Tag Archives: Fraher Field

And never the twain shall meet

This week saw another abortive effort on the part of the County Board to stick their snouts into the Munster championship trough. About the best that can be said is that there is no direct sense of humiliation from the negative response, something that couldn’t be said the last time they tried it. Decision made, move on.

Ah, but where would be the fun in moving on? The situation contains much that is worth pondering, and a useful hook from which to start the pondering is this tweet from Brian Flannery:

In itself, it sounds right. The folly of splitting money for development of the two venues was surely demonstrated during the summer when poor light meant the Minor match against Tipperary came perilously close to being abandoned, and certainly would have been had it gone into extra-time. Meanwhile there was a venue twenty-something miles down the road with floodlights. The penny (pinching) had dropped when the venue for the match against Clare had been chosen, and presumably it’ll be quietly factored in for future evening throw-ins in Waterford, but the kind of farce we can do without after the Rhythm Fest debacle was avoided more by chance than design, and all because the Waterford County Board can’t decide on a primary venue for the county.

In fairness, there’s not much they can do about the attitude of the Munster Council. I can’t find any specific reason why the request to stage the Cork game in Walsh Park was turned down, although the RTÉ report above hints at capacity issues. Given our opening games in the Championship for the last two years against Clare have drawn crowds barely over 12,000 they are obviously putting a lot of faith in the idea that the Cork game next May will be what Hoganstand.com hilariously calls a “glamour tie“. There’s no way either of our venues will be brought up to the capacity that the Munster Council seems to think is typical of a Munster Championship match. Until that notional anticipated attendance changes, one that is currently more a reflection of their belief in the grandeur of the competition rather than the objective trend in these backdoor days, we can forget about having Munster games in Waterford. Unless Kerry return to the hustings. something that’ll only happen if they think they have a chance of beating us so we could probably cope without that.

However, that doesn’t mean that there’s no need for Brian Flannery’s 20,000 capacity venue in the county. Even a 10,000 capacity ground would be a worthwhile goal if it had one covered stand capable of keeping the rain off 3,000 people (without them having to huddle in the aisles) and three banks of stepped terraces around the other sides. The improvements to Walsh Park don’t come anywhere close to this level, so it’s still an open question as to which of the two venues would be best. A convincing case can be made for either ground. Walsh Park is closest to the largest section of the population while Fraher Field is at the geographical heart. Walsh Park is currently closer to an acceptable standard while Fraher Field has more scope for improvement – I can see issues with building a fully covered stand backing on the road in Walsh Park while there is space in Fraher for demolishing and starting again. What is required here is leadership. Someone to take a decision based on the merits of one or the other and give us something that we can all row in behind.

And this is where it gets depressing. Following comments around the web, it seems clear that there is an East v West divide on this issue. Any decision will be seen as a conspiracy from those lot on the other side of the county to drag us all the way to Waterford/Dungarvan. This is insane. No one is suggesting driving salt into ground at the venue that is not selected to be the primary one in the county, just that the lion’s share of any budget go to one venue while the other is maintained to its current standard. If it’s really impossible to choose because the factors governing which ground suits our collective best is so finely balanced, then toss a bloody coin! Just make a decision and stick with it rather than have this continuing malaise. But I fear that making the decision based on something as objective as that would not disguise the underlying problem – that there really is an East v West divide that doesn’t just affect the Walsh Park v Fraher Field debate but affects everything and, as a consequence, inhibits everything as decisions are made to ensure neither nose is put out of joint rather than what is better for the collective county. All these years I thought I was following Waterford. Turns out I was following Belgium all along.


It was gratifying to see there was a modest spike in hits yesterday evening as people came looking for information on the postponement of the Waterford-Clare Minor match in Dungarvan. Or maybe they were looking for a cure for insomnia. Either way, I wasn’t at the game so can’t give any peculiar insight. I spoke to a work colleague this morning who goes to all the games and usually gets there in plenty of time for a good seat. As it happened, she was delayed by the stop-go system just before the junction for the Military Road which meant she arrived at the entrance to Fraher Field at 6.35pm as they were taking down those ratty signs with the price. It came as no surprise to hear that the evil weather in Tramore (see above) was replicated 25 miles down the coast so nobody was complaining that the match was called off. The only surprise was that took so long for the penny to drop, which meant some patrons – is the GAA the only sporting organisation to use this figure of speech for supporters? – had already paid to gain access and have now lost their money.

Should they have called the game off earlier to avoid this fiasco? Yes. Could they have done anything to repay these ‘patrons’? No, or at least not given the fact that none of the patrons would be able to produce a ticket. You could argue, as several contributors on the subject on boards.ie have done, that a receipt of some description should be given on entry to the ground. But this strikes me as being an unnecessary level of complication to the match-going process. People want to get in and get out for matches like the one last night, and if someone were to propose lengthening that process by even a handful of seconds in preparation for the rare event that is a match being postponed after the gates have opened, you can be sure people would vote on that proposal with words of the blue variety. This is galling for those who paid to gain admittance. Even if you get to the rescheduled game there’ll be a kernel of grievance that everyone else is getting in for free. But the fact that no-one in the Munster Council didn’t see anything worthy of concern about 100km per hour winds doesn’t mean the GAA must now introduce an extra layer of bureaucracy to the match-going experience.

As an aside, the rescheduled game will give us the results to an experiment I’ve being dying to stage. You always hear complaints about the price of every GAA match, and underage games at €10 a pop are no exception. I’ve said in the past that prices are too high because it is too great a burden on the regular matchgoer who is meant to at the at the heart of the Association (along with everyone else), but that no-one should expect a boost in attendances. I expect that there will be a bigger crowd at the rescheduled game, but not so large as to demonstrate that there is a hunger for hurling that would be sated if only it were much better value. And you can’t say there’s better value than free. Speaking of which, I’m going to commence charging for this blog. Cures for insomnia don’t come cheap.

