Today’s match was a pretty convincing in favour of one of my favourite projects – a Champions League style All-Ireland hurling championship. It was a pretty meaningless fixture – for ‘pretty’, read ‘totally’ – and the match was incredibly lopsided. But it was still reasonably entertaining fare played in good conditions in front of a healthy crowd. It was also a darn sight more interesting that much of what passed for entertainment in the real Champions League. But I digress . . .
With no pressure on either team, the early exchanges were of a decent quality. Laois got the first score but were then completely undone by Dan Shanahan, his strong run ended in a shot which was saved by the Laois goalie but the ever-industrious John Mullane pounced on the rebound and slotted the ball into the gaping net. You could almost see the Laois heads dropping already.
I remember the last time Laois came down to Waterford. They had had a few good results under Padraig Horan and David Cuddy postponed his honeymoon so he could play in Walsh Park. We trashed them, Kilkenny murdered them in the Leinster championship and I don’t think they’ve won a game since. Laois have the same problem as Waterford, only more so: they don’t have enough really outstanding players. Every Laois attack broke foundered on the rock of the Waterford defence. This led them to try shooting from hopeless positions leading to hopeless results. Waterford, meanwhile, were having it easy. John Mullane had the measure of his marker and was dancing around him at will. Dan Shanahan was being, well, Dan Shanahan, while Paul Flynn was even knocking over a few frees.
By half time the game was over. Last year in O’Moore Park Laois had destroyed Waterford with the advantage of the wind, but here they had the wind in the first half and couldn’t do anything with it. Despite this, they started the half brightly with a great goal, a long range effort was deftly flicked to the net by full forward James Young. The Waterford full-back line and goalie looked at each other as if to say “he was yours!”
It didn’t take Waterford long to cancel out that effort though. Dan went on one of those rampaging runs, and the ball found its way to Seamus Prendergast who turned and thumped the ball past the Laois goalie.
This was almost like a cue for the match to descend into farce. Errors crept into everyone’s game, and the amount of annoying gaffs beggared belief. Waterford knocked over a few points, Laois didn’t. Míceal White came on which was a bit of a surprise – I didn’t think we’d see him again in a hurry. Still, he injected a bit of life into the preceedings and combined neatly with Anthony Kirwan to allow the latter to slam home Waterford’s third goal from a narrow angle.
In terms of performances, Waterford can take heart from the performance of John Mullane up front and James Murray has carried his good form from the end of last season into 2001. Alan Kirwan had a good game at corner back although not having seen him play before, you have to wonder how much of his excellence was down to his marker. Dave Bennett must also be wondering what he has to do to nail down a regular place. Three points from play as a sub will surely help his cause.
So the curtain comes down on another National League campaign. It was very much a mixed bag. Wins over Derry and Laois were necessary and they were achieved. Good performances against Tipperary and Cork yielded nothing, you can’t read anything into the win over Wexford and the defeat to Kilkenny was an embarrassment on a par with hidings in the past. Surely our best hope in this years Championship is that Limerick nobble Cork. If that happens, all hell could break lose in the Gentle County. But it’s hard to see us beating Cork. As always, we’ll see what happens.
Waterford: Stephen Brenner, Tom Feeney, Sean Cullinane, Alan Kirwan, Stephen Frampton (Declan Prendergast), Peter Queally, James Murray, Tony Browne (0-1), Eoin Murphy (Dave Bennett, 0-3), Dan Shanahan, Fergal Hartley (0-2), Ken McGrath (capt., Paul Prendergast, 0-1), John Mullane (1-3), Seamus Prendergast (1-1; Anthony Kirwan, 1-0), Paul Flynn (0-4, all frees; Míceal White)
Laois: J Lyons, N Lacey, S Dooley (J O’Sullivan), D Killeen, Niall Rigney, Paul Cuddy (0-1), Cyril Cuddy (P Mahon), David Cuddy (0-3, all frees), Declan Conroy (J O’Shea), J Phelan, O Dowling, Canice Coonan (0-2; Des Conroy), C Cleer (E Maher), James Young (1-0), Fionan O’Sullivan
HT: Waterford 1-10 Laois 0-5
Referee: D Kirwan (Cork)