Waterford 4-30 (42) Antrim 0-10 (10) – Giveitfong’s view

(originally posted on boards.ie)

Waterford sauntered to the easiest of victories against poor Antrim opposition in Walsh Park today. Although last night’s shock result in Limerick meant that scoring difference became irrelevant for next Sunday’s showdown with Wexford, Waterford still put up one of the highest scores and biggest winning margins ever achieved by them at senior intercounty level. Wexford have also posted big scores in their last two games, including plenty of goals, so the challenge they pose will be on a different level from anything Waterford have had to deal with in their previous three games.

On a fine but cold afternoon, Antrim had first use of the stiff breeze blowing towards the country goal, and dominated the early exchanges playing some well-drilled hurling and winning a lot of ball in the midfield area. However, once Waterford got out of second gear the tide turned against the visitors, eventually becoming a flood as the home side scored as they pleased in the second half.

Stephen Bennett, making his first competitive start for Waterford, got his team in the mood when he blasted to the Antrim net midway through the first half following good work by Colin Dunford. Earlier, a good stop by the Antrim goalie kept another Bennett rasper out. Bennett then followed up with a couple of sublime points from out on the left. At halftime Waterford were 1-13 to 0-5 ahead and, with wind assistance to come in the second half, the game was as good as over at that stage.

Waterford assumed complete control all over the pitch after the restart and did their bit to prevent the scoreboard operator from getting frostbite, as the points total rose remorselessly. A series of substitutions meant no respite for the visitors, with Maurice Shanahan in particular wreaking terrible destruction as he ran up 2-5 from play during the 20 minutes or so he spent on the pitch. Despite how easy things were going, Waterford kept up a commendable workrate, as the Antrim short-passing game repeatedly came unstuck.

In a way, it was possibly unfortunate that Waterford, for the third game in a row, did not get a decent challenge coming up to the big game in Wexford Park next week. Virtually the entire team, including substitutes, can feel at least reasonably happy with their performances, but they will know that they were never put under the kind of serious pressure. Iggy Regan got no shot to save in goal while the fullback line completely snuffed out their opposite numbers, with Noel Connors again giving a master class in the left corner.

The half back line were also in total control, with Tadhg de Búrca my man of the match at centre back. Up front, apart from Stephen Bennett’s excellent showing in the first half and Maurice Shanahan’s late blitz, Pauric Mahony landed five points from play in addition to six converted frees, while Jake Dillon also put in a hardworking shift. Colin Dunford was very effective operating in a free role in the first half, but the game seemed to pass him by when moved to left corner forward after the change of ends. By contrast, after a quiet enough first half, Brick Walsh became a dominant figure in the second half, notching what was, for him, an unusually large scoring tally of 0-3. Tom Devine also made a significant contribution when introduced.

Waterford: Iggy O’Regan; Shane Fives; Barry Coughlan; Noel Connors; Philip Mahony; Tadhg de Búrca; Kevin Moran (0-1); Jamie Barron; Martin O’Neill; Colin Dunford (0-1); Pauric Mahony (0-11, six frees); Brick Walsh (0-3); Brian O’Halloran; Jake Dillon (0-2); Stephen Bennett (1-4).

Substitutes: Shane O’Sullivan (0-1) for O’Neill; Maurice Shanahan (2-5) for O’Halloran; Paudie Prendergast (0-2) for Kevin Moran; Tom Devine (1-0) for Bennett; Shane McNulty for Connors.

Other players named in programme: Stephen O’Keeffe; Michael Kearney; Gavin O’Brien; Shane Bennett; Thomas Connors; Donie Breathnach.