Waterford 0-15 (15) Cork 1-12 (15) – Giveitfong’s view

(originally posted by Giveitfong on boards.ie)

Given the amount of rain that fell all day Saturday and Sunday morning I thought Fraher Field was in remarkably good condition last Sunday. I don’t think Walsh Park would have been playable in the same circumstances. Given the conditions I thought it wa a very good game with a lot of good hurling.

On the overall balance of play Waterford should have won by three or four points. Contrary to what the Cork Examiner suggested, Waterford’s first half domination wasn’t due only to having the wind at their backs. They were working harder and winning the contests all over the field, but made poor use of their possession. They hit seven wides in the first half while Cork hit just three in the second. They also created numerous situations where a goal was on but never materialised for a variety of reasons including bad decision-making, poor attempted passes, good defending and plain bad luck. I think if Waterford had managed a goal in the first half the road back for Cork would have been too steep.

The early second half goal gave Cork a great boost and they did show the strong spirit that Jimmy Barry Murphy has instilled in the side. They also threw in their marquee subs including William Egan, Conor Lehane and Luke O’Farrell.

At the same time, Paudie Mahony’s missed close-in free was a shocker, while at the other end Waterford gifted Cork two points. The first was when Kevin Moran (I think) tried to hit a short sideline to a Waterford player who wasn’t expecting it and Conor Lehane nipped in to score. The second was when Stephen O’Keeffe made the crazy decision to pull on a ball which came into the square and sent it straight to a Cork player and we were lucky to get away with a 65 which Pat Horgan pointed.

This was one of two blunders which O’Keeffe made, the other being when he had plenty of time to clear his lines but opted to take the ball out along the end line where he lost possession and was lucky to see the ball going over the end line from a Cork player. This followed his blunder against Clare where his over-the-shoulder attempted handpass across his own goal almost presented Clare with a goal. I would be very worried about this tendency being shown by O’Keeffe to make poor decisions.

Waterford were also a bit unlucky not to score a goal during their late siege of the Cork goal.

Nevertheless, the great heart and fighting spirit shown by Waterford in the last two games has been heartening, as has been their ability to create openings through good passing movements. They also finished both games strongly which is a big change from last year.

I thought Liam Lawlor had an excellent game at full back last Sunday. I equally thought that Jamie Nagle was a weak link at wing back in the second half. He is unable to win ball in tight situations, or to drive out with the ball when he does have it, and he repeatedly gave Cork possession with poorly directed clearances. After a nervy start when he came on, I thought Paudie Prendergast did very well in the second half. Shane Walsh clearly lacked match fitness which cost us a couple of scores.

Jamie Barron was very impressive when he came on. His first touch was excellent and for such a young player he showed maturity in seeking to find fellow players with passes. Maurice Shanahan also looked sharp when he came on. Seamus Prendergast was marvellous while Brick Walsh and Shane O’Sullivan should also be acknowledged for their major contributions.

With Maurice, Shane Walsh and Paudie Mahony back to full fitness, Waterford’s ball-winning capacity and scoring potential up front should be greatly enhanced. If we can get Noel Connors and Dara Fives back to full fitness this will greatly strengthen our defensive options. Things are looking much brighter than we might have hoped at the beginning of the year. By the way, what is the story with Eoin Madigan, of whom I have been expecting great things, and David O’Sullivan? I believe that Richie Foley is out for up to four months with a groin injury.

Waterford 0-15 (15) Cork 1-12 (15)

11 Waterford v Cork 10 March 2013 Cover

Merciful seventy minutes. The next time that a discussion about the future of the League and someone advocates introducing the group format to the Championship, abolishing the League in the process, I’ll be quick to refer to this game. The conditions were pure evil – it began snowing near the end! – and to the business end of the season, either at club or inter-county level, would be folly. As I said a few weeks back, if you abolished the League you’d just have to replace it with something else, so why not leave it as it is?

And today’s game was not without its rewards, even if it was so cold that I only took a few photos and couldn’t take any notes, rammed as my hands were into my trouser pockets for all but the first few minutes. I’ve heard it said that in conditions like this you’re as well off running around on the pitch as you are watching the game. I’m dubious. No one in the stand or on the terraces was clad only in a couple of pieces of polyester and a pair of socks rolled down around their ankles. Still, there might be something in it as the teams gave us a keen contest, well refereed by Alan Kelly. Yes, you read that right. Some people were giving out stink about him in the second half, but he was consistent throughout the game in playing advantage and his signalling that he wouldn’t be awarding frees was a novel innovation that meant you knew exactly where you stood at all times. Well, most of the time.

In conditions like today, what do hurling teams do when they win the toss? Something is tickling at the back of my mind that says the convention is that you play against the wind, but I have a firmer recollection of a Q&A with Ian Rush many years ago where he said that a captain should choose to play with it as is likely to change. Waterford had the wind in the first half and after a slow start began to make the wind count. It was difficult to tell who was who from where I stood but there were some good scores and you didn’t need to see the individuals to pick out an overall strategy. The players were clearly given instructions to a) make space for a pass, and b) be aware of the position of your team-mates around you. I’m a firm believer in letting the ball in at the first opportunity, but today was not the day for giving it a lash. One farcical moment in the first half saw everyone retreat about thirty metres for a Cork free in only to have to then slog their way forward by a similar distance when the ball dropped well short of its normal distance. With Waterford keeping it tight and steadily tacking on points, the last score of the half when a free from Stephen O’Keeffe dropped over the bar, it was looking good for us.

