Tag Archives: Galway

Waterford 0-24 (24) Galway 1-21 (24) – Giveitfong’s view

(originally posted on boards.ie)

I still disagree with Derek McGrath’s decision to, in essence, clear the bench before the start of today’s game against Galway. However, fair play to the guys who were thrown in at the deep end – not only did they not sink, but in most cases they played brilliantly. Particular plaudits to the fullback line of Conor Gleeson, Shane McNulty and Shane Roche none of whom, to my knowledge, has played even a minute of competitive senior hurling for Waterford before. They were up against a Galway attack which tore much more experienced full back lines to shreds last year but every one of them turned in an outstanding performance.

Galway played a two-man interchanging full forward line (with Canning going in an out). Gleeson and Roche held the fort at the back while McNulty followed Cathal Mannion out the field and really kept him quiet until he notched two points late in the game when the less match-fit Waterford team began to tire a bit. I have been a great fan of McNulty since his minor days and believe he should be on the first team as a wing back with Kevin Moran moving to midfield.

Waterford had two other players (Ian O’Regan and Gavin O’Brien) who only made their first appearances of the year today and four others (Shane O’Sullivan, Brian O’Halloran, Colm Roche and Tommy Ryan) who have made only very brief appearances as substitutes. I was fearful of them taking a heavy beating from a Galway team requiring a big win to enable them to evade a relegation playoff. However, they really stood up to the plate.

Waterford were the better team in the first half but ended up behind by a point at half time (1-10 to 0-12) due to conceding a poor goal just before half time and messing up some good scoring chances. I thought that once Galway moved ahead they might pull away in the second half, but again it was Waterford who took the game to the opposition, building up a three point lead with Shane Bennett tearing the right side of their defence to pieces. However, they never managed to take the lead to four points and as the game entered the last ten minutes Galway greatly upped their game, bringing their greater match fitness to bear and finally moving into the lead with just a couple of minutes left.

However, Waterford never panicked, with Tadhg de Búrca providing great leadership at the back, and continued to play the ball around looking for the spare man. Gavin O’Brien saved the day with a massive point from his own half of the field and Waterford nearly snatched a deserved win when Shane Bennett’s long range shot (again after an excellent bout of passing) went inches on the wrong side of the post.

Austin Gleeson caught a lot of ball, but seemed determined to take on the entire Galway defence with solo runs and several times ran into cul-de-sacs. Tadhg de Búrca improved as the game went on and finished very strongly. Gavin O’Brien at left half back hit some poor clearances and made some mistakes but still put in a solid shift. Kevin Moran was much more effective than he was against Dublin, but I thought Shane O’Sullivan had little impact and should have been substituted long before he was eventually taken off.

Maurice Shanahan played at right half forward and worked hard but only managed one point from play. However, after missing his first free (there was an awkward wind blowing across the field) he was unerring thereafter with eight conversions for a total contribution of nine points. Shane Bennett was absolutely devastating at centre forward, scoring six great points, bringing a superb save from the Galway keeper (although he should still have beaten him), and unfortunately having two narrow misses late in the game.

Tom Devine started at left half forward and was much more effective than he was as a lone full forward last week. Waterford were having a lot of success early on targetting him from puckouts, but Galway then put extra bodies under the incoming ball and began to mop up. Devine moved to full forward in the second half but again made a useful contribution when brought out late in the game.

Brian O’Halloran had his best game in a Waterford jersey since the league game in Ennis two years ago, using his speed to good effect, hitting three points and earning at least two converted frees. Things have not gone well for him in recent times, so it was a delight to see him show what he can do today. Colm Roche made a fantastic catch to score a great point in the first minute, but the game passed him by thereafter and he was eventually replaced by Mikey Kearney in the second half. Kearney made his presence felt with two good points and was a little unlucky when his shot for goal virtually from the end line narrowly missed the target.

Starting at full forward, Tommy Ryan had little impact, apart from one good point, and was replaced by Jake Dillon towards the end. Another unexpected but very welcome substitute for Waterford was Pauric Mahony who replaced Shane O’Sullivan near the end. It was he who supplied the pass from which Gavin O’Brien shot the late equalising point.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable and high-quality game of hurling. While the result didn’t matter a whole lot to Waterford, the quality and commitment of the Waterford fringe players was exhilarating and, indeed, some of them may not remain fringe players for long. It is reassuring to see that such high-quality backup to the first team is available, and hopefully the team management will make better use of these resources in future games.

