Kilkenny coasted to a comfortable victory over Waterford in this tournament game to mark the official opening of Páirc Éamonn de Paor, part of the spendid complex which has been developed in recent years by Tallow GAA Club. Kilkenny fielded a strong team here including Henry Shefflin, Tommy Walsh and Richie Power, all of whom were returning from significant injuries. Possibly as part of their post-League Final rehabilitation, they were very committed on the night, and more or less dominated the game from start to finish.
Waterford, by contrast, for the most part didn’t look interested. Their reactions were sluggish; they were nearly always second to the ball; they were lazy in picking up their men; their first touch was poor and they regularly fumbled or lost control of the ball; attempted passes regularly went astray.
The attitude of the team management to the fixture was evident from the team put out on the pitch, including a half forward line of Gavin Crotty, Shane Fives and Eoin McGrath whose chances of making any headway against a half back line of Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan and Paddy Hogan were very limited indeed. The one positive development was the placing – for the first time ever in this writer’s experience – of Kevin Moran in his best position at centre half. He started very impressively and generally did quite well, given the constant stream of ball coming from the Kilkenny midfield and halfback line, before being switched out to midfield in the second half with Brick Walsh coming in at centre back.
Unfortunately, the arrangements for the game were not of the same quality as the setting in which it was played. A Waterford starting fifteen was given in the very expensive (€4) programme, but five of those listed didn’t start, and two of those who were both listed and stared wore numbers which didn’t correspond with their positions in the programme. None of the 15 named substitutes had a number.
There was no starting lineout for the Kilkenny panel, which was listed in both numerical and alphabetical order, which meant that none of them wore the number beside their name in the programme. It shouldn’t have been too hard to give each player on both sides a number and then ask the respective mentors to get the players to wear jerseys with the numbers they were given in the programme.
To make matters worse, it was well into the game before the starting teams were announced over the public address system, which had remained strangely silent up to that point. Even after that, it was usually several minutes before substitutions made on both sides were detailed over the PA. Also, there were no flags for the umpires when the game started and again quite some time passed before this oversight was corrected.
As for the game, while Waterford started brightly enough, the Kilkenny half back line quickly came to exert a stranglehold which led to a continuous supply of good ball being made available to their forwards. Excellent mid-to-long range shooting, frequently while unmarked, saw the Kilkenny points total build up. They also set up several goal threatening movements by getting an overlap around the 45 metre line, but none of these came to fruition due to some good last-ditch defending by the Waterford full back line and one magnificent save by Adrian Power from a Richie Hogan piledriver.
With his long puckouts generally coming straight back, Power switched instead to directed puckouts, but in line with the general malaise affilcting his team, these frequently either didn’t reach their intended targets or were fumbled or otherwise messed up when they did.
At the other end, the Waterford inside line made poor use of a meagre supply of ball, although frequently the delivery from out the field was at least as poor. However, they did make one good incision when full forward Seamus Prendergast fielded a long ball in and managed to kick it past David Herity in the Kilkenny goal despite being under intense pressure. However, Kilkenny continued on their merry way and went in at half time seven points up, 0-15 to 1-5.
Waterford strengthened their hand considerably by bringing in Noel Connors, Brick Walsh and Tony Browne for the second half and switching Kevin Moran to midfield, Seamus Prendergast to left half forward and Stephen Molumphy (who started in midfield) to centre forward. However, the replacement of Eoin McGrath and Shane Fives by Eamon Murphy and Shane Casey did little to add to the team’s attacking threat.
Waterford got the best possible start to the second half when Tomás Ryan collected a good ball into the right corner, skinned his marker along the end line and crossed for Eoin Kelly to volley an excellent goal from close range. However, any hopes that this might spark a sustained Déise revival quickly dissipated as Kilkenny continued to dominate the game territorially through their ability to win good primary possession, especially in the air. However, growing inaccuracy (nine wides in the second half compared with four in the first) led to a fall-off in their scoring rate.
Waterford did win more possession in the second half, but they persisted in looking for goals when they had plenty of chances of scoring points from good positions out the field. As it was, most of the balls played into the Kilkenny goal area were poorly directed and, with Waterford having no ball winner inside anyway, these were easy meat for the Cats’ rearguard. However, there was one bright spot near the end when Eamon Murphy (whose previous contribution to the game consisted of the concession of three silly frees) got the ball on the right and took on Noel Hickey before centering to Tomás Ryan who billowed the net with a powerful shot.
Just after that, Eoin Kelly found Seamus Prendergast in front of goal with an excellent crossfield ball from the right touchline, but Prendergast’s shot at goal was beaten out by the scrambling Kilkenny defence. This left the final score Kilkenny 0-26 Waterford 3-9; in addition Kilkenny had 13 wides to Waterford’s seven.
It was difficult to see the play on the far side of the field from our ground-level position, especially on what was an overcast evening, and this may impact on our individual player assessments. Adrian Power dealt competently with all ball that came his way, and his superb first half save confirmed his status as one of the best shot stoppers in the business. His attempts at directed puckouts went awry on several occasions, but this wasn’t always his fault. It was clear that Waterford had no puckout strategy (especially given the half forward line they started with), which is strange in a team managed by a goalkeeper. Power was replaced for the second half by Stephen O’Keeffe who had very little to do except watch Kilkenny shots from out the field go sailing over his crossbar.