Such optimism was predicated on the conditions gumming up even more thus helping to keep the game low scoring. And while the pitch got progressively worse the wind also whipped up in speed to an alarming degree. What does that Ian Rush clown know? The idea of keeping it low scoring wasn’t helped early on either when a sideline ball broke kindly to Stephen Moylan and he drilled the ball to the net. Cork had taken one second to do what Waterford had averaged about every twelve minutes in the first half. Damn you, green flags! While Waterford stuck doggedly to their game plan it was now Cork who were tacking on points with Pa Cronin in the middle of the field regularly popping up like an extra man to ram the ball back down our throat.

When Paidi Mahony pushed a simple free wide leaving a sustained period of pressure without any reward, and then Cork scored a free to cut the gap to one moment later, it was hard to see Waterford hanging on. A goal bound shot was deflected out for a 65 which was as good as a 45 in the conditions and was duly knocked over to level matters. They only took the lead with four minutes to go and when they stretched the lead to two, that looked like that.

Cork though failed to put the boot in. Maurice Shanahan had come on at some stage, looking resplendent in his Daz whites amidst all the mud-splattered bodies, and he nearly conjured up a winning goal right at the death. Putting the head down he strode through the defence (in so far as one could ever do that on this pitch) and popped the ball into Brian O’Sullivan who had to pivot and could only blaze it over the bar. That looked like that. Except it wasn’t as Waterford came again and had not one, not two, but THREE shots at Anthony Nash to win the game. Neither of those chances was probably a gimme or as brilliant a save as it looked at the time, but in the context of a tight, low-scoring game it created a feeling of paranoid hysteria that we weren’t going to get any luck. Thankfully Jamie Barron didn’t give up on the third effort and his cross ball found Seamus Prendergast to fire the ball over the bar and save the point.

I’m sorry for the scattergun nature of all of the above. It was so bitterly cold that I decided it would be better to leave it to the pros. I don’t want to be stealing their thunder, they have enough woes as it is. If you want to take one thing from the game, let it be this: it was very encouraging from Waterford. They kept their cool and maintained their shape throughout seventy punishing minutes. With Clare winning today, the result last time out looks even better. We’re already three points better off than I was expecting from the whole League campaign. What’s there not to like?

Waterford: Stephen O’Keeffe (0-1) Shane Fives, Liam Lawlor, Stephen Daniels, Jamie Nagle, Michael Walsh, Kevin Moran (capt), Shane O’Sullivan (0-1), Darragh Fives (Paudie Prendergast), Brian O’Halloran (0-3, Maurice Shanahan), Seamus Prendergast (0-3), Jake Dillon, Brian O’Sullivan (0-2; Ray Barry), Shane Walsh (Jamie Barron), Paidi Mahony (0-6f).

Cork: Anthony Nash, Shane O’Neill, Stephen McDonnell (William Egan), Conor O’Sullivan, Stephen White, Lorcan McLoughlin (Tom Kenny), Christopher Joyce, Pa Cronin, Daniel Kearney (Michael Walsh), Cian McCarthy (0-1), Paudie O’Sullivan (Luke O’Farrell), Seamus Harnedy (Conor Lehane, 0-1), Stephen Moylan (1-1), Peter O’Brien (0-1), Patrick Horgan (0-8, 5f, 1’65).

HT: Waterford 0-10 Cork 0-2

Referee: Alan Kelly (Galway)

Waterford 0-17 Dublin 0-13

The creators of the American football website, Cold Hard Football Facts.com, predicate their amusing and offensive website on a notion called Quality Standings. A team’s chances of victory are based not on their record overall but on their record against teams with winning records. This would work very well in the GAA if we had larger divisions or a Division 1 split into two parts of equal quality. The wheat of beating Kilkenny could be sorted from the chaff of beating Kerry (no offense).

But how different would Waterford’s season have been had we had to meet Dublin earlier on in the year? Dublin’s point difference from their last three games was -2. Waterford’s was -17. Yet we had two points and they had only one, and having speculated before the game that Dublin would not phone in their performance for fear of players taking a hurley to a sensitive area because they weren’t getting stuck in. What I didn’t anticipate – talk about phoning in a preview – was Dublin making wholesale changes to the team. Knowing they couldn’t make any difference to their playoff fate today, why bother putting out a truly top quality team when you could blood a few youngsters?

And speaking of youngsters, you know how you always seem to end up at Championship matches sitting near the fattest, loudest, most obnoxious member of the other tribe? You can usually avoid it at home League matches because the opposition are so thinly represented. But today I realised something was wrong as soon as the clutch of juveniles in the rows in front of me roared for David Treacy’s name. They were from Cualla, you see. Betcha he’d have a stormer of a day.

Waterford once again lined out as per the programme, which once again was refreshing to see. They opened the scoring as Gavin O’Brien juggled a sideline cut and managed to get it to Maurice Shanahan to score. It would say much about O’Brien’s first half that his control here would be the least remarkable thing he would do. A soft free allowed David Treacy to level matters, and it said much about his day that this would be as good as it would get for him. It looked ominous when Niall McMorrow skinned Philip Mahony but his effort was hurried and drifted wide. Brother Paudi had an inauspicious moment of his own when a swift drive through the centre from Waterford gave him a clean shot at goal but he also put it wide. It was a low octane start from both sides, and it took a super catch by Kevin Moran to fire the crowd up. He was fouled and Mahony had a chance to put Waterford back in front. Deep breath – the memories of the Kilkenny match when he had an utter ‘mare are still vivid. But over it went and you could unclench your buttocks a little.