Waterford 0-24 (24) Galway 1-21 (24) – media reports

Off-colour Galway facing relegation showdown – RTÉ
Deise and Tribe share the spoils – HoganStand.com
Waterford and Galway play out a thrilling draw – Irish Times
Draw against Waterford leaves Galway facing a relegation play-off against Cork – Irish Examiner
Galway in relegation play-off after Déise draw – GAA
‘Nuggets of hope’ for Deise as Galway draw comfort – Irish Independent

Is there life on Mars?

Billy O'Sullivan, Tipperary, 1998

Derek McGrath knows what it is to be part of a squad that is brewing up a storm, and yet not be part of the team. The image above, originally from the Indo with a bit of Come on the Déise editorialising to conceal that, shows Billy O’Sullivan revelling in the win over Tipperary in the 1998 Championship. Derek would only make one substitute appearance in the blowout win over Galway later on that year to add to a substitute appearance in the blowout loss to Limerick the previous year. That was the sum total of his Waterford Senior summer career. More than almost all of us, but an awful lot of sitting around and an awful lot of tedious training sessions for so very little. It was after that Tipp win that I read/heard Stephen Frampton, last seen at the game last week against Dublin, saying that he never minded the hidings. It was training for the hidings that was exasperating.

So it is good to see McGrath give the rest of the squad a run-out tomorrow against Galway. Tipp won’t be too impressed as there is no point pretending that Waterford won’t be weakened by this. If the players were better than what currently have, surely they would have been playing before now. From Waterford’s perspective there is little downside though. We can’t guarantee finishing first in the division with a win – Dublin beat Kilkenny and they finish ahead of us on the head-to-head. And we can’t finish worse than third – Galway and Tipp can’t get more than five points. Wexford look the most likely opponents in the quarter-finals should we top the group, which is definitely an away game, while there would be a 50:50 chance of a home tie should Clare lose to Limerick. Sure, Clare are better than Wexford, but it would be a more interesting clash. Either way, there isn’t a crucial need to win. And who knows? Someone might brew up a storm and we’ll be wondering how we ever coped without them.

Waterford 0-18 (18) Kilkenny 1-21 (24)

Waterford v Kilkenny 9 August 2015 Cover

As the carnage that was Australia’s first innings in the recent Ashes Test at Trent Bridge came to its conclusion, a tweet from Jonathan Liew of the Daily Telegraph – wait, come back! He calls that city on the banks of the Foyle by the proper name! – did the rounds:

Armed with such knowledge, I decided it might be an idea to wait until after the second All-Ireland semi-final between Tipperary and Galway before posting my thought on our game against Kilkenny.

That’s my story as to why it’s so late and I’m sticking by it.

The first thing to note about the respective games is the wisdom of crowds. I waited until Saturday evening before buying my tickets in SuperValu and the chap there was all apologetic about the quality of the tickets. I was not all bothered – where are these awful seats in Croke Park? – and I was quite pleased at the thought that this might be approaching a sell-out. Arriving in Dublin, it was even more encouraging to encounter traffic jams just past Kilcullen and see signs advising us to avoid the Red Cow park-and-ride. This was going to be a blockbuster! So a crowd of 41,122 was rather disappointing and the contrast with the 58,495 punters at the second semi-final was stark. We did outnumber the Kilkenny attendance but that only went to show how they were confidently keeping their powder dry for a bigger battle. The supporters of Tipperary and Galway obviously felt their game was a toss-up and when even the notoriously travel-shy Tribesmen (for hurling anyway, the big ball game being the pursuit of choice on Corribside) are turning out in such numbers in the aftermath of the trashing they handed out to Cork, you knew something big was in the offing.

And what of The System? Everything was building up to this, and if the measure of its effectiveness was the ability to end a run of seven straight defeats against Kilkenny then – spoiler alert! – it was found wanting. That was certainly how I felt after our game, but after watching Séamus Callanan make hay against Galway, I’m not so sure. The sweeper meant there was no such cutting loose from him against us, and while in practical terms that only amounted to four points (3-16 v 0-21) a more potent attack such as Galway possess could have run away from Tipperary had the sweeper been deployed. If that sounds a little dismissive of Galway again, rest assured that it is not. It took some cojones to recover from the sledgehammer blows of those goals, and it is a compliment to their performance that they were able to overcome the tactical deficit and come out on top.

At the end of the first half of our game it looked like the system was doing just fine. Our first score, a point from Maurice Shanahan, contained an ever-so-slight hint of a goal chance and while we were ridiculously lucky not to concede a goal shortly afterwards when a few ricochets avoided trickling over the line by hitting the unaware Shane Fives on the heel, there were bodies back there and the harassment of forwards that has characterised so much of our play this year was much in evidence. On the flip side, all that space that Shanahan enjoyed for that first score demonstrated how much space there was in the Kilkenny 45 because, well, only a couple of our players were there. One mazy run by Michael Walsh ran out of steam because there was no one to whom to pass the ball. Austin Gleeson weighed in with his seemingly obligatory score from a sideline, and we were going to need more like that if we were to prosper.

