Tag Archives: Minor

Waterford 0-17 Limerick 0-19 – Minor

Walsh Park, Venue of Legends

Terrific Treaty down Na Deise – HogansStand.com
Paul O’Brien delights for Limerick minors – Irish Examiner
Perfect 10 for O’Brien as Limerick book final berth – Irish Independent
O’Brien plays leading role as Limerick book place in final – Irish Times
Limerick’s great hurling week continues as they defeat Waterford to reach Munster final – The42.ie

That’s four years on the bounce now that Limerick have done for us in the Munster Minor championship. Things could be worse. We beat them in the two previous meetings in 2009 and 2011, but prior to that Waterford had not beaten Limerick at this level since 1955. That was a run of 14 defeats. Yep, things could be hell of a lot worse.

We’ll get back to the place this game occupies in the history books later, but for now let’s combine the past and present with something I noticed upon arrival at Walsh Park. During the week I had opined on boards.ie that “the only certainties in life are death, taxes, and no matter how tinpot the Waterford game, Tony Browne Sr will be there”. And wouldn’t you know it, it having arrived just after 6.30, who should hobble in moments later but the bould Tony. Way back in 2000 when I was young, single and flush with cash, I fancied myself as becoming some manner of roving reporter for Waterford, paid for by advertising revenue. With all that in mind, I took a photo of myself at our game against Tipperary in Nenagh for posterity, and there in the background . . .

Who needs proof you were there when, well, you are always there? It’s immensely humbling, to see someone who has devoted so much of their time and effort to Waterford GAA. God knows how many of that litany of losses to Limerick he’s has been at.

Waterford played against the wind in the first half, and after the complete failure to make use of it against Cork, this was a good thing. Having seemingly had no strategy to deal with the wind then, Waterford’s plan here seemed to be to slow the game to a crawl. You know all the griping about the time in football matches lost when the likes of Stephen Cluxton jogs forward to take a 45? Well, every free inside our own half seemed to be taken by Billy Nolan in goal and he was in no hurry to take any of them. Allied to some dire shooting by Limerick, Waterford were only a couple of points down after a quarter of a game where the blue touchpaper was staying unlit. Unfortunately Waterford were not able to box clever when they had the ball. The amount of fumbling was atrocious, and there were numerous occasions when the roar of “two hands on the hurl!” went up from the crowd. Some of the decision making was really poor, such as a sideline ball which, in an attempt to play it back to Nolan, was put out for a 65 (thankfully missed). There was little in the way of goalmouth action, which seems to be the norm these days. A late effort by Thomas Douglas, when he tried to score with a swing akin to someone driving a stake into the ground with a sledgehammer, went wide and was as close as it got to a goal. A spectacular point from a sideline ball with the last action of the half gave Limerick a five-point lead at the break. This would have felt about par before the game, but given some of their misses it looked very good for Waterford.

As if noting the presence of the Tony Browne père wasn’t enough, who should sit in front of me at the start of the second half but Tom Cunningham, former Chairman of the County Board. Given his life has been the essence of tribalism, whether it be Waterford GAA or Fianna Fáil, I was wondering whether I’d see repeated volleys of abuse raining down on all and sundry. Instead he was a model of decency and restraint, even going so far as to freely admit when Waterford were fortunate with refereeing decisions. In terms of those around me though, the best nugget of wisdom about what unfolded came from a woman behind with about ten minutes to go: “it’s like last year’s Munster final again, chasing a game with no forwards”. After a couple of quick points which suggested all would be well, Waterford’s strategy of withdrawing from the full-forward line came unstuck. The contrast with Limerick was noticeable. They persisted with a man in at full-forward despite being against the wind, which kept Waterford guessing while also giving them a chance of the odd cheap free to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Not having such worries helped Limerick keep Waterford at arm’s length. Twice we made it a two-point game and on each occasion Limerick pushed back. A four-point burst midway through the half meant the lead was now greater than it had been at half-time with barely ten minutes to go. Goals were going to be needed, you thought, but where were they doing to come from?