It had been a sluggish beginning for both teams. Everyone seemed to have loads of space yet not be able to do anything with it. So who better to step into such a breach than Tony Browne – ‘Brown’ according to the programme; sheesh – as he stepped on to pass from Shanahan and whipped it over the bar. His effervescence stood in marked contrast to everyone on the Dublin team. In each of their next two attacks the Dublin forward would shoot on the first sight of goal, the kind of nonsense that Anthony Daly must have thought h had eliminated from their play. Waterford now showed them how it was done, Shanahan barging his way out of the crowed then finding O’Brien in space for a score, then Shane Walsh did it all on his own, a fine catch and drive into space to stretch the lead to four.

Even an uber-fatalist like myself could see Dublin were in trouble. When John Mullane earned a free purely on reputation, running into the Dublin back who had nowhere else to go, Mahony’s free dropped disappointingly short and even Shane Walsh couldn’t wriggle his way through. But the clearance was hit to Maurice Shanahan who could have tied his laces before sending the ball back over the bar, so lacklustre was Dublin’s attempt to charge him down. When Dublin did get a chance, Johnny McCaffrey breaking through the middle, the pass went behind the forward and Waterford quickly pounced on the breakdown, Mullane moving into space as only he can then putting O’Brien in space for another fine score. Waterford had gone six points while barely breaking a sweat, and had Walsh been given better support after a great catch on the edge of the score we could have had the first goal, but he had nowhere to go and a free-out followed. Still, with news coming through that Kilkenny were on their way to another cricket score against Galway the vibes were all good.

Eamon Dillon tried to revive Dublin’s fortunes, a good point when he might have put his head down and gone for a goal and a fine point from distance taking the bare look off the scoreboard for them. But in between they gave away a cheap score when O”Brien was chopped down and Mahony did the necessary, and Dublin continued to shot on sight, David Treacy being the culprit this time. Then came the moment of the match – remember, this was a game with no goals or great shot-stopping. A huge clearance from Tony Browne was flicked out of the air by O’Brien and slotted over the bar in one smooth movement. He wasn’t put under much pressure, but it was gloriously precocious and with two points already under his belt it was heady stuff. Treacy added a point after being fouled but it was their last score of the half. Waterford tails were clearly up as they were now harassing every Dublin player and the ball and driving the ball into the corners at every opportunity. It’s easy to do it right when you have the space. Shanahan and Mullane managed to get a two-on-one at one point and when Shanahan passed to Mullane you would have thought it was to go for goal but Mullane took his point. It says it all about how things were panning out that I was disappointed the lead was now a mere six.

There was some loose play born of overeagerness, but you could forgive that as Waterford generally kept their cool while Dublin occasionally lost theirs, a crude chop on O’Brien allowing Mahony to score another free. It really was O’Brien’s half as he intercepted a clearance and drilled the bar straight back over to the delight of everyone in white in the crowd. Dublin had a few attacks in the last finve minutes but each time were either hustled out of play or hit an awful wide that would have had Daly tearing his figurative hair out. At half-time there could only be one winner. The question had to be how many we’d win by.

The second half started in much the same fashion as the first, Treacy hitting a shocking wide and Kevin Moran given the freedom of the park to stretch Waterford’s lead. This was too easy, and I seriously thought that Stephen Daniels had come on Liam Lawlor to ‘give him a run’. It transpired that Lawlor was injured (uh oh) but Waterford were so effortlessly on top that it seemed plausible. Mullane was now in full bouncing-the-ball mode although his shot lacked oomph and was plucked out from under the bar by Gary Maguire. With Eoin McGrath playing  a lackadaisical to Mahony when it looked easier to keep going the casual play was getting a bit irritating, and with Dublin having made a clutch of changes they began to fight back. David O’Callaghan – I don’t call our guy ‘Brick’ so I’m not going to call their guy ‘Dotsy’ – pegged over a point after the Waterford backs had pushed Dublin out then Ross O’Carroll, one of the subs, scored a cracking point from a narrow angle, Adrian Power having to keep on the ball all the way as it threatened to drop under the bar. Dublin had gotten half their first half score in eight minutes. They couldn’t . . . could they?

Certainly the eager Waterford of the second quarter was gone as the ball was flapped around the pitch to no great effect. Another Treacy free trimmed the lead back to six and he really should have cut it back even more but hit another free badly wide. A fantastic long-range free from Ryan O’Dwyer led to a few more nibbled fingernail, but I can honestly say my overriding thought was that Waterford still had enough in the tank. A careless foul on Maurice Shanahan allowed him to steady the nerves – Stephen Molumphy on for Pauric Mahony at this stage – and when O’Dwyer missed a simple chance you could relax still further. Dublin simply weren’t going to be able to put together enough of a run to overhaul us.

The game had gone completely off the boil, typified midway through the half when Dean Curran was sent off for a second yellow card yet no-one even seemed notice. Dublin could feel aggrieved when Eamon Dillon got absolutely clobbered as he went through the middle. It did look ‘accidental’ but the force of the coming-together was what an ice hockey official might all unnecessary roughness and yet Diarmuid Kirwan was unmoved. The Cualla choir in front of me certainly thought so, chanting that “the referee’s a bastard”. Kids today. Don’t they know the chant is “the referee’s a wanker”? That was about as physical as the game would get (another reason Curran could feel aggrieved) and Dublin were now seeing lots of ball. They managed two scores to cut the gap to a mere four, the second happening when even Michael Walsh found himself overwhelmed and Dublin were able to take the point.

I’m not saying this just with the benefit of hindsight – you still felt Waterford would get enough scores to close this out, especially as Dublin were getting nowhere near our goal. Dean Twomey, who had looked out of his depth in paddling-pool waters of the Waterford Crystal Cup, now came into his own, stiffening Waterford’s resolve with several fine forays forward, one of which gave Mullane to room to stretch the lead to five. He then put Eoin Kelly, on as a sub for Eoin McGrath who didn’t demonstrate that he could turn the clock back with an era of Gavin O’Brien and Martin O’Neill in the offing, into space to score from a very narrow angle.