It was telling that by the 15th minute there had been only three scores apiece. There was never any danger of anyone cutting loose in the style of Callanan so the first goal was always going to be a proper statement and when a double turn by a Kilkenny player – I really thought those were the kind of thing referees frowned upon in their hopeless quest to spot overcarrying – ended with a ball in to TJ Reid to score a simple goal, you worried it would be a game-changer. With what looked like a one man full-forward line, we were not going to trouble the Kilkenny goal with much. A long-range point from play by Shanahan and a free from him from way out after a stirring catch from Gleeson showed that we had set out a plan to win from the half-back line. When you get in the trenches like that though you are as likely to give away frees as win them and Reid kept things ticking over for them from the place balls. Keep it tight, take your chances. That’s all we could hope for and when Jake Dillon won a cheap free to trim the lead to two and Glesson followed upto make it a one-point game with only three minutes left in the half, you could see the spirits lift around the Waterford crowd. The half ended with flurry of points, Shane Bennett’s point after benefitting from yet more devil-may-care surging from defence from Gleeson being sandwiched by two frees for Kilkenny, one a careless trip from behind and the other a blatant professional foul right on the stroke of half-time to keep the gap at two.

The hope was there, it really was. Keep it tight, take your chances. If we were two points adrift with a minute to go, who knows? There was moment for some levity for a Tramore man like myself as the announcer mention the presence on the children’s half-time game of someone from “Fenor NS, Tramore”. Them’s fighting words in the Big Apple Pip. But we’d all be in it together come the first Sunday in September, right?

Alas, no. Midway through the first half Jamie Barron (I think it was) was penalised as he cut across a Kilkenny player as they chased a loose ball. I was instantly annoyed by this and the man beside me, who I got the feeling was not from Waterford but cheering for them in the company of his Déise wife, gave me a gentle smile and opined that it was indeed a free. I sheepishly admitted that he was right but I explained that a season of seeing Waterford players consistently emerge with the ball in those kind of situations had made me feel like they would always win them and some manner of skulduggery must have been afoot. It’s all very well saying we needed to keep it tight, but it’s hard to do when the opposition are so much more robust than you are. A combination of physical conditions and the elixir that is Brian Cody means some of these Kilkenny lads are hewn from granite and as the metres covered and hits taken piled up, it began to tell.

Even taking all that after-the-fact comment into account, the game was nearly up moments in to the second half as Walter Walsh found himself in acres of space but fired his shot across the bows of Stephen O’Keeffe’s goal. Kilkenny tacked on two scores practically from the next two puckouts, and while a cheap free for Shanahan and a well-worked score down the line from Tadhg de Búrca to Kevin Moran kept the gap at two the cracks were beginning to appear. Barry Coughlan had time to clear after de Búrca engaged in his normal mopping-up operation only to hit it straight to a Kilkenny forward who lashed it over, and when even de Búrca couldn’t engage in his normal moping-up operation, finding himself stranded with no support and giving up the free, the alarm bells were well and truly ringing.

We knew that to win this everything had to go right, but how can you get it right when they are in your face so often and showing they had so much more water in the well from which to draw? There was a sniff of a goal chance for Colin Dunford as he cut across the face of the Kilkenny full-back line, and you might wonder whether recent travails in the shooting department made him reluctant to take it on as he took his point. The neutral-ish chap to my left certainly thought this was a chance spurned. Given the iron will so repeatedly demonstrated by Kilkenny under Cody, the game was curiously ragged and when Richie Hogan hit a wide from out near the 45 that he would literally, in the truest sense of the term, have expected him to put over with his eyes closed, you could see a little vulnerability there, if only we could take it. Galway will certainly be hoping they saw exactly that.

We were out on our feet already though. It was painful watching Jake Dillon to wring some more out of his linen, and a push on the back from Austin Gleeson showed tired minds as well as limbs. Most of Waterford’s efforts were hit-and-hope balls into the mix. You wanted to scream at them to move the ball in the manner in which they had being doing in previous games, but the flesh was weak. Another half-chance for a goal from Dunford led to a point and kept the gap at three and is probably the point at which ingénues like my wife and her family/friends would be able to tell me afterwards that we had gone soooo close, but from where I was sitting it would need a red card or a fluky goal to keep us in touch. Instead we got a couple of nervous/exhausted flails from Jamie Barron on which Kilkenny pounced to swiftly stretch the lead back to five.

