Waterford always seem to struggle a bit against Offaly, and this game was no exception. When their second goal early in the second half put them eight or nine points up they seemed to be in cruise control, but a drop in intensity, poor tactics and some crazy decisions by Davy Fitzgerald left them hanging on by their finger tips at the end.
It was a bright day with a strong breeze blowing down the pitch, which was a little bumpy and soft following overnight rain. After a slow start, Waterford gradually began to put the scores on the board, mainly through Richie Foley frees (he scored nine in all from all distances and angles, with only one miss that I recall) and Shane Walsh, whose first touch was super and who ended up with 1-4, the goal coming after about 20 minutes when he seized on a mistake by an Offaly defender and finished expertly to the net from a difficult angle.
Waterford went in at half time 1-14 to 0-10 up, and after some early exchanges of scores in the second half, Brian O’Sullivan scored a good opportunist goal after Shane Walsh knocked down a long delivery into the Offaly goalmouth. This was the cue for Waterford to relax and get careless, and when Joe Bergin goaled after about 15 minutes, Offaly raised their game and with Shane Dooley repeatedly punishing Waterford fouls (he finished with eleven points from frees), they eventually reduced the Waterford lead to three points but time caught up with them. Final score Waterford 2-19 Offaly 1-19
Waterford’s cause wasn’t helped by overelaboration, especially with handpassing, and what appears to be a diktat from Davy to go past your marker before releasing the ball. On numerous occasions today, Waterford players tried this when they had plenty of time and space to get the ball away and proceeded to lose the ball against hard-working opponents. Somebody should tell Davy that early, well-directed ball, is the key to opening up defences in hurling.
Further problems for Waterford ensued from the introduction of Eoin McGrath to replace Stephen Molumphy midway through the second half. I don’t know what Davy sees in McGrath, but suffice it to say that his contribution was the same as that when he was brought in against Kilkenny last week. Then, when Richie Foley went off injured with about 15 minutes to go, Eoin Kelly was brought in at full forward with Shane Walsh, who had been destroying the Offaly full back David Kenny, moving out to the half forward line. It was noticeable that Kenny stormed into the game after this switch with Kelly, for the second week in a row, offering no threat.
Clinton Hennessy had a sound game in goal for Waterford. He had little chance with Bergin’s goal, and did well to keep out another Bergin effort early in the game. Eoin Murphy was predictably a little rusty, but did okay at right corner back. Wayne Hutchinson did some good things but overall struggled a bit against Joe Bergin, who scored 1-2 and could have had two more goals, but he failed to get the ball past Clinton Hennessy when he got clean through in the first half and he had another point blank shot for a goal late in the game which Hutchinson managed to block down. In the left corner Noel Connors had his usual sound game, although his tendency to carry the ball out of defence rather than clearing it is a bit unnerving at times.
At right half back Tony Browne looked like he had never been away. For someone playing his first game of the year his first touch was excellent and his positional play was a good as ever. What a man! Brick Walsh was also excellent at centre back while on the other wing Jamie Nagle as usual hit a lot of ball without ever being convincing. He was replaced near the end by David O’Sullivan who made an immediate impression. His strength under the high ball and forceful play for me make him look a better option than Nagle.
In midfield, Richie Foley (apart from his freetaking) and Kevin Moran both had fine games. Seamus Prendergast started at right half forward but apart from one nice point made little impression. He was replaced late in the game by Paudie Mahony who had little impact. Shane O’Sullivan won a lot of ball but his use of it was poor enough. Stephen Molumphy as ever had a great work rate, winning his usual quote of dirty ball. Neither of these apply to his replacement Eoin McGrath.
At full forward Shane Walsh had a super game. Gavin Crotty had little impact at corner forward, apart from one neat point in the first half. Brian O’Sullivan ended up with 1-2 from play, which cannot be sniffed at, but his general performance was not great. In the first half in particular he was almost completely out of it. In the second half he got on the ball a lot more but more often than not ended up losing possession. Both Crotty and O’Sullivan lack physical strength, and this was apparent in their 50:50 exchanges with tougher opponents. However, O’Sullivan in particular has shown with Ballygunner that he knows how to score and this was apparent again today
Waterford scorers: Richie Foley (0-9, all frees); Shane Walsh (1-4); Brian O’Sullivan (1-2); Gavin Crotty (0-1); Kevin Moran (0-1); Shane O’Sullivan (0-1); Seamus Prendergast (0-1).
Offaly scorers: Shane Dooley (0-12, one from play); Joe Bergin (1-2); Brian Carroll (0-3); Colin Egan (0-1); Cathal Parlon (0-1).