Waterford senior hurlers cruised to a comfortable seven-point victory tonight in a tournament game to mark the opening of the Holycross-Ballycahill club’s impressive new club centre. The game was spoiled to an extent by a very strong and blustery wind which blow diagonally across the pitch but generally favoured Waterford in the first half.
Tipperary started with quite a strong team apart from a rookie full back line which came under a lot of pressure as Waterford dominated the early exchanges, with a neat finish by corner forward Brian O’Sullivan from a pass by Seamus Prendergast giving them a good early platform. However, Tipperary eventually developed a good foothold in the half forward line where the strong running Seamus Callinan and Noel McGrath began to exert an influence and they threatened several times before Callinan finally ran through for a goal to put the home side ahead 1-8 to 1-7 after 30 minutes.
Waterford’s response was impressive with three quick points cancelling out the Tipp goal and the visitors went in two points ahead, 1-11 to 1-9, at half time.
Waterford brought in Brick Walsh, Philip Mahony, Shane Casey and Shane Walsh (for Declan Prendergast, Tony Browne, Eoin Kelly and Seamus Prendergast, respectively) for the second half and these were to have a major influence on the game’s outcome. Walsh scored Waterford’s second goal seven minutes into the half when he fired home after Paudie Mahony’s 20-metre free had been blocked out.
Tipp appeared to lose their shape and strength from a series of second half substitutes some of whom were from the home club. Waterford, by contrast, were able to bring on high-quality reserves in the shape of John Mullane, Aidan Kearney and Liam Lawlor all of whom did very well, and at one stage in the second half the Waterford forwards were toying with the Tipp defence.
Tipp made a big effort late on to work a goal, but while they did threaten seriously on several occasions, good defending and poor finishing were to deny them. Tipp only managed eight points playing with the wind in the second half to Waterford’s 1-10, leaving a final score of 2-21 to 1-17.
Looking in more detail at the Waterford team, Clinton Hennessy performed reliably in goal. However, he appears now to be trying to place most of his puckouts and, while allowance has to be made for the swirling wind, his success rate in terms of hitting targets was not great. Jerome Maher played the full game game at corner back and I thought he did okay.
Noel Connors looked back to his best in the other corner (he has fantastic technique) and although he went off in the second half after a typically brave last-ditch tackle to stop a likely goal, it did not look as though the injury was serious. Before that he scored one of the points of the game, running maybe 50 metres to take a good pass from Brian O’Sullivan following an excellent passing movement to fire over the bar on the run. Connors was replaced by Liam Lawlor who did really well in an unfamiliar corner back position.
Although his opposite number, Eoin Kelly, got four points from play I still thought Wayne Hutchinson did very well at full back with his strength, first touch and good use of the ball. Tony Browne played the first half at right half back and I thought he did really well. He was replaced for the second half by Philip Mahony who I also thought did well, although he did allow himself to be turned too easily on a couple of occasions.
Declan Prendergast started at centre back which was a peculiar decision, as he has neither the ability in the air or the physicality for this position at intercounty level. A couple of early mistakes may have undermined his confidence, but he struggled badly against Seamus Callinan, a player who tends to disappear against physically intimidating opponents. This was an obvious opportunity to try Kevin Moran out in the pivotal position and Davy Fitz’s cussedness on this issue may come back to haunt him if Brick gets injured. The change when Brick came on in the second half was remarkable, as he repeatedly won primary possession and cleaned up loose ball to drive out and set up Waterford attacks.
Jamie Nagle is another favourite of Davy’s who I do not think is up to the job, at least at wing back. As usual he hit a lot of ball but struggled in the air and his lack of physicality will always tell against him at the top level, as was again evident here. He moved to midfield early in the second half to replace Eoin McGrath with Ringo Kearney coming in at wing back. It was great to see Ringo back, apparently to the full of his health, with his distinctive high-stepping running action, and I thought he did really well.
Whatever about Jamie Nagle, Davy’s persistence with Eoin McGrath verges on absolute stupidity or madness, as it essentially leaves Waterford playing with 14 men. McGrath did get one neat point but otherwise his contribution was minimal. Kevin Moran did a lot of good work, knocked over two fine points and his ability to drive through defences was demonstrated on several occasions here.
Gavin Crotty was completely anonymous and was replaced early in the second half by John Mullane whose impact was immediate as he helped himself to two points. Shane O’Sullivan put in another good hour on the forty and must surely have tied this position down for the championship. Paudie Mahony did very well on the frees, given the windy conditions, and converted eight in all. He also did okay in general play and scored a good point. He was replaced late on by Eamonn Murphy.
Eoin Kelly started at right corner forward and made no impact at all against a rookie corner back before being replaced by Shane Casey at half time. Casey had a lively enough half and landed a point, but I don’t think he has the pace to take defences as he is inclined to do.
Seamus Prendergast started promisingly, winning some good early ball against another rookie at full back and setting up Brian O’Sullivan’s goal. However, thereafter he faded out despite a lot of high incoming wind-assisted ball. He appears to have become more sluggish than ever and was never likely to get there first when balls were played into the corners for him to chase.
Again, the change when Shane Walsh came in at full forward for the second half was immediate and remarkable, as Walsh had the full back at sixes and sevens.. He helped himself to 1-2 and definitely should have got a penalty when he got inside the Tipp rearguard midway through the second half.
Brian O’Sullivan never got a chance to run at the defence with his blinding pace, but he still notched a tidy 1-2 from play, and it is this ability to score which I have always liked about him. He was replaced near the end by Tomás Ryan.
A noticeable feature of the game was its tetchiness, despite being supposedly a “friendly”. Numerous yellow cards were dished out on both sides and a couple of these might have been red had it been a competititive game. Wayne Hutchinson and Tipp captain Eoin Kelly in particular seemed to be involved in an ongoing war from beginning to end.
Waterford: Clinton Hennessy; Jerome Maher; Wayne Hutchinson; Noel Connors (0-1); Tony Browne; Declan Prendergast; Jamie Nagle; Eoin McGrath (0-1); Kevin Moran (0-2); Gavin Crotty; Shane O’Sullivan (0-1); Paudie Mahony (0-9, eight frees); Eoin Kelly; Seamus Prendergast; Brian O’Sullivan (1-2).
Subs: Philip Mahony for Browne; Brick Walsh for Declan Prendergast; Shane Walsh (1-2) for Seamus Prendergast; Shane Casey (0-1) for Kelly [all half time]; John Mullane (0-2) for Crotty; AidanKearney for Eoin McGrath; Liam Lawlor for Maher; John Mulllane for Crotty; Eamon Murphy for Paudie Mahony; Tomás Ryan for Brian O’Sullivan.
Tipperary: Brendan Cummins; John Coughlan; George Hannigan; Lee Mackey; John O’Keeffe; Pádraic Maher; Conor O’Mahony; Shane McGrath; James Woodlock (0-1); Noel McGrath; Seamus Callinan (1-3, one free); Pat Kerwick (0-1); John O’Neill (0-2); Eoin Kelly (0-7, three from frees); Shane Bourke (0-3).
Subs: Couldn’t keep track, but they included Paul Curran, Stephen Lillis, Michael Gleeson; Niall O’Meara, and Pat Carey.