I’m not saying Waterford gave up. They tried, Lord did they try. Austin Gleeson sent off over a tremendous solo effort from way out and they were still capable of putting up one of those splendid phalanxes across the goal which has served them so well this year. It all felt like it was from memory though, and the gaps appeared again to the extent that Ger Aylward only had to round Stephen O’Keeffe to put the game to bed. He went around him and incredibly somehow put it wide at the near post. It was an appalling miss, followed by two more desperate wides from play for them. One of them was from Richie Hogan and it’s hard to believe he has hit two as bad as as he hit in this game in an entire year in his career before now. Dunford, so effervescent in the third quarter, was now back into the business of wides and Kilkenny were content to play scrappy, burning through a couple of minutes with throw balls and relying on Hogan not being completely off his game with a couple of points from play, both far more difficult than those he had missed. The second saw him leave two Waterford players in his wake. A depressing sight.

As the team who served so much classic fare in the Noughties with our freewheeling style of hurling, I’ll say that I don’t miss it that much, even after watching the thrill-a-minute stuff of the second semi-final a week later. Those games where the lead see-saws constantly and the spoils go to those who happen to be leading when the ref blows the final whistle are wonderful for the neutral but ghastly for those involved, even when you win. Then again, this was pretty ghastly fare at the other end of the spectrum, the only consolation being that it could have been much worse as Kilkenny failed to get our jugular. A few more bodies went into the forwards to try and get those goals but they never looked like coming. About as much satisfaction as we got was seeing sub John Power stick his arse into Stephen O’Keeffe as he came to clear a ball. Hey, at least we didn’t resort to that kind of nonsense in defeat, right?

After the game, everyone I spoke to seemed profoundly depressed. My father thought it was the worst effort at getting over the semi-final hump he had seen from Waterford. On the Luas I encountered a former work colleague, the type who works diligently for his club and attends loadsa games, so for as robust and knowledgable a supporter as him to be so maudlin was a sign that this had not been a good day at the office. Looking back on it, it wasn’t great. The incoherence of my writing above about the second half mostly reflects the incoherence of my writing, but it was a disjointed display from Waterford. Shorn of so many of the members of the hurling pantheon who have graced their team over the last 15 years, Kilkenny are not the force of old. Galway will have seen the sloppiness of their overall display and will be confident they can take on the lessons of the Tipperary game and apply them in the final. Would we be able to do the same if we got a second bite of the cherry? I don’t think we would. They horsed us out of it in the end, and no amount of systemising would have been won that game.

Remember where you read that slogan first.

I refuse to be downbeat though. At the end of last year I was worried we might be overtaken by Laois. Now, we’re meant to be despondent because we couldn’t overtake Kilkenny? The gap between where we were and where we are is gargantuan, and we even have some silverware  to prove it. We weren’t close to the ultimate prize, but I still think it was a year worthy of a cigar.

Waterford: Stephen O’Keeffe, Shane Fives, Barry Coughlan, Noel Connors, Tadhg de Búrca, Austin Gleeson (0-3, 0-1 s/l), Philip Mahony, Jamie Barron, Darragh Fives, Kevin Moran (0-1), Shane Bennett (0-1; Stephen Bennett), Jake Dillon (Patrick Curran), Maurice Shanahan (0-9, 0-6f, 0-1 65), Michael Walsh, Colin Dunford (0-4)

Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy, Paul Murphy, Joey Holden, Shane Prendergast, Padraig Walsh, Kieran Joyce, Cillian Buckley (0-1), Michael Fennelly (0-1), Conor Fogarty, Walter Walsh (John Power), Richie Hogan (0-5), TJ Reid (1-9, 0-7f), Ger Aylward (0-4), Colin Fennelly, Eoin Larkin (0-1)

HT: Waterford 0-10 (10) Kilkenny 1-9 (12)

Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly)

Waterford 0-20 Galway 0-12

The running theme in the 2015 Cricket World Cup has been the run chase, or more specifically how difficult it is becoming. For almost every team, and even the seeming exception of Ireland is based on not very much evidence, the strategy has been to win the toss (yes, that’s a flaw in the ‘strategy’ right there) and accumulate a huge total batting first that the team batting second finds ruinously difficult to chase. The psychology behind accumulating such a first innings total is fascinating. England thought they had done enough when racking up 309 against Sri Lanka, but even a neophyte like me got the sense that it wasn’t enough and the feeling was confirmed as Sri Lanka cruised past the target with a whopping nine wickets in hand and could have rattled off another fistful of runs in the last 22 balls had it been required. It sounds bizarre that you could say this about a supposedly well-prepared outfit, and if you count preparation in terms of man hours spent planning then England are well-prepared, but part of England’s problem at the moment is that they simply don’t know what works in one day cricket. The mindset that you need to be getting to 350 in the first innings is not there, and what chance of winning have you got if you don’t know what is a winning score?