It has to be said that Limerick looked that bit tidier than Waterford. Yes, the shooting was a source of concern for them but they were making chances. Their handling was crisper and they were frequently sashaying around Waterford’s more ponderous players. It looked at that point like heads would drop, but to the credit of the Waterford players they pushed back. Eoghan Murray really stood tall and, by dint of effort rather than artistry, they clawed their way into the game to the point where the gap was only one going into injury time. Murray had a sideline ball way out the field but it drifted agonisingly wide and Limerick’s next attack yielded one of those cheap frees that you get when you bother stationing someone in the danger zone. All they had to do was crowd out the last attack and the Irish Press Cup’s absence from this land was stretched to at least four years.

An absurd way to look at it, but it illustrates why I was not too despondent. It would have been a smash-and-grab had we won it, although that never bothered me in the past. What was more pertinent was that despite getting so much wrong, despite a mystifying plan of action, despite that malojan record against Limerick weighing heavily on us, Waterford still nearly got away with it. The thing is, I don’t think history is weighing down on us like it once did. These players have grown up with the idea of being competitive and even of winning things. Losing these games is disappointing in itself, if only because a Munster final appearance guarantees two more games, and wouldn’t it have been lovely to give these boys a big day out in front of a big crowd for the Senior final? But we’ll be back at this level. We aren’t going back to those grim days of 20+ point beatings any time soon.

Coming up on Sunday week: a seven-goal battering at the hands of Tipp.

Waterford 0-17 Limerick 0-19 – Minor – Giveitfong’s view

(originally posted on boards.ie)

After their good performance against Tipperary, the poor performance of the Waterford minors against Limerick was a big disappointment. In many ways, this was a repeat of the first round defeat to Cork, with Waterford playing second fiddle for most of the match before launching a late rally which came up short. As in that game, our opponents were better focused, their first touch was much better and they had much more of a structure to their play, with many good passing movements.

Waterford started very nervously and never settled down until it was too late. Their fumble count was enormous, unable to hold onto a catch or get the ball in hand from the ground at the first, or even second, attempt. Time and again, Waterford players ran at their opponents only to lose possession in the process. There was a lack of urgency and alertness in their play, with Limerick first to the ball all over the pitch. In the first half, the Waterford backs stood off their opponents, allowing them to get easy possession from incoming ball.

Waterford were also very poor at competing for ball in the air. In this context, it defied comprehension that Waterford played their best ball winner, Eoghan Murray, in the full forward line in the first half despite playing against a very strong wind. The selectors obviously had come up with some kind of game plan which was rendered redundant by the weather conditions, and they were unable to adapt to these unexpected conditions. It was only when Murray moved to the midfield area late in the game that Waterford began to win some decent ball, and in the last ten minutes they showed some glimpse of what they were capable of, running hard and with purpose at the Limerick defence and hitting five points on the trot.

It also appears that Waterford won the toss and elected to play against the wind, which again struck me as being a poor call. I think you should always put visiting teams under the maximum pressure from the start, rather than presenting them with the opportunity to build up a bit of a lead. Even then, Waterford missed three very good early scoring chances, a reflection of the team’s weak mindset – and of course doing nothing to correct that mindset.

As it was, Limerick hit a number of bad wides themselves, and their five-point half-time lead (0-9 to 0-4) looked quite surmountable. Waterford did make a surge on the restart to reduce the lead to two points, but Limerick dug in and took over again to go six points in front by the 48th minute. The Waterford defence gave away too many easy frees, with Limerick sharpshooter Paul O’Brien nailing eight of them. Waterford did finally get their act together in the last ten minutes, and came agonisingly close to equalising when Eoghan Murray’s sideline went inches wide of the post. But once again Limerick won the ensuing puckout and forced the free which was the final nail in the Waterford coffin.

This will be Limerick’s fourth Munster minor hurling final in a row, while they are also the current Under 21 All-Ireland champions. Like Clare, they clearly have much better under-age coaching and management personnel at their disposal than do Waterford. In the 2013 Munster minor final replay, they completely outfoxed Waterford with their tactics and positional switches, and the following year, again in a Munster final replay, Waterford were unable to come to grips with their sweeper in defence. This was again apparent last night, as time after time the extra man in the Limerick defence swept up loose incoming ball.

With their Centre of Excellence and with Anthony Daly (very prominent last night) in overall charge of under-age development in the county, Limerick’s future as an under-age powerhouse looks secure. Waterford are in the dark ages by comparison.