Declan Prendergast seemed to struggle a bit against Richie Hogan’s nimble footwork and excellent first touch, but he worked hard and a couple of his late interventions probably prevented Kilkenny goals. However, one wonders what was the point of starting him at corner back at this stage, especially with Noel Connors and Darragh Fives on the sideline. Connors replaced Prendergast at half time (switching over to the left corner) but, worryingly, went over on his leg late in the game and was promptly replaced by Darragh Fives.
I thought Wayne Hutchinson did quite well on Henry Shefflin, especially given the torrent of good quality ball that was being sent in from out the field. Hutchinson lived on the edge a lot of the time, and generally was allowed to get away with it by referee Cathal McAllister of Cork. He combines strength and aggressiveness with good ball skills, although he did have attempted clearances blocked by the opposing forwards, and should always try to drive out in situations like these.
I thought that Aidan “Ringo” Kearney did well in his first full game back after a lengthy bout of illness and injury. He has a particularly good knack of worming his way out of tight surroundings which is invaluable in a corner back.
It was hard to tell how Philip O’Mahony did at right half back in the first half, but at least his opposite number, Eddie Brennan, failed to score. I thought that Tony Browne did well when replacing O’Mahony in the second half. As stated. Kevin Moran acquitted himself more than adequately at centre back in the first half, while Brick Walsh did even better in that position after the change of ends, with his fielding and ability to drive out of defence again to the fore.
Once again, Jamie Nagle was a major source of worry at left half back. As usual, he hit a lot of ball during the course of the game, but he lacks physicality in the tackle and in the air. He was cleanly outfielded by his opposite number on several occasions while his trademark one-handed tap-down regularly gave possession away to gratefully waiting Kilkenny men.
In midfield, Richie Foley put in a hardworking stint following his return from injury, although his first touch frequently left him down. He was replaced during the second half by David O’Sullivan who again impressed me with his ability to get on the ball and run at opponents. He also popped over a lovely long-range point near the end to show to his team mates what they should have been doing throughout the second half.
Stephen Molumphy had his best game for some time, both in midfield in the first half and centre forward in the second, digging out dirty ball and moving it on. Kevin Moran did some good work at midfield in the second half but was not nearly as effective as he was at centre half in the first.
Once again Gavin Crotty failed to get into the game apart from one cross from the end line late in the first half which Seamus Prendergast fresh-aired in front of goal. He was replaced to little effect in the second half by Eamon Murphy whose contribution has been detailed above. Shane Fives looked out of place at centre forward in the first half. He did get on the ball on a number of occasions (which is more than can be said of this half forward colleagues) but his striking was slow and several times his efforts were blocked down.
The mystery of what Eoin McGrath is doing on the panel (never mind the field) continues as once again he made very little impression before being replaced on the wing after half time by Seamus Prendergast. At full forward in the first half, Prendergast did make a couple of good catches (two leading to poor wides) but otherwise struggled to deal with poor quality incoming ball. In the second half virtually all of Waterford’s puckouts were directed to his wing, and while he had little success early on, as the half progressed he seemed to shake himself into life, winning a lot of ball and even making a couple of powerful runs at goal. There were at least some glimpses of his former self here.
In the right corner, Tomás Ryan finished with 1-1 and set up a second goal, which isn’t a bad return for a corner forward. He also had to deal with a lot of poor quality incoming ball, and his inability to compete in one-to-one duels was again in evidence. Shane Casey was stationed at full forward for most of the second half and once again made very little impression, although the quality of incoming ball should also be kept in mind here.
In the left corner, Eoin Kelly looked much more keen to get involved than he has shown in previous recent outings, and although things generally didn’t go his way, the first time shot which brought Waterford’s second goal was a useful reminder of what he is capable of.
For Kilkenny, their full back line was exposed on occasions, both in the air against Seamus Prendergast, and for pace, by the Waterford inside line. As mentioned, their half backs provided the platform for their victory, while at midfield TJ Reid had a fruitful outing which netted five points. Up front, Richie Hogan landed four points from play with King Henry just behind on three and half forwards Michael Rice and Richie Power, along with second half substititue John Mulhall, hitting two each.
Waterford: Adrian Power; Declan Prendergast; Wayne Hutchinson; Aidan Kearney; Philip Mahony; Kevin Moran; Jamie Nagle (0-1); Stephen Molumphy; Richie Foley (0-3, frees); Gavin Crotty; Shane Fives; Eoin McGrath; Tomás Ryan (1-1); Seamus Prendergast (1-1); Eoin Kelly (1-2, two points frees). Substitutes: Noel Connors; Tony Browne; Brick Walsh; Eamon Murphy; Shane Casey (all half-time); David O’Sullivan (0-1), mid second half; Darragh Fives (late second half).
Kilkenny: David Herity; Paul Murphy; Noel Hickey; Jackie Tyrrell; Tommy Walsh; Brian Hogan; Paddy Hogan (0-1); TJ Reid (0-5); Colin Fennelly (0-1); Michael Rice (0-2); Richie Power (0-2); Eddie Brennan; Matthew Ruth; Henry Shefflin (0-8, five frees); Richie Hogan (0-4). Subs: Richie Doyle; PJ Delaney; Conor Fogarty (0-1); Kieran Joyce; Michael Kavanagh; John Mulhall (0-2) (all second half).