All these thoughts came to mind early in the second half against Galway. Having accumulated a nine-point advantage with the benefit of a gale-force wind, the question was: is that enough? Had the matches between Tipperary v Offaly and Cork v Wexford been played earlier in the day, the evidence would have been uncertain. Tipp had roared into a 13-point half-time lead which would eventually be trimmed to six (red cards for Tipp would have muddied the number-crunching waters), while Wexford’s six-point advantage at the interval would prove to be insufficient as they only managed one second-half point. Seven minutes into the second half in Walsh Park, it was clear nine points was not enough in those conditions as Galway had swiftly cut the lead to four. Disaster loomed.

Looking back at the first half from that juncture, was it fair to label it lack-lustre? (NB not having a go at anyone here, just sharing different Déise perspectives.) Unlike the England cricketers, the Waterford hurlers had simply no way of knowing what was a par score, and nine points felt okay at the time. Had they known how much they needed in the manner of England chasing a 27-point win against France in the final fixture of this year’s Six Nation, it might have been different. Having said that though, I get the feeling Waterford’s tactics lend themselves to the idea of being lack-lustre, at least in the forward line. The task facing the two-man full-forward line of Stephen Bennett and Brian O’Halloran was positively Herculean. I dread to think how many metres they covered pursuing lost causes, and it was slightly mystifying why Waterford persisted in lobbing balls in with little reward. I’d probably need to review the game again, and will leave that to the likes of Giveitfong, but the likelihood is that these bombs were not the only tactic but the seeming high amount of them a function of how much possession Waterford had.

The other side of the loadsa possession coin is the shooting from distance, and in that respect Waterford were raking it in. The early exchanges saw Brian O’Halloran and Pauric Mahony scoring from the 45 while Kevin Moran and Austin Gleeson both managed to raise the white flag from the halfway line. The team facing into the wind were always going to rely heavily on frees and Joe Canning must have wanted to have a ‘word’ with those on the Keanes Road terrace when one of his frees, awarded after Moran had taken too much out of a targeted puckout from O’Regan, drifted wide to hoots of derision from the sliothar-chasing young fellas. He also missed a routine chance from well inside the 45 and would later hit the outside of the post from close in and fail to exert much pressure on Noel Connors from the rebound. Not one of his better days, and Pauric Mahony was showing him how it was done at the other end with his free-taking. When Moran struck another worldy from out past the halfway line Waterford were seven points up.

One of the big problems in recent years has been fitness. Too often we’ve been blown out of it then blown up at the end. There was little sign of it here with players hunting in packs and generally showing a willingness to get to the ball first, whatever the cost. On two occasions late in the half Galway nearly got away down their left wing and would have done had they evaded the last man but Tadgh de Búrca and Shane Fives respectively flung their bodies in the way of the ball to make sure that none shall pass, with the former even getting the bonus of the ball pinging out for a Waterford sideline, much to the chagrin of the Galway players. And speaking of sideline balls, Gleeson used the wind to curve a delightful cut over the bar. A long range effort from Mahony that drifted wide represented about the worst effort of the half, and despite a late free from Canning the nine point lead looked pretty good, right?

Wrong, or so it looked after ten minutes as Galway put over five unanswered points and could/should have had a few more but for some wayward shooting. It’s all very well having only two men in the mix when you have all that ball, but when you’re living off scraps you can’t afford to be wasting it and that’s how it was proving at the start of the third quarter. A rather undignified brawl, as opposed to the dignified type, under the stand gave Waterford a chance to pause for breath and make the straightforward swap of Maurice Shanahan for Stephen Bennett. The contrast between the giant who strode around players for the Minors and the much more man-sized player on display here was striking, and while there is no shame in not being up to the particular Sisyphean task assigned to him here, you fret about fitting such a talent into Derek McGrath’s gameplan.

One fringe benefit of bringing on a cult hero-type like Shanahan is that it gets the crowd going, not that much was needed as the attendance sensed that something horrible was about to happen if we didn’t turn this around pretty sharpish. Unjustified rage at a free not awarded to O’Halloran may have swayed Brian Gavin just a small bit when Waterford managed to disrupt Galway’s attempt to clear and earn a soft free. Mahony popped it over and the ship had been steadied a little. Now the gameplan was about to come into its own. Did I say hunting in packs? More like buzzing in swarms as every Galway attack was now pounced upon with stinging intensity. Somehow de Búrca seemed to pop up as the extra man every time, and at the other end the old soccer cliché about the forward line being the first line of defence rang true here as a limp Galway clearance was sent back in with pinpoint accuracy by Philip Mahony to Shanahan to send over our first point from play of the half.