The clock was running inexorably down on Dublin and pride can only take you through so many flailing timbers. Another wide from Dublin led An Fear Ciuin ar mo dhéis to observe that Dublin had now hit 17 of the things. It is as inevitable as the tides that Dublin will come to dominate hurling, but this was a sobering reminder for them that the bad old days are not entirely eradicated. Shanahan put Waterford seven clear with a free after O’Neill had been around the neck and the game was now well safe – Dublin were not going to get three goals.

There was time for three scores all right, the first a spectacular effort from Danny Sutcliffe where he sprinted all the way from his own half and struck it over the bar on the run. The second was definitely definitely definitely their last chance, O’Carroll’s effort on goal from a free always rising as a Waterford back flicked it over the bar. The ref chose to ignore chose to ignore a litany of fouls before finally awarding one which was tapped over. A great catch by Aidan Kearney – today, I learned his nickname was ‘Ringo’ – ended the game and the great(ish) escape had been accomplished.

Before the game, I had thought that any Waterford win would show that we had moved on from the insipidness of those first three games. Now I’m not so sure. As against Kilkenny we had a stirring second quarter where Waterford displayed some verve and purpose. There were the predictably good performances from Browne, Walsh and Walsh, and a not-so-expected good performance from Twomey. Then there was Gavin O’Brien. Four points from play, each score better than the last. So much to be pleased about – except Dublin were utterly awful. You couldn’t read anything into this, and now we have ten weeks to twiddle our thumbs. Still, we stayed up. Given the improbability of that less than a fortnight ago, survival will do. Them’s the cold hard hurling facts.

Waterford: Adrian Power, Aidan Kearney, Liam Lawlor (Stephen Daniels), Philip Mahony, Tony Browne (0-1), Michael Walsh (capt), Shane O’Sullivan, Kevin Moran (0-1), Dean Twomey (David O’Sullivan), Maurice Shanahan (0-4, 0-2f), Pauric Mahony (0-4f; Stephen Molumphy), Eoin McGrath (Martin O’Neill), John Mullane (0-2), Shane Walsh (0-1; Eoin Kelly), Gavin O’Brien (0-4)

Dublin: Gary Maguire, Ruairi Trainor, Niall Corcoran, Oisin Gough, Dean Curran, Martin Quilty, Johnny McCaffrey (0-1), David Curtin (Danny Sutcliffe, 0-1), Simon Lambert (Conor Clinton), David Treacy (0-3f), Maurice O’Brien, Ryan O’Dwyer (0-1f), David O’Callaghan (capt, 0-1; Ross O’Carroll, 0-2, 0-1f), Eamon Dillon (0-3), Niall McMorrow (0-1; Daire Plunkett)

HT: Waterford 0-12 Dublin 0-4

Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork)

Waterford 1-15 (18) Limerick 0-14 (14) – Giveitfong’s view

(originally posted by Giveitfong on boards.ie)

Waterford came with a late flourish to stave off a Limerick fightback and carve a deserved victory in this moderately entertaining game at Fraher Field on Saturday night. It was a bitterly cold night with a strongish wind blowing towards the river end of the pitch, and the pitch, while bumpy, was in far better condition than the Walsh Park bog of the previous Sunday.

Waterford had first use of the wind and dominated the first half to an extent not reflected in their half time 1-9 to 0-2 lead, as they managed only one point from two penalties (for fouls on Brick Walsh and Maurice Shanahan), with Martin O’Neill firing the first one just over the bar and Pauric Mahony having his rather poor effort easily saved on the line.

Maurice Shanahan shipped a heavy leg injury early on but, although clearly hampered, he was left on the field until halfway through the second half at full forward, which wouldn’t be his favourite position. Martin O’Neill got an excellent point from play in the first minute but thereafter was dominated by Limerick’s forceful and powerful corner back, Tom Condon. Shane Casey also made little impression in the other corner apart from a well-taken goal which finished off a good passing movement down the left wing.

The best player on the field in the first half was Paul O’Brien at midfield, who repeatedly gained possession and ran at the Limerick defence. He looks much stronger now than when he was on the panel a few years ago.

Limerick did get an amount of possession but could make no impact on a defence which was well marshalled by Kevin Moran at centre back. Despite reports that he himself was injured, Philip Mahony replaced the injured Noel Connors half way through the first half.

Paul O’Brien was replaced by Dean Twomey at half time, which not only deprived Waterford of their best player but effectively reduced the team to fourteen men as, repeating his performance of the previous week against Clare, Twomey hardly struck a ball in the second half. Tomás Ryan also came on for Martin O’Neill.

Limerick brought on Shane Dowling and Kevin Downes for the second half. Dowling contributed little from general play but his excellent free taking solved a problem for Limerick and he hit six pointed frees in all. Kevin Downes had a much more marked impact on the play, frequently winning possession and driving at the Waterford defence, and notching two points from play.

With the wind at their back, Limerick dominated the first 20 minutes of the second half as the Waterford effort slackened noticeably, similar to the previous week. However, the home side sparked to life in the last ten minutes, with Kevin Moran reawakening from a period of down time, and Stephen Molumphy upping his game in midfield where he was getting some good assistance from Pauric Mahony who had switched with Twomey. Brick Walsh also came more into the game in the last quarter.

However, the key figure in Waterford’s late surge was Gavin O’Brien who had come on for Maurice Shanahan. O’Brien scored two excellent points from play and was also given the free taking job in the closing minutes which he also performed expertly, landing two further points.

Interestingly, both teams scored the equivalent of twelve points when playing with the wind. The big difference, therefore, was that Waterford managed six points against the wind to Limerick’s two, and that four point difference was the gap between the teams at the final whistle.

