(originally posted on boards.ie)
The essential fact from tonight’s Munster minor hurling qualifier in Thurles is that, after a jittery first 20 minutes, Limerick were by far the better team, bigger and stronger, better drilled and technically superior to a struggling Déise outfit.
And yet Waterford will look ruefully to their 13 wides (six in the first half, seven in the second) compared with just five for Limerick (one in the second half when the accuracy of their shooting was outstanding). Some of Waterford’s wides were really bad, including two handy enough frees missed by the usually reliable Jack Prendergast (although none was as bad as Peter Casey’s missed 20 metre free for Limerick from straight in front of the goal in the early minutes).
Apart from the wides, Waterford also passed up several scoring opportunities when forwards, coming through on goal with handy tap-over points available, attempted instead to pass inside to team mates. In all three cases where this occurred, the attempted pass was cut out by the Limerick defence.
A feature of this game was the five points from long distance frees (including two 65s) by Limerick goalie and captain Eoghan McNamara. By contrast, Waterford’s goalkeeper Billy Nolan (who otherwise was Waterford’s man of the match) struck two long range frees wide, one in each half.
Limerick started quite well but missed several early chances (including a couple of goal chances). By contrast, the Waterford forwards showed great accuracy with the balls coming their way, and led 0-5 to 0-2 after 15 minutes with some super scores. Waterford at this stage enjoyed their only period of dominance in the game, with Limerick looking very nervous and playing poorly.
However, Waterford’s early accuracy suddenly deserted them, and they struck four bad wides in a row. Yet they then struck what we hoped would be a decisive blow when corner forward Aaron O’Sullivan made a great catch out on the right and cut through on goal. Although the Limerick goalie stopped his first shot, he calmly collected the rebound and slotted to the net, giving Waterford a lead of 1-6 to 0-3 after 21 minutes.
Any hopes that Waterford would drive on from this fillip were dashed, however, as Limerick raised their game considerably to reduce the deficit to just three points, 1-7 to 0-7, by the interval.
Limerick took control of the game after the restart, with Waterford struggling to get decent possession in midfield and in their half forward line. As the game progressed and the scores began to flow (especially from Eoghan McNamara’s impressive freetaking) Limerick’s confidence grew, while Waterford’s went in the opposite direction. Poor striking and decisionmaking undermined confidence, leading to even poorer striking and decisionmaking. They went 18 minutes before Jack Prendergast finally got them on the second half scoreboard with a free, only to be followed by the same player’s dispiriting aforementioned misses in the 22nd and 24th minute.
He was not the only one. Midfielder JP Lucey had an awful miss from in front of the goal and their last chance of getting back into the game went abegging when Eddie Meaney seized on a mistake by a Limerick defender to bring the ball in along the end line, but instead of using his size and pace to take on the goalie, he opted for a shot from an angle which was easily blocked out.
Referee Philip Kelly of Tipperary didn’t help matters with a truly appalling decision to award Limerick an easy free when one of their forwards took an obvious dive, while ignoring two blatant fouls on different Waterford players immediately beforehand. The resultant free put Limerick four points in front and in the clear for the first time.
In the closing minutes, Waterford substitute Mikey Daykin got clean through and was just about to shoot from point blank range when the referee called play back for a free. There is supposed to be an advantage rule but it certainly was not applied in this case, as Billy Nolan’s follow-up free flew inches over the bar. However, a goal at that stage would have made no difference to the end result.
With Waterford unable to get decent possession in the midfield area, and with the game not yet out of reach, I thought the selectors might have brought Billy Nolan out of goal in the closing quarter to try to change things around. In addition, Conor Prunty, another potential ballwinner, spent most of the game at corner back marking Limerick danger man Peter Casey, and should also have been moved further outfield in the later stages of the game, in my view.
Waterford were able to stay in touch due to Limerick’s inability to score goals. While they could have done better with some of the many opportunities they created, credit is due both to goalkeeper Billy Nolan who made several good stops and clearances, and to a beleagured defence which stuck at its task despite being under intense pressure for much of the match. Captain Darragh Lyons did as much as he could around the midfield area. Andy Molumby started well at centre forward but faded out as the Waterford front line became toothless after the change of ends.
Waterford: Billy Nolan (Roanmore, 0-1 free); Darragh Lynch (Passage); Conor Prunty (Abbeyside); Darragh McGrath (Abbeyside); Jordan Henley (Tallow); Darragh Lyons (Dungarvan); Cormac Dunphy (Ballyduff Lower); Calum Lyons (Ballyduff Lower, 0-1); JP Lucey (Shamrocks); Glenn Waters (Dungarvan (0-1); Andy Molumby (Cappoquin, 0-2); Eddie Meaney (De La Salle); Aaron O’Sullivan (Cappoquin, 1-0); Jack Prendergast (Lismore, 0-3, 2 frees); Peter Hogan (Ballygunner, 0-1).
Substitutes: Jake Beecher (Tallow) for McGrath (37 mins); Mikey Daykin (Mount Sion, 0-1, free) for Waters (45 mins); John Kennedy (Ballyduff Lower) for Lucey (48 mins).