Suddenly the game was moving into the final quarter and, having access to Twitter, I was able to compare how we were keeping Galway at arms length with the efforts of Wexford who were slowly being reeled in by Cork. It was now moving into territory where Galway were going to need a goal to make the comeback stick and that simply wasn’t going to come against this suffocating Waterford defence. I’m writing all this with the benefit of hindsight, but rest assured that such heretical thoughts – a Waterford full-back line coping with the strain! – were in my mind even at the time. A brilliant piece of control by O’Halloran allowed him to draw a simple free and stretch the lead to seven to send the crowd into ever greater levels of delighted yahooing. Yet another Galway attack withered on the vine, yet again a Waterford forward drew the foul, the yellow card and the score from Mahony. Amidst all the intensity Waterford managed to keep a high level of discipline. Having established such a lead, Waterford had the luxury of knowing that time was running out for their opponents. Win the ball or turn it into a throw ball. Either way, slow it down at all costs. Easier said than done obviously and there was one fracas as O’Halloran was perhaps lucky to stay on as he jabbed his Galway marker in the stomach, causing him to fall like he had been shot. It would have been a harsh red, although I’ve seen less get more. Either way, fully ten minutes passed without a score and a couple of late Canning frees were too little too late. Indeed, they seemed to only serve to irritate Tom Devine as the sub provided a splendid late cameo, first popping over a point from a narrow angle after some great support play from Shanahan then drawing three Galway backs to play a perfect pass to Michael Walsh in space and stretch the lead back to eight. The last few minutes were the domain of Ian O’Regan as he pulled off one good save/clearance, and generally showed sound judgement to keep the gap out where it deserved to be. For make no mistake: Waterford were not flattered by this win. Apart from that seven minute blip at the start of the second half, Waterford were on the front foot for the whole game.

It is a negative game we play, no point in pretending otherwise. We’ve been spoiled over the years by champagne hurling, and we’ll be lamenting its passing should Tipperary smear us all over Nowlan Park on Sunday two weeks. No better people to expose any frailties that may have not been shown up yet and they’ll be filled with the Hell’s Kitchen spirit of Tony Reddin. But we’ve tried the champagne and we remain unfulfilled. Time to give good hearty (Mc)Guinness a chance.

Waterford: Ian O’Regan, Shane Fives, Barry Coughlan, Noel Connors, Tadgh de Búrca, Austin Gleeson (0-2, 0-1 sideline ball), Philip Mahony, Jamie Barron, Stephen Bennett (Maurice Shanahan, 0-1), Kevin Moran (0-2), Jake Dillon (0-1; Gavin O’Brien), Pauric Mahony (0-10, 0-9f; Martin O’Neill), Michael Walsh (0-1), Brian O’Halloran (0-2; Tom Devine, 0-1), Colin Dunford (Shane O’Sullivan)

Galway: Colm Callanan, Johnny Coen, Paul Killeen (Greg Lally), John Hanbury, David Collins, Padraig Mannion, Gearóid McInerney, Andrew Smith (0-2), Iarla Tannian, Joseph Cooney, Joe Canning (0-8, 0-6f, 0-1 65), Jonathan Glynn, James Regan (Niall Healy), Cathal Mannion (0-1), Jason Flynn (Aidan Harte)

HT: Waterford 0-14 Galway 0-5

Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly)

Super Bowl D

There are simpler ways of telling how Liverpool are faring in any particular match than looking at the number of pages on the appropriate match thread on The Liverpool Way website. Yet there is something soothing as you try to work out how well/badly things are going while not enduring the potential blow that is, well, the simpler way of looking up the score, in looking at the page count. If it is low, Liverpool are winning. If it is high, they are not. If it is very high . . . it was very high against Man Utd last weekend.