A feature of this game was that Limerick did not threaten the Waterford goal during the entire game apart from one first half shot that went narrowly wide. This meant that Iggy O’Regan got little to do, although I was impressed with his pucking out into the wind in the second half. The Waterford full back line was generally in control, with Philip Mahony impressing when he came on in the right corner, especially in the second half. Darragh Fives generally kept Limerick’s big full forward Brian Geary quiet; although Geary did manage to gain possession on a few occasion, little came of these situations. Apart from a couple of slips, Ringo Kearney had an excellent game in the other corner, with his superb ball control and ability to get past players repeatedly catching the eye.

Jamie Nagle got a lot of possession in the half line but his use of it was frequently very poor. Shane O’Sullivan worked hard on the other wing. Up front Brick Walsh was a bit in and out of the game, but his value to the team at centre forward is potentially enormous due to his ability to draw frees, hold up the ball under pressure before passing to colleagues, and especially his ability to break through the opposing half back line leading to the creation of goal chances.

Pauric Mahony’s radar was a bit off target on the night (four wides from six shots) but he did work hard. Shane Casey ended the night with a creditable 1-1, and should have had a second goal in the second half but missed the target from an angle having been set up at the end of a good Waterford passing movement. Tomás Ryan played a key role in that movement, scored an excellent over-the-shoulder point and caused some problems for the Limerick defence when he came out the field looking for ball late in the game.

Eoin McGrath was a late substitute for Shane Casey. Déise Girl contradicted herself when reporting in the same sentence that it was a typical Eoin McGrath performance and that he “wasn’t too bad”. I would agree with the first part of that sentence.

Waterford: Ian O’Regan; Noel Connors; Darragh Fives; Aidan Kearney; Jamie Nagle; Kevin Moran; Shane O’Sullivan; Stephen Molumphy; Paul O’Brien; Maurice Shanahan; Michael Walsh (0-1); Pauric Mahony (0-2, 0-1 from free); Martin O’Neill (0-5, 0-4 from frees); Seamus Prendergast; Shane Casey (1-1). Substitutes: Philip Mahony for Connors; Dean Twomey for O’Brien; Tomás Ryan (0-1) for O’Neill; Gavin O’Brien (0-4, 0-2 from frees) for Shanahan; Eoin McGrath for Casey.

I didn’t keep track of the Limerick team, but they had Nicky Quaid in goal and I think Shane O’Neill, Richie McCarthy and definitely Tom Condon in the full back. Wayne McNamara and Gavin O’Mahony were in the half back line. Conor Allis wore number 6 but seemed to play in midfield. He took the frees in the first half with poor results, and overall scored one free and one point from play. Donal O’Grady put in a typical hard working performance in midfield while James Ryan at No. 11 also got a lot of possession. Declan Hannon didn’t play. Graeme Mulcahy was at No 12 but failed to score. The full forward was named as Niall Moran by the announcer but I am pretty sure it was Brian Geary who also failed to score. Mark Carmody at No 13 got one point and Mikey Ryan on the other wing got two. David Moloney (for Condon) and James O’Brien came on in the second half in addition to Dowling and Downes.

Waterford 0-18 Cork 0-17

Dun-gar-VAAAN, concrete jungle where dreams are MAAADE of . . .

No, doesn’t work. Still, while Dungarvan may not even be in a position to lay claim to the title of the Big Apple Pip it does have some of the accoutrements of civilisation. Arriving there early and with some time to kill, a flicker of memory as we drove through countless times in the past told me there was a McDonald’s on the ring road and lo! there it was in all its Medite glory. You may object to the soul-destroying conformity of Mackey D’s but there is great comfort to be had in the knowledge that you can get a decent coffee, clean facilities and a place to park your butt for as long as you like. Please note: in a place like Dungarvan the choice is not between McDonald’s and Old Mother Hubbard’s Locally Sourced Organic Fair Trade Coffee Shop. The choice is between McDonald’s and nothing.

Not to say Dungarvan doesn’t have other attractions, and one of them can be seen in Fraher Field. Padraig Lodge on RTÉ radio picked up on it, i.e. its “scenic rural setting”. It is rather lovely, the sylvan setting a huge step up from Walsh Park’s Lowryesque view of the jute factory. And perhaps it was that, rather than a perfect day for hurling and a significant away contingent buoyed up by their win over Galway last week and thumping of Down in football the night before, that caused a larger than usual – certainly larger than the trend – crowd to descend on the ground causing the match to be put back 15 minutes. Not being able to object to this shoddy treatment of those of us who turned up in plenty of time, it left plenty of other things to reflect on. How Cork have personalised training kit – nice to see the strike produced such tremendous yields. How the team in the programme was less accurate than an anonymous post on a forum. How Kilkenny were putting the beatdown on Galway. And how Cyril Kavanagh aka Sombrero Man was nowhere to be seen. But wait! There he is! Say what you like about the bould Cyril, and seeing as he is a diehard supporter of the strikers we wouldn’t agree on everything, but one couldn’t accuse him of being a part-time fan.

Finally the game got underway after some predictable hacking-and-slashing before the throw-in. Thought the players didn’t care about the League. Waterford had a stiff breeze in the first half so it was clearly going to be important to get a decent half-time lead. They got off to a good start, Richie Foley knocking over an early free then John Mullane earning a slightly fortunate free after Barry Kelly adjudged he had been chopped when it seemed to me he’d just lost the ball. Foley did the needful and then Mullane gathered a dropping ball from Adrian Power to tee up Shane Walsh to put Waterford three points up.  It probably should be noted at this stage, lest it gets forgotten in the welter of stream-of-consciousness excitement at the end of this report, that Walsh’s performance was by some distance the highlight of the day. Often in the past I’ve damned him with faint praise. It went unsaid but was most definitely thought last week that I couldn’t understand why shiny new talent like Eamonn Murphy and Pauric Mahony were taken off while a slightly shop-soiled plodder like Walsh was left on. He was so good at full-forward that you wonder why he hasn’t more time in there. Moments after his first point he nearly unpicked the Cork defence but lost his hurley as he tried to get through. Cork cleared it out for a sideline which Foley struck cleanly but just wide.

