Finally got to sit down and take a spin through Waterford’s win over Clare. The first thing to say is that I can see why Clare people are so pleased with the way things panned out. A few minutes in and two points down, you’d immediately be fretting that John Mullane has brought his ‘A’ game and they’re going to eat us alive. But few robust exchanges in the trenches took the wind out of Waterford sails and excellent points from Jonathan Clancy and senior newbie John Conlon would put the spring in anyone’s step. You’d have thought beforehand that a free-flowing open game – only 20 frees in the entire match, according to the Indo – would suit Waterford’s we-don’t-need-no-steenkin’-plan style, but that wasn’t the way it was turning out, and when Eoin Kelly missed a relatively easy free you’d have started worrying about the demons. He would miss another one later on in the half and you wonder whether you’ll ever be free of those concerns.
Then there was the goal. A lot of expectation rests on Darech Honan’s young shoulders, so to see him stepping up the plate must have been inspirational for everyone associated with the Banner. Had Clare rammed their advantage before half-time you wonder whether Waterford would have had too great a mountain to climb, but Jonathan Clancy hit a poor wide which would have put them seven points clear and Eoin Kelly knocked over two frees that were far more difficult than the ones he missed earlier to keep the deficit manageable.
Much has been made of the switches Davy Fitz and co made, with the usual moaning attached that it reflects a poor initial selection. It probably would have worked out just as well had it been Jamie Nagle and Maurice Shanahan replacing the Prendergast brothers rather than the other way around, a change was needed to inject fresh legs on a heavy pitch and rattle their opponents and credit is due for the alacrity with which it was done. Declan Prendergast would turn out to be the star of the show, and what a joy it is to see such plaudits for the man who has so often been the unspoken fall guy in the past. Only last week I was writing of his broad shoulders in the face of the repetitive demands for someone to replace him, and he proved the truth of that with a fantastic performance.
Looking at the second half in the creep/jerk manner of Sky+, it’s amazing Waterford didn’t win by more. Almost all the action was flooding towards the Killinan End. The manner in which the Clare forwards made the most of the crumbs that fell their way in that frantic second half will be another source of satisfaction for them, and Waterford’s carelessness with some of their wides a source of concern for us. But in the end, we landed the knockout blows in the twelfth round. GAA folk crave the ‘insurance score’ but Ken McGrath’s point (see above) which put us three clear felt like a winner. It was a tremendous finish from Waterford, and should give us confidence that we are going to competitive once again. That’s all we can ask of them.