goal dies by the goal. Having scored last-puck-of-the-game goals to beat Wexford and Cork, Waterford were blitzed by an avalanche of goals from Tipperary. Both teams got the same amount of points, but Tipp had a slightly better points average, so they topped Division 1B. It was a very entertaining game, with neither team seeming to be aware that defending is allowed. A ‘neutral’ certainly would have enjoyed this helter-skelter affair, but the result was a bit disappointing from our point of view.

As I stood on the City End terrace for the first time in absolutely donkeys years, I pondered how Waterford might approach this ultimately meaningless game. It seemed obvious to me that Gerald McCarthy would tell them to go out and not shoot any wides. Either he didn’t say it or they didn’t listen, as the Déise boys fired sixteen wides. The only consolation about that monstrous statistic was that Tipperary hit fourteen. So the two wides were the difference. Well, maybe not.

It all started in a rather sedate manner. Paul Flynn knocked over his first three frees – which was NOT a sign of things to come – and Tipp more or less matched Waterford point for point. Some truly brutal wides from each side kept the teams close to each other before Tipp scored a goal right on the stroke of half time. Declan Ryan put Paul Shelley in space and his woeful shot was somehow fumbled over the line by Brendan Landers. Perhaps Brendan was fearful of the Tipp blob, bearing in mind that an earlier clearance had ended up with Shelley clipping him on the head with his hurley. But I digress…

Perhaps that goal lit the touch paper, because the second half was extremely dramatic, with Tipperary edging four or five points ahead and Waterford storming back at them. Tipp first took charge with an extremely fortunate goal. Declan Ryan’s point effort struck the bar and fell to Paul Shelley who drilled the ball to the back of the net. Waterford laid siege to the Tipperary goal, with Paul Flynn missing a 21-metre free before Ken McGrath put Anthony Kirwan in acres of space for him to first time the ball past Brendan Cummins. So we were back in the driving seat, right? Wrong. Two minutes later Paddy O’Brien eluded James Murray, charged down the wing and smashed an unstoppable drive to the roof of the net.

The drama wasn’t over yet though. Waterford continued to come back at Tipp and missed more goal scoring chances than Andy Cole. Paul Flynn missed another few chances, but Barry Walsh made no mistake when his overhead pull on a sideline cut connected perfectly with the ball for a great goal. And it was Barry Walsh, not Ken McGrath, and I was one of about a half dozen who knew it at the time. Waterford then should have taken the lead when Anthony Kirwan put Dave Bennett in the clear but Brendan Cummins somehow saved with his legs.

Waterford had failed to take all these chances and were made to pay. I’m reluctant to stick the boot into Paul Flynn, but after another attack broke down he had the cheek to blame his hurley. A bad workman always blames his tools, and Paul would want to look at himself in the mirror, as well as have a good look at his weighing scales methinks. Once again Tipp punished Waterford with a goal, another fine effort from substitute Paul Ryan finishing the game as a contest. You could see they wanted to rub it in as they so often do, but Waterford kept their nerve to leave the gap at two goals. It was a useful win for Tipp, but let’s hope that Ger Mac’s assertion that all the substitutions unsettled the team is proven to be correct.

Waterford: Brendan Landers, Tom Feeney, James O’Connor, Sean Cullinane (Stephen Curley), James Murray, Fergal Hartley, Brian Flannery, Tony Browne, Johnny Brenner (Brian Henley, 0-1), Dan Shanahan (0-2), Ken McGrath (0-5), Barry Walsh (1-1), Dave Bennett, Anthony Kirwan (1-1), Paul Flynn (capt., 0-6 all frees; Seamus Prendergast)

Tipperary: Brendan Cummins, Liam Sheedy, Philip Maher, Michael Ryan, N. Morris, John Carroll, Eamon Corcoran, Eddie Enright (D. Kennedy), Andy Moloney, Mark O’Leary (0-2), Declan Ryan (0-1; John Leahy, 0-1), Tommy Dunne (0-7, 0-6 frees), Liam Cahill (0-1; Paul Ryan, 1-0), Paul Shelley (2-2), Paddy O’Brien (1-1)

HT: Waterford 0-9 Tipperary 1-6

Referee: Sean McMahon (Clare)