A good start then but Cork were up to the challenge, Pa Cronin storming through the Waterford backs after a great catch to open their account, then loose play by Mullane allowed Cork to counterattack and Luke O’Farrell scored the first of his three points on the day. Waterford struck straight back, this time Shane Walsh being teed up by Seamus Prendergast then Walsh turned provider for Pauric Mahony to restore Waterford’s three point lead. Unfortunately this would be as good as it would get for Mahony as he soon was dispossessed by Niall McCarthy who raced clear to get Cork’s third point. Seamus Prendergast put Waterford three points clear again with an all-my-own-work point then Waterford were fortunate that their failure to provide any support to an exposed David O’Sullivan didn’t lead to a score, O’Sullivan sensibly coughing up the ball rather than be penalised for overcarrying and Tom Kenny put the ball wide. A poor wide from Patrick Horgan was only obviously crucial after the event but in general Cork would be more profligate than Waterford throughout the 70.

It was just as well because Cork seemed to be winning far more possession. Their tactic of short puckouts, something first noted on the Rosetta stone, seemed to come as a surprise to Waterford as Cusack’s puckouts routinely found men in space. At the other end Adrian Power turned into trouble and Waterford were fortunate to scramble the ball as far out as Cian McCarthy who only administered one point of punishment. Seamus Prendergast was getting some joy from Power’s more orthodox puckouts, another attempt to run through the entire Cork team ending in a wide but was soon followed up by a short-handled bat over the bar. In the short ball department Waterford had already tried a couple of quick sidelines with some success – perhaps they’d been watching the rugby the evening before – but made a complete bags of a third effort and were lucky to scramble the ball clear. Amidst all this Cork hit a purple patch, Horgan pointing after Noel Connors had shown Clinton Hennessy how to deal with a forward bearing down on goal by the expedient of simply standing up to him rather than trying to decapitate him. Horgan then got an excellent score from an acute angle before William Egan levelled matters with a thumping point from distance.

With the wind as it was it looked bad, so thank goodness (part the first) for Kevin Moran, drilling the ball over after a scarily kamikaze run from deep by O’Sullivan. Waterford were grateful for another sloppy wide, this time from Niall McCarthy after Cronin had done all the hard work, and Mullane punished this on the double with a fine solo point to put Waterford two ahead again. Mullane was also at the heart of Waterford’s next score, getting to the pitch of Wayne Hutchinson’s bomb after a magnificent piece of fielding by the full-back. I say ‘getting to the pitch’ because he never got proper control of the ball and was lucky that Barry Kelly thought he was being fouled, to the bewilderment of the Cork fan in front of me and the Waterford fan to my right. It took an age for Foley to knock over the simple free, long enough for the man behind me to note that Galway were in front in Salthill. No danger of that kind of swing in a Waterford-Cork game.

Wayne Hutchinson was having a great game at full-back, although he had to give second best to Horgan and foul him in a dangerous position. The same player hefted his shoulders as if he was going to go for a goal but ended up slotting the ball over the bar. Tom Kenny then went on a trademark rampage but his shot dropping lamely into the backline, although Waterford made a hash of the clearance and were grateful that Lorcan McLoughlin could only hit another bad wide. Maurice Shanahan got in on the poor shooting lesson after Hutchinson, Ken McGrath and Mullane had done the grunt work. McLoughlin made up for his carelessness with a tremendous catch-and-run to give O’Farrell a simple score. Pauric Mahony then fussed around with the ball a bit too much and was grateful to see it break loose to Mullane who smacked it straight over the bar. Cork rounded off the scoring for the half as Horgan slotted over a point after Kenny had been fouled by Michael Walsh to leave just the one point in it at the break.

There seemed no way that one point advantage would be enough. Wexford and Offaly were keeping themselves in touch with Dublin and Tipperary respectively by virtue of the wind and Cork had a bench groaning under the weight of Celtic crosses should they be required to finish the game off. Most alarmingly for Waterford was the performance of Ken McGrath. I’ve never been one to believe in ‘match fitness’ – either you are fit or you are not, the idea of needing to get into the groove is a fallacy – yet I found myself hoping that his stodgy performance was due to a lack of games. Giveitfong has speculated that “Davy is trying to force him out of the setup” which might be the case – had Ken not given Davy a blast in the winter? – but whatever it was Ken was having a bad day at the office.

The second half would commence with him moved into the half forwards but with Pauric Mahony struggling to make an impact in there already this was asking for trouble. Waterford’s first attack of the half saw Mullane trying to win yet another soft free but this time Barry Kelly was unmoved and he had to settle for giving Richie Foley the ball in less-than-ideal circumstances and his snatched shot drifted wide. Cork drew level after a 65 earned after some chaos in the Waterford back line, and Waterford were really struggling to win clean ball, Prendergast crowded out by the Cork back and McGrath shooting wide when they did find some. It was hard to keep up with all the flicks and touches being wrought by Cork  – well, that’s my excuse for a period of play where I completely lost track of events – but in retrospect this is an argument for a more direct style of play because Cork did precious little with it, not least because Fives, Hutchinson and Connors seemed to be coping with everything that came their way. And Waterford nearly dished out the maximum punishment for such carelessness as McGrath and Foley combined to set Shane Walsh clear. He set up Seamus Prendergast for what you thought had to be a goal that you you thought we surely needed, but Cork somehow cleared the danger from point-blank range.

