(originally posted by Giveitfong on boards.ie)
Waterford came with a late flourish to stave off a Limerick fightback and carve a deserved victory in this moderately entertaining game at Fraher Field on Saturday night. It was a bitterly cold night with a strongish wind blowing towards the river end of the pitch, and the pitch, while bumpy, was in far better condition than the Walsh Park bog of the previous Sunday.
Waterford had first use of the wind and dominated the first half to an extent not reflected in their half time 1-9 to 0-2 lead, as they managed only one point from two penalties (for fouls on Brick Walsh and Maurice Shanahan), with Martin O’Neill firing the first one just over the bar and Pauric Mahony having his rather poor effort easily saved on the line.
Maurice Shanahan shipped a heavy leg injury early on but, although clearly hampered, he was left on the field until halfway through the second half at full forward, which wouldn’t be his favourite position. Martin O’Neill got an excellent point from play in the first minute but thereafter was dominated by Limerick’s forceful and powerful corner back, Tom Condon. Shane Casey also made little impression in the other corner apart from a well-taken goal which finished off a good passing movement down the left wing.
The best player on the field in the first half was Paul O’Brien at midfield, who repeatedly gained possession and ran at the Limerick defence. He looks much stronger now than when he was on the panel a few years ago.
Limerick did get an amount of possession but could make no impact on a defence which was well marshalled by Kevin Moran at centre back. Despite reports that he himself was injured, Philip Mahony replaced the injured Noel Connors half way through the first half.
Paul O’Brien was replaced by Dean Twomey at half time, which not only deprived Waterford of their best player but effectively reduced the team to fourteen men as, repeating his performance of the previous week against Clare, Twomey hardly struck a ball in the second half. Tomás Ryan also came on for Martin O’Neill.
Limerick brought on Shane Dowling and Kevin Downes for the second half. Dowling contributed little from general play but his excellent free taking solved a problem for Limerick and he hit six pointed frees in all. Kevin Downes had a much more marked impact on the play, frequently winning possession and driving at the Waterford defence, and notching two points from play.
With the wind at their back, Limerick dominated the first 20 minutes of the second half as the Waterford effort slackened noticeably, similar to the previous week. However, the home side sparked to life in the last ten minutes, with Kevin Moran reawakening from a period of down time, and Stephen Molumphy upping his game in midfield where he was getting some good assistance from Pauric Mahony who had switched with Twomey. Brick Walsh also came more into the game in the last quarter.
However, the key figure in Waterford’s late surge was Gavin O’Brien who had come on for Maurice Shanahan. O’Brien scored two excellent points from play and was also given the free taking job in the closing minutes which he also performed expertly, landing two further points.
Interestingly, both teams scored the equivalent of twelve points when playing with the wind. The big difference, therefore, was that Waterford managed six points against the wind to Limerick’s two, and that four point difference was the gap between the teams at the final whistle.
A feature of this game was that Limerick did not threaten the Waterford goal during the entire game apart from one first half shot that went narrowly wide. This meant that Iggy O’Regan got little to do, although I was impressed with his pucking out into the wind in the second half. The Waterford full back line was generally in control, with Philip Mahony impressing when he came on in the right corner, especially in the second half. Darragh Fives generally kept Limerick’s big full forward Brian Geary quiet; although Geary did manage to gain possession on a few occasion, little came of these situations. Apart from a couple of slips, Ringo Kearney had an excellent game in the other corner, with his superb ball control and ability to get past players repeatedly catching the eye.
Jamie Nagle got a lot of possession in the half line but his use of it was frequently very poor. Shane O’Sullivan worked hard on the other wing. Up front Brick Walsh was a bit in and out of the game, but his value to the team at centre forward is potentially enormous due to his ability to draw frees, hold up the ball under pressure before passing to colleagues, and especially his ability to break through the opposing half back line leading to the creation of goal chances.
Pauric Mahony’s radar was a bit off target on the night (four wides from six shots) but he did work hard. Shane Casey ended the night with a creditable 1-1, and should have had a second goal in the second half but missed the target from an angle having been set up at the end of a good Waterford passing movement. Tomás Ryan played a key role in that movement, scored an excellent over-the-shoulder point and caused some problems for the Limerick defence when he came out the field looking for ball late in the game.
Eoin McGrath was a late substitute for Shane Casey. Déise Girl contradicted herself when reporting in the same sentence that it was a typical Eoin McGrath performance and that he “wasn’t too bad”. I would agree with the first part of that sentence.
Waterford: Ian O’Regan; Noel Connors; Darragh Fives; Aidan Kearney; Jamie Nagle; Kevin Moran; Shane O’Sullivan; Stephen Molumphy; Paul O’Brien; Maurice Shanahan; Michael Walsh (0-1); Pauric Mahony (0-2, 0-1 from free); Martin O’Neill (0-5, 0-4 from frees); Seamus Prendergast; Shane Casey (1-1). Substitutes: Philip Mahony for Connors; Dean Twomey for O’Brien; Tomás Ryan (0-1) for O’Neill; Gavin O’Brien (0-4, 0-2 from frees) for Shanahan; Eoin McGrath for Casey.
I didn’t keep track of the Limerick team, but they had Nicky Quaid in goal and I think Shane O’Neill, Richie McCarthy and definitely Tom Condon in the full back. Wayne McNamara and Gavin O’Mahony were in the half back line. Conor Allis wore number 6 but seemed to play in midfield. He took the frees in the first half with poor results, and overall scored one free and one point from play. Donal O’Grady put in a typical hard working performance in midfield while James Ryan at No. 11 also got a lot of possession. Declan Hannon didn’t play. Graeme Mulcahy was at No 12 but failed to score. The full forward was named as Niall Moran by the announcer but I am pretty sure it was Brian Geary who also failed to score. Mark Carmody at No 13 got one point and Mikey Ryan on the other wing got two. David Moloney (for Condon) and James O’Brien came on in the second half in addition to Dowling and Downes.