(originally posted on boards.ie)
Missed goal chances, the concession of silly frees and various other unforced errors cost Waterford what would have been a famous, and deserved, victory over prematch favourites Tipperary in tonight’s Munster minor hurling championship game in Thurles. If you were told before the game that the starting Tipperary forwards would manage just a single goal from general play between them, and that their overall total from play would be 1-3, you would surely have expected Waterford to win this game.
And, in truth, they should have won comfortably. While Tipp had their moments, Waterford were the better team here and were a credit to their mentors who had their charges well prepared, well drilled, well focused and on top from the word go. They led for most of the first half, fell behind to a fortunate Tipp goal just on half time, went ahead again immediately after the restart, were still ahead after 50 minutes and had enough possession in the closing stages to close the game out.
That Waterford failed to win can be put down mainly to their failure to convert four clear goal-scoring chances and the needless concession of frees in scorable positions which were routinely punished by Tipp sharpshooter Daragh Cary who nailed eight in all, assisted by centre back Brian McGrath who converted two 65s and one long-range free.
Even the late converted 65 which gave Tipperary victory in the end was a result of an unforced error in the Waterford defence. Corner back Darragh McGrath, under pressure, passed the ball back to unmarked full back Conor Prunty. However, Prunty (who otherwise had an excellent game) failed to control the ball which allowed the Tipp forwards to surge in on goal. Some desperate defence managed to keep them out, but the ball was deflected out for the converted 65 which gave the home side the narrowest of victories.
On a beautiful evening, before an official attendance of 2,821, Waterford quickly got into their stride, driven on by captain Darragh Lyons who lined out at centre back. They had their first missed goal chance after just two minutes, when a poorly struck shot from the edge of the square was hit straight at the goalie. They were having some problems against a strong Tipperary half back line who were very good in the air, but with their own defence dominating proceedings, they were getting enough ball into the inside line to force Tipperary into conceding frees which were unerringly converted by full forward Jack Prendergast. Meanwhile in the right corner Aaron O’Sullivan was having a dream game, nailing four points from play by half time, with Glenn Waters in the other corner also landing a lovely score.
Another goal chance went abegging in the 12th minute when Waterford got the ball into the Tipperary square but no one could get the vital touch to send it over the line. One of O’Sullivan’s points should also have been a goal, as he drove the ball inches over the crossbar from point blank range in the 28th minute. That would have put Waterford four points ahead and really in the driving seat coming up to half time. They were to rue these misses when, as often happens in these situations, Tipperary managed to find the net with their first goal-scoring attempt one minute later. After a shot had been blocked out to the left, the ball was returned to the Waterford goalmouth where a defender crucially failed to keep possession and in the ensuing melee, which looked like an old-fashioned rugby foot rush, the ball was eventually forced over the line leaving Tipp ahead, 1-7 to 0-9, at the interval.
Two quick points after the restart put Waterford back in the lead and, with their defence continuing to do well, they reached the 50th minute still ahead, 0-14 to 1-10. However, they were unable to extend their lead beyond the bare minimum. JP Lucey, with an easy tap-over point at his disposal, decided to take on the Tipp defence looking for a goal and was eventually forced out over the end line and I think it was the same player who, some minutes later, missed the fourth goal chance when his point blank shot was stopped on the line when he should have done better. If either of these chances had been converted, I reckon there would have been a different result to the game.
Tipp eventually drew level before going ahead with the aforementioned 65. The referee played four minutes of added time which gave Waterford ample opportunity to get the equaliser. However, nothing went right (or was done right) in those four minutes. Peter Hogan’s hurried shot went wide of the post. Darragh Lyons, running onto a lateral pass in midfield, failed to control the ball and was then adjudged to have handled it on the ground. Substitute Eoghan Murray, attempting to round his man on the right, was forced out over the sideline.
Big-hitting goalkeeper Billy Nolan, instead of letting the ball down the field, attempted to find Darragh Lyons out on the right but overhit his puck. Then, in the dying moments, Conor Prunty did well to gain possession and pass the ball out to Jordan Henley. However, instead of driving the ball up to the forwards, inexplicably he attempted a lateral pass to Darragh Lyons which again was overhit and went out over the sideline. The ensuing sideline was followed by the final whistle.
Apart from conceding unnecessary frees, the Waterford defence gave an excellent account of themselves. Apart from the scrambled goal, they conceded just two points to the opposing forwards, both scored by substitute Lyndon Fairbrother shortly after he was introduced late in the first half. However, the defence quickly got to grips with this new threat and little was seen of him afterwards. Tipp’s only other score from play was landed by midfielder Liam McCutcheon.
I thought that, apart from his late error, Conor Prunty did very well at full back, using his height and reach to repeatedly bat away high incoming ball. Darragh Lyons played some marvellous hurling at centre back, but was in trouble in the air against his marker. However, this threat was well countered by the judicious switch of Jordan Henley to the centre after half time.
Calum Lyons did well at midfield and notched two excellent points. However, his partner, JP Lucey, never got into the game and, having been moved to the forwards, was eventually substituted after his two second-half misses. The Achilles heel of the Waterford team was the half forward line, which always struggled against strong opponents who were very good in the air. Andy Molumby did some good work, but Peter Hogan made no impression and, while Eddie Meaney looked threatening when he did get possession, his lack of physicality and failure to compete for ball were key problems throughout.
In the full forward line, Aaron O’Sullivan failed to repeat his first-half heroics after the change of ends (due, in no small part, to a reduced supply of good ball). While unerring from frees (he scored six in all, some from difficult angles), Jack Prendergast was unable to contribute further from general play, while Glenn Waters’s impact was also limited. Ballyduff Lower’s John Kennedy, who missed this game due to injury, should certainly be able to strengthen the forward division if he is fit for the next game. This will be away to Limerick on May 6 and, with the latter shipping a heavy defeat in Cork tonight, Waterford must have a good chance of qualifying for the semi-final which would be in Walsh Park against Cork, as far as I am aware.
Waterford: Billy Nolan (Roanmore); Darragh Lynch (Passage); Conor Prunty (Abbeyside); Darragh McGrath (Abbeyside); Jordan Henley (Tallow); Darragh Lyons (Dungarvan, 0-1 from free); Cormac Dunphy (Ballyduff Lower); Calum Lyons (Ballyduff Lower, 0-2); JP Lucey (Shamrocks); Peter Hogan (Ballygunner); Andy Molumby (Cappoquin, 0-1); Eddie Meaney (De La Salle, 0-1); Aaron O’Sullivan (Cappoquin, 0-4); Jack Prendergast (Lismore, 0-6, all frees); Glenn Waters (Dungarvan, 0-1). Substitutes used: Michael Roche (De La Salle); Eoghan Murray (Cappoquin).
Other substitutes listed: Donagh Looby (Ballinameela); David Cullinane (Ballygunner); Jake Beecher (Tallow); Cárthach Barry (Brickey Rangers); Mikey Daykin (Mount Sion); Mark Mullally (Ballygunner); Andrew Casey (Ballyduff Upper).