The process that sees supporters revel in going online to bathe in the acid of failure while giving a casual shrug to victory was also reflected on the boards.ie Waterford GAA thread. There was almost complete silence during the game and even in its immediate aftermath. It was only through the week as the game today against Galway came into view that the debate was fired up again, and whaddyaknow the heart of the discussion was about how you couldn’t play like that against Galway and the negative tactics were a shame and Wexford weren’t up to much and Division 1B was no preparation for what was coming down the tracks…

Enough about all that. Having achieved the target for the year’s League campaign today’s game is the equivalent of a free ball, so let’s relax and look at a statistical quirk that has come together:

National Hurling League record - the first 499 games

Yes, today is Waterford’s 500th National Hurling League match! And how delicately poised is that overall record? P499 W233 D33 L233. This isn’t the whole story – you can find that here. This summary includes two walkovers, a concession to Offaly in 1925 (our very first scheduled game in the NHL) and the infamous strike postponement in 2008. It does not include three games from the 1920’s that were scheduled but I haven’t been able to find any record they were ever played or walkovers given. But enough with the negative waves! Let us instead enjoy the improbable symmetry of today’s game. And who knows? We might even win! Expect tumbleweed on boards.ie if we do.

Here we go again, we’re (not) on the road again

The SSE Airtricity League – yes, that SSE, although at least it’s not G4S – returns to the RSC tonight.

It’s probably recency bias at work, but I feel a lot better about the prospects for the First Division this year than the last couple of seasons. The creation of Galway FC plays up to one of my prejudices, i.e. that the League of Ireland would benefit from tapping into the GAA zeal for the county. It’s more exciting to be facing up to the entirety of Galway city and county than the representatives from Mervue, Salthill or Devon. Shelbourne may be a shadow of the club that won multiple trophies in the 1990’s, but I’d like to think that the endeavours of the Blues in the 1960’s and 1970’s still count for something. There are several teams in the Premier Division who are less likely to set the pulses racing than Shels, so it’s nice to have them around. And speaking of heavyweight clubs, who should we have but Shamrock Rovers! Okay, not the real Rovers, and objectively it’s a horror show that the League is reduced to this. Fully 10% of the senior clubs are now Shamrock Rovers. But subjectively, there’s something pleasing about the prospect of taking them on, even in shadow form. There’s certainly going to be some novelty value, so bring them on!

Not that you would be confident that Waterford United are going to be in any position to knock them down. The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome and, alas, that looks to be the way the Blues are going. When Stephen Henderson left by mutual consent/was sacked midway through the 2011 season, the response was to replace him internally with Paul O’Brien. Two years, Paul O’Brien left by mutual consent/was sacked and was replaced internally by Tommy Griffin. In a league where it’s nigh on impossible to buy yourself a winning team – because no one has any money – managers can make a huge difference and there was little in the second half of last season to suggest that Griffin had discovered the magic formula that likes of, say, Roddy Collins seems to have. Athlone got him, we didn’t, and look where we all are now.

I’m being unfair here. No doubt Roddy Collins or, say, Mick Cooke, doesn’t come cheap in themselves, and maybe Tommy Griffin has welded together a winning combination. Time to find out.

Derek McGrath don’t mind and I don’t matter

I never pretend to have an inside track into what is going on in Waterford hurling. The limit of my contribution to the grassroots of the game is buying a couple of tickets every fortnight for the club lotto, and even then it’s the nice man who comes to my door who does all the hard work. Incidentally, he’s a member of a genuinely famous Tramore soccer family. His heavy involvement in the GAA strikes me as being akin to apostasy and I’m dying to ask him what his story is. But I digress . . .

Knowing nothing about what goes on behind the scenes doesn’t make me incapable of interpreting what is out there in the open, but I’m questioning my ability to even do that now though after Derek McGrath made no fewer than six ‘last-minute’ (as if they were decided upon just before throw-in) changes to the team that had been published to play Galway. I had thought after the swift announcement of the team that he was eschewing the daft (in my opinion) habit of releasing what was effectively a dummy in the mistaken (in my opinion) belief that this might throw the opposition off the scent. I understand there were a few post-Fitzgibbon injury concerns, but six enforced changes seems improbable.

The upshot of the weekend just past is that, far from being a straight-as-an-arrow type that I thought he might be, Derek McGrath is just as sneaky as the rest of them. In addition, maybe these mind games are not as ineffective as I thought as Waterford swept to a wonderfully impressive win over a team who had gone nap in the previous round. It’s sobering to find out you know even less than the little you thought you knew. Thank goodness for the wonderfully impressive win to ease the pain, eh?

Waterford 0-22 (22) Galway 1-13 (16) – Giveitfong’s view

(originally posted on boards.ie)

Derek McGrath made six changes from the team he announced last week, with Iggy O’Regan coming in for Stephen O’Keeffe in goals, Tadhg Bourke for Barry Coughlan at corner back, Ray Barry for Jamie Barron on the right wing, Stephen Molumphy for Jake Dillon on the left, Ryan Donnelly for Maurice Shanahan at corner forward and Seamus Prendergast for Shane Walsh at the edge of the square.