Waterford 1-10 (13) Cork 0-17 (17) – Minor – media reports

Strong start by Cork as they defeat Waterford in Munster minor hurling opener – The42.ie
Rebels win in Waterford – HoganStand.com
Impressive Cork reveal fighting spirit to reel in Waterford – Irish Examiner
Sheehan shines as Rebels edge past Waterford – Irish Independent
Second-half surge eases Cork minors to victory – Irish Times

Waterford 1-10 (13) Cork 0-17 (17) – Minor – Giveitfong’s view

(originally posted on boards.ie)

Waterford could, and possibly should, have won this very strange minor hurling game played in Walsh Park tonight before a paying attendance of 2,707.

Waterford had first use of a very strong wind blowing down the field towards the town goal and had the best possible start. In their very first attack, Eoin McGrath (wearing the number 9 jersey allotted to Harry Ruddle in the programme) ran through the Cork defence and blasted an unstoppable shot to the net from over 20 metres. Cathal Curran and Michael Mahony followed up with excellent points to leave Waterford 1-2 to 0-0 ahead after just three minutes.

Any hopes that Waterford would settle down and drive on from this tonic start were quickly blown to shreds. Cork took over complete control in all sectors of the field. Their ball control was excellent, they were much more alert and sharper in their play and had a game plan – which they executed superbly – to overcome the facts that they were up against both a very strong wind and a physically bigger and stronger team. Their main ploy consisted of low, short balls into the forwards which were regularly collected with their markers yards behind, giving them plenty of space to plan and play their next ball.

By contrast, Waterford team fumbled and foostered all over the field, dropping balls from hand and unable to execute the most basic pickups. They stood off their men and allowed the smaller/lighter but much more committed Cork players to run around and through them. An example of the Waterford mindset was a defender hitting one sideline about six feet and then completely missing the next one.

Waterford’s main attacking ploy was booming puckouts from Billy Nolan which rained down on the Cork half backs. Those balls which they didn’t catch cleanly out of the sky were broken down and then hoovered up by alert and quick defenders. It didn’t help Waterford’s cause that Cork had at least one extra defender, with one of the Waterford forwards withdrawn in a sweeper role. Playing a sweeper when Waterford had the assistance of a very strong wind didn’t make much sense to me, and points up the importance of being able to adjust a prepared game plan to prevailing circumstances and conditions.

Despite playing into the wind, Cork reeled off eight points in a row without reply to go 0-8 to 1-2 up by the 25th minute. Then, as if someone had tripped a switch, Waterford suddenly completely took over again and landed four points in a row to go in at half time 1-6 to 0-8 ahead. An important factor here was a change in Nolan’s puckout strategy, sending lower and more directed ball to the midfield area.

During the interval we reckoned that if Waterford could start the second half as they finished the first and dictate the terms of play they might have some chance. However, the first ten minutes of the second half was a complete disaster for them, with Cork again taking over in all sectors and rattling off five points in a row to go four up. At this stage a complete hiding looked in store for the home side.

Then, that switch was tripped again and suddenly Waterford took control again and essentially dominated territorially for the last twenty minutes. Faced with a desperate situation, key players decided that enough was enough and began competing for the ball and making it stick. An additional key factor was the introduction of Clonea’s Conor Dalton who put in a powerful last twenty minutes.

Unfortunately, Waterford were unable to translate their dominance outfield into scores on the board. Time and again they drove forward from midfield only to run into cul-de-sacs in front of the Cork goal. It didn’t help that Tommy Douglas, whom we would have looked to for a scoring edge, completely failed to get the grips with the game (and the ball) with the other corner forward Michael Mahony also failing to make any impact.

Waterford also failed to turn a series of scoreable frees to advantage. Having started well, freetaker Eoghan Murray went completely off the boil as the game progressed. He missed a free just before half time and two more, from in front of the goal, in the third quarter, on top of a straightforward shot from play which he hit badly wide. One wonders what the result might have been had Harry Ruddle, who did very well for De La Salle in the Harty Cup, been on the frees here. While Waterford did manage to raise a few white flags, Cork, with the aid of the strong wind, were able to match this at the other end to keep themselves 4-5 points ahead.

The game ended on a slightly farcical note when Waterford were awarded four close-in frees in a row. Billy Nolan came up to take the first two of these but his two well-hit shots were blocked out. Harry Ruddle took the third, with the same result, before Nolan came back up the field to take the fourth which he blazed just over the crossbar. The game ended on the puckout.