Walsh really was in the zone and he put Waterford back in front after some good approach work by Maurice Shanahan but Cork, despite a desperate wide, were beginning to make that possession count, Brian Murphy pouncing on a poor clearance to level matters then taking the lead for the first time when Hutchinson was harshly adjudged to have fouled his man. Eoin Kelly came on for Ken and I must shamefully admit that this struck me as a good move. It was only going to be a matter of time before Pauric Mahony followed him as the youngster fluffed a decent chance that had been set up for him by Shanahan. A ball dropped in by Cork was enough to make you wince as Hutchinson came to gather with no one behind him. If he screwed up we were doomed. But screw up he most certainly did not, catching the ball brilliantly and powering Waterford back into the attack where Mullane lifted spirits with the equalising point. Somehow we were still in this.

Mullane would then be at the centre of an odd moment. Power cleared well after being put into trouble by Michael Walsh and his clearance fell into Mullane’s territory. It seemed to me he was fouled and there wsn’t much in the way of reaction from anyone, yet HoganStand.com says he “was fortunate not to be red-carded” for the incident. Whatever happened in that incident, a few moments later Shanahan was taken around the neck and Foley smashed over a superb free to put Waterford back in front. At the other end Tom Kenny managed to elude his marker and cut in towards goal. It would have been some effort from a narrow angle but Waterford were grateful to just get the ball away from where Cork equalised. Seamus Prendergast won the puckout but was enveloped by Cork players. Being fouled or fouling the ball? Neither, said the ref, and the subsequent melee from the throw-in ended up in a sideline ball from which Waterford managed to work the ball to Shanahan in space. Like Kenny before him it would have been a sensational goal from that angle but Waterford would not pick up the spare, Foley missing the 65.

Pauiric Mahony’s race was almost run by now, his movement away from the Cork goal being intercepted by Paudie O’Sullivan who was fouled several times as he strode towards goal. Eventually the ref gave the free and Cork were back in front. Ominously Ronan Curran entered the fray. The phony war was over and Cork were rolling out the heavy artillery. But Cork couldn’t have counted on Hutchinson, who put together two monster clearances to repel danger, and Shane Walsh who on the second of those clearances was fed by Foley and drew Waterford level again. Waterford almost got the goal that (ahem) they surely needed when from a long free, awarded after Michael Walsh earned a because-he’s-The-Brick free, bounced around in the Cork box but mysteriously ended up wide after the umpire had signalled a 65.

Cork spurned two great opportunities to regain the lead with a dropping ball eluding everyone and Niall McCarthy hitting another ball wide, but he finally rounded off a Cork attack successfully to put them a point up with eight minutes left. We needed a score fast and got one after an excellent run from O’Sullivan and Shane Walsh scoring from a difficult angle to bring up his fifth point. Eoin Kelly, on for the luckless Mahony, almost put Waterford in front but his shot just drifted wide and one of the stream of Cork heavyweights coming on landed a potentially winning blow, Jerry O’Connor doing what he does best.

But did that turnover of players actually unsettle Cork? Whatever went wrong, something did because that was their final score. Power did well to draw a soft free from a dangerous Cork attack and in the next passage of play Foley fired over a magnificent free from way out to level the game. Fraher Field suddenly erupted as Waterford supporters sensed a get-out-jail-free card was at the top of the Community Chest. I’ve wondered in the past whether, much like an NBA game, we should skip the first 65 minutes of Waterford-Cork games and just play the last five, starting level. It’d make things simpler. There was nothing simple about the winning score. John Mullane flapped around in the corner without much impact so thank goodness (part the second) for Kevin Moran who scored from an improbable angle to leave Waterford a point up as the 70 came to a close. Only one minute of injury time meant Waterford could afford to play some soccer-style keep-ball which got them to the point where Cork would only have one more attack. They did get that one but this last gasp effort drifted wide in the manner of Joe Canning and Waterford had secured a tremendous win.

I really think the better team lost. As with so many games between these two counties over the last couple of decades it could have easily gone the other way had the game gone on for another five minutes. But even discounting the result Waterford could take a lot from the game. The full-back line were uniformly excellent, particularly Hutchinson. Richie Foley has put the aberration against Wexford well and truly behind him and scored at least two opposition-demoralising frees. A five point haul from Mullane and Moran shows what we missed in the first three games. And then there was Shane Walsh. If Noel McGrath deserved plaudits for going nap last week then why not Walsh? He must start at full-forward against Kilkenny where we will really see what he’s made of.

But even discounting the result . . . why discount the result? We beat Cork. Always something to celebrate.

Waterford: Adrian Power, Darragh Fives, Wayne Hutchinson, Noel Connors, David O’Sullivan, Michael Walsh, Kevin Moran (0-2), Richie Foley (0-5f), Ken McGrath (Eoin Kelly), Stephen Molumphy, Shane Walsh (0-5), Pauric Mahony (0-1; Tomás Ryan), John Mullane (0-3), Seamus Prendergast (0-1), Maurice Shanahan (0-1)

Cork: Donal Óg Cusack, Stephen McDonnell, Eoin Dillon, Conor O’Sullivan (Ronan Curran), John Gardiner (0-1, 65), Brian Murphy (0-1), William Egan (0-1), Lorcan McLoughlin (0-1; Jerry O’Connor, 0-1), Pa Cronin (0-1), Tom Kenny, Cian McCarthy (0-1), Niall McCarthy (0-1; Cathal Naughton), Patrick Horgan (0-6, 0-4 f), Paudie O’Sullivan (Ben O’Connor), Luke O’Farrell (0-3; Michael Cussen)

HT: Waterford 0-11 Cork 0-10

Referee: Barry Kelly (Westmeath)