On today’s performance, you would wonder if that forward line started last week would be now top of the league. However, the big difference was that Pauric Mahony’s radar from open play was in much better working order, as he finished up with five points from play as well as six pointed frees. In the process he gave Iarla Tannion a torrid time and was my man of the match.

Overall, this was a great team performance, with the players hunting in packs and working hard for each other. Playing against the wind in the first half, they worked their way out of defence very well with some good hand and stick passing and support play. However, at times they overdid the short passing and in the second half in particular, with the wind behind them, they might have used route one more often as Seamus Prendergast clearly had the Galway full back in trouble.

In the first half, despite having the wind at their backs, Galway were unable to take control of the game as Waterford defended really well and played some excellent ball into the forwards which on another day might have produced a couple of goals. Galway did have eight wides (to Waterford’s four) but, unlike last week when they were scoring for fun, today they were nearly always shooting under pressure. As it happened, Waterford had their own share of wides (five) in the second half and both sides ended up with nine wides apiece.

The key features of the first half, apart from Pauric Mahony’s roasting of Iarla Tannion, were Jamie Nagle’s marvellously skillful performance at right half back, a couple of great layoffs by Ryan Donnelly to create scoring chances for Mahony, and some great catches by Seamus Prendergast. The one time he got clean away he was taken down cynically just outside the large square. Overall, the exchanges were even enough, with Waterford going in at half time one point ahead, 0-9 to 0-8.

It took Waterford a while to impose themselves on the game in the second half but they gradually opened up a three-point lead which was cancelled out by Galway’s goal. Iggy O’Regan must take a lot of the fault as his attempt at a directed puckout went astray but even then Tadhg Bourke unluckily slipped as he went to cut out the through ball leaving Jason Flynn in the clear to fire home from close range.

However, this only served to spur Waterford to renewed efforts and, with Kevin Moran storming into the game at midfield and Ray Barry doing the needful on the scoreboard, Waterford controlled the game from there on in to finish comfortably ahead, despite missing some late chances. Waterford also appeared to lose their shape for a while as McGrath sent in several substitutes, including Eddie Barrett for Shane O’Sullivan, Jamie Barron for Brian O’Sullivan, Jake Dillon for Stephen Molumphy, Stephen Roche for Seamus Prendergast and Gavin O’Brien for Ray Barry. It has to be said that all the substitutes settled in right away and none of them looked out of place.

The Waterford defence was again massive today. Tadhg Bourke deserves great credit for an excellent performance in his first senior start for the county. He played with great poise and maturity, allied to a good brain and super skills, and didn’t allow the slip-up for Galway’s goal upset him. Of course, it was a big help that the other full backs, Shane Fives and Noel Connors, were both in top form, with the latter giving a master class of corner back play in the second half.

Apart from Jamie Nagle, Brick Walsh owned the centre back position and destroyed his opposite number (who was substituted) while on the other wing Philip Mahony also did the business. Shane O’Sullivan worked hard all through at midfield, while Kevin Moran really led the charge when Waterford took over in the final quarter.

Ray Barry had a quiet enough first half but really impacted on the game after the change of ends to finish with four points while Stephen Molumphy, as ever, was extremely effective on the other wing. Ryan Donnelly really impressed here, once he got up to the pace of the game in what was also his first start. He has great pace and body strength, and the ability to look around for players in better positions. Seamus Prendergast also had a really good game, but Brian O’Sullivan again had little impact.

When one thinks of the following list of players who didn’t play today, with most of them hopefully becoming available as the year progresses, one can see that these really are potentially exciting times for Waterford hurling.
Stephen O’Keeffe, Barry Coughlan, Liam Lawlor, Paudie Prendergast, Stephen Daniels, Darragh Fives, Richie Foley, Maurice Shanahan, Shane Walsh, Brian O’Halloran, Donie Breathnach and perhaps Stephen Bennett, Austin Gleeson and (hopefully) DJ Foran.

Waterford scorers: Pauric Mahony (0-11, 0-6 frees), Ray Barry (0-4), Seamus Prendergast (0-2), Kevin Moran, Stephen Molumphy, Ryan Donnelly, Stephen Roche and Jake Dillon (0-1 each)

Galway scorers: Conor Cooney (0-6, two frees), Cathal Mannion (0-3), Jason Flynn (1-0), Padraigh Brehony (0-2), David Burke and Niall Healy (0-1 each).

National Hurling League fixtures 2014

After much to-ing and fro-ing, the League format is settled for 2014. The provisional fixtures are out and using the magic of the intrawebs we’ll be able to update them as more information emerges (translation: at the time of writing, apart from the opening game under lights in Thurles, I’m guessing about the venues).

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