(originally posted on boards.ie)
Waterford could easily have run up a tally of around 5-25 against a really poor Offaly team. The wides tally of 21 only gives a hint of the litany of errors and missed chances which pervaded the Waterford play throughout.
The biggest error of all was not realising there was a match on against real opposition starting at 3 pm. For the first 15 minutes Offaly were first to every ball and winning every contest. They forced a series of frees which were meat and drink to Shane Dooley, who accounted for 1-10 (0-8 from frees) of Offaly’s total.
Waterford were seven points to nil down before they began to shake themselves a bit, led by the superb Tadhg de Búrca at centre back. Switching Kevin Moran to left half back also helped turn the tide, with Austin Gleeson moving to midfield. Shortly afterwards he sustained what seemed to be an ankle injury and was replaced by Martin O’Neill.
Waterford took over at this stage but some terrible shooting and an excess of high ball into a rather diminutive attack kept Offaly in the game. Waterford got a great boost when Colin Dunford used his pace to cut through the Offaly defence to lay off to Shane Bennett who finished expertly to the net. They finally managed to get their nose in front by the half-time whistle, 1-7 to 0-9.
The second half was almost all one way traffic with the Waterford defence completely on top and a better supply of ball into the forwards, with some good passing movement opening up the Offaly rearguard. At least twice Waterford forwards bearing down on goal were fouled unceremoniously with no yellow cards being issued by refereee James Owens, many of whose decisions baffled or angered the sizeable Waterford support in a small attendance.
Even then, Waterford could have had a hatful of goals, but the only won they managed came 15 minutes into the half when Colin Dunford forced the ball over the line from a goalmouth melee. Waterford brought on Shane O’Sullivan, Gavin O’Brien, Stephen Bennett and Maurice Shanahan during the course of the second half. Offaly’s goal was finished off by Shane Dooley after a typical catch and surging run by Joe Bergin (who otherwise was ineffectual).
I was surprised Derek McGrath left Pauric Mahony on the pitch for most of the game, given his Fitzgibbon Cup commitments and the fact that he was having little effect and missed numerous frees. While it was great to see Maurice Shanahan back on the pitch, he was only given a few minutes towards the end, when he could readily have relieved Mahony of his duties at a much earlier stage. Similarly, one wonders why Shane O’Sullivan (for example) was not brought on instead of Martin O’Neill when Austin Gleeson was injured early on, although it must be said that O’Neill put in a good shift.
One might have thought that Waterford’s Fitzibbon Cup contingent could have been held in reserve, given the quality of the Waterford bench which, apart from those already named, also included Shane McNulty, Paudie Prendergast and Donie Breathnach. Giving some of these players a start might also have countered the team’s slow, lethargic, start.
Colin Dunford wore the No. 26 jersey which was allocated to Maurice Shanahan in the programme, which explains the Midland Radio commentator’s confusion (although the guy on the public address did point this out before the game). Maurice wore the no. 23 jersey which was allocated to Thomas Connors in the programme. While Brick Walsh wore No. 14, at no stage of the game did he play at full forward, although he did miss a sitter of a goal chance in the second half (as did Jake Dillon).
Waterford’s best players were in defence, where Noel Connors gave a master class in corner back play and Tadhg de Búrca was also excellent, especially in the first half. Shane Fives had a terrific second half. Kevin Moran hit a lot of ball, but as often as not it went straight to an unmarked Offaly player.
It was great to see Colin Dunford back in the colours, and with 1-2 from play and the assist for the other goal, he was Waterford’s best forward. Jake Dillon worked very hard and notched three points. Shane Bennett was well policed by his marker in the first half (notwithstanding his goal) but was much more effective with a better supply after the change of ends.
Waterford: Stephen O’Keeffe; Shane Fives (0-1); Barry Coughlan; Noel Connors; Philip Mahony; Tadhg de Búrca; Austin Gleeson (0-1); Jamie Barron; Kevin Moran; Colin Dunford (1-2); Pauric Mahony (0-7, 6 frees); Brick Walsh (0-1); Brian O’Halloran (0-1); Jake Dillon (0-3); Shane Bennett (1-1).
Substitutes: Martin O’Neill (0-1) for Gleeson; Shane O’Sullivan for Barron; Gavin O’Brien for Dunford; Stephen Bennett for O’Halloran; Maurice Shanahan for Pauric Mahony.
Other players listed: Iggy O’Regan; Shane McNulty; Paudie Prendergast; Thomas Connors; Donie Breathnach; Tom Devine; Mikey Kearney.