(originally posted on boards.ie)
Derek McGrath made six changes from the team he announced last week, with Iggy O’Regan coming in for Stephen O’Keeffe in goals, Tadhg Bourke for Barry Coughlan at corner back, Ray Barry for Jamie Barron on the right wing, Stephen Molumphy for Jake Dillon on the left, Ryan Donnelly for Maurice Shanahan at corner forward and Seamus Prendergast for Shane Walsh at the edge of the square.
On today’s performance, you would wonder if that forward line started last week would be now top of the league. However, the big difference was that Pauric Mahony’s radar from open play was in much better working order, as he finished up with five points from play as well as six pointed frees. In the process he gave Iarla Tannion a torrid time and was my man of the match.
Overall, this was a great team performance, with the players hunting in packs and working hard for each other. Playing against the wind in the first half, they worked their way out of defence very well with some good hand and stick passing and support play. However, at times they overdid the short passing and in the second half in particular, with the wind behind them, they might have used route one more often as Seamus Prendergast clearly had the Galway full back in trouble.
In the first half, despite having the wind at their backs, Galway were unable to take control of the game as Waterford defended really well and played some excellent ball into the forwards which on another day might have produced a couple of goals. Galway did have eight wides (to Waterford’s four) but, unlike last week when they were scoring for fun, today they were nearly always shooting under pressure. As it happened, Waterford had their own share of wides (five) in the second half and both sides ended up with nine wides apiece.
The key features of the first half, apart from Pauric Mahony’s roasting of Iarla Tannion, were Jamie Nagle’s marvellously skillful performance at right half back, a couple of great layoffs by Ryan Donnelly to create scoring chances for Mahony, and some great catches by Seamus Prendergast. The one time he got clean away he was taken down cynically just outside the large square. Overall, the exchanges were even enough, with Waterford going in at half time one point ahead, 0-9 to 0-8.
It took Waterford a while to impose themselves on the game in the second half but they gradually opened up a three-point lead which was cancelled out by Galway’s goal. Iggy O’Regan must take a lot of the fault as his attempt at a directed puckout went astray but even then Tadhg Bourke unluckily slipped as he went to cut out the through ball leaving Jason Flynn in the clear to fire home from close range.
However, this only served to spur Waterford to renewed efforts and, with Kevin Moran storming into the game at midfield and Ray Barry doing the needful on the scoreboard, Waterford controlled the game from there on in to finish comfortably ahead, despite missing some late chances. Waterford also appeared to lose their shape for a while as McGrath sent in several substitutes, including Eddie Barrett for Shane O’Sullivan, Jamie Barron for Brian O’Sullivan, Jake Dillon for Stephen Molumphy, Stephen Roche for Seamus Prendergast and Gavin O’Brien for Ray Barry. It has to be said that all the substitutes settled in right away and none of them looked out of place.
The Waterford defence was again massive today. Tadhg Bourke deserves great credit for an excellent performance in his first senior start for the county. He played with great poise and maturity, allied to a good brain and super skills, and didn’t allow the slip-up for Galway’s goal upset him. Of course, it was a big help that the other full backs, Shane Fives and Noel Connors, were both in top form, with the latter giving a master class of corner back play in the second half.
Apart from Jamie Nagle, Brick Walsh owned the centre back position and destroyed his opposite number (who was substituted) while on the other wing Philip Mahony also did the business. Shane O’Sullivan worked hard all through at midfield, while Kevin Moran really led the charge when Waterford took over in the final quarter.
Ray Barry had a quiet enough first half but really impacted on the game after the change of ends to finish with four points while Stephen Molumphy, as ever, was extremely effective on the other wing. Ryan Donnelly really impressed here, once he got up to the pace of the game in what was also his first start. He has great pace and body strength, and the ability to look around for players in better positions. Seamus Prendergast also had a really good game, but Brian O’Sullivan again had little impact.
When one thinks of the following list of players who didn’t play today, with most of them hopefully becoming available as the year progresses, one can see that these really are potentially exciting times for Waterford hurling.
Stephen O’Keeffe, Barry Coughlan, Liam Lawlor, Paudie Prendergast, Stephen Daniels, Darragh Fives, Richie Foley, Maurice Shanahan, Shane Walsh, Brian O’Halloran, Donie Breathnach and perhaps Stephen Bennett, Austin Gleeson and (hopefully) DJ Foran.
Waterford scorers: Pauric Mahony (0-11, 0-6 frees), Ray Barry (0-4), Seamus Prendergast (0-2), Kevin Moran, Stephen Molumphy, Ryan Donnelly, Stephen Roche and Jake Dillon (0-1 each)
Galway scorers: Conor Cooney (0-6, two frees), Cathal Mannion (0-3), Jason Flynn (1-0), Padraigh Brehony (0-2), David Burke and Niall Healy (0-1 each).