Apart from Conor Dalton, for me Waterford’s two key players in the second half were Cathal Curran (brother of the Brickeys’ Cormac), operating in the midfield area, and Neil Montgomery (Abbeyside) in the half forwards. Both players won a world of ball and repeatedly drove at the Cork defence, with Montgomery notching two good points in the process.

Cork’s key players were their go-to man in the corner, Evan Sheehan, who hit four points from play and one from a sideline and their centre forward Matthew Bradley who also scored four from play. Their full forward Josh Beusang converted four frees and also scored one from play, as did midfielders Cian O’Mahony and Robbie Bourke and corner forward Liam Healy.

A lot of people in the attendance were condemning the Waterford players for their apparent lack of skills on the night, but of course they are much better than they showed here (and indeed they did demonstrate this in patches). Their big problem seemed to me to be poor mental preparation. They have to believe that they are much better than they showed tonight. If they can marry their physical size with their undoubted skills and, most important, the kind of drive or “cur chuige” that is required in championship matches, I would not write them off yet. Poorly and all as they played, they could still have won this game with the chances they created. They now go on to play Tipperary in Walsh Park.

Waterford: Billy Nolan (Roanmore) (0-3, frees); Conor Giles Doran (De La Salle); James Flavin (Ardmore); Darragh McGrath (Abbeyside); Donal Power (Passage); Eoghan Murray (Ballyduff Upper) (0-2, frees); Michael O’Brien (Geraldines); Eoin McGrath (Butlerstown); Harry Ruddle Redmond (Ballygunner) (1-0); Jack Prendergast (Lismore( (0-1); Dylan Guiry (Fourmilewater); Cathal Curran (Brickey Rangers) (0-1); Michael Mahony (Ballygunner) (0-1); Neil Montgomery (Abbeyside) (0-2); Tommy Douglas (De La Salle).

Chances’d be a fine thing

A couple of years back a Tipperary work colleague couldn’t resist a dig at how the Waterford Minors won the All-Ireland despite losing twice. I was most upset at such a belittling attitude, and by ‘upset’ I mean ‘amused’ with much in the way of cry-me-a-river pouring forth. It was an odd quirk of the system though, and it’s just gotten quirkier as the Munster Council have put in place rules to ensure everyone gets at least two games, something that hasn’t been possible in recent years in the absence of Kerry. The new setup involves the two quarter-finals being played tomorrow, Waterford v Cork and Limerick v Clare. The winner of each game goes into the semi-finals. The loser of the Waterford-Cork game plays off against Tipperary. The winner of this play-off is the third semi-finalist. The loser of the Waterford-Cork-Tipperary play-off then plays off against the loser of the Limerick-Clare game.  The winner of this second play-off takes the last semi-final place.


The bottom line is that Waterford could lose to Cork and lose to Tipperary then beat Limerick/Clare and be in the semi-finals. Assuming there is a back door for the losing Munster finalist, we could lose three games and still win the All-Ireland. If that should happen. the world’s entire stock of microscopic violins would be needed in Waterford. Of course it would be an outrage worthy of sending someone to The Hague if Cork pulled off that trick.

Waterford 1-10 (13) Limerick 0-18 (18) – Minor – Giveitfong’s view

(originally posted on boards.ie)

The essential fact from tonight’s Munster minor hurling qualifier in Thurles is that, after a jittery first 20 minutes, Limerick were by far the better team, bigger and stronger, better drilled and technically superior to a struggling Déise outfit.

And yet Waterford will look ruefully to their 13 wides (six in the first half, seven in the second) compared with just five for Limerick (one in the second half when the accuracy of their shooting was outstanding). Some of Waterford’s wides were really bad, including two handy enough frees missed by the usually reliable Jack Prendergast (although none was as bad as Peter Casey’s missed 20 metre free for Limerick from straight in front of the goal in the early minutes).

Apart from the wides, Waterford also passed up several scoring opportunities when forwards, coming through on goal with handy tap-over points available, attempted instead to pass inside to team mates. In all three cases where this occurred, the attempted pass was cut out by the Limerick defence.

A feature of this game was the five points from long distance frees (including two 65s) by Limerick goalie and captain Eoghan McNamara. By contrast, Waterford’s goalkeeper Billy Nolan (who otherwise was Waterford’s man of the match) struck two long range frees wide, one in each half.

Limerick started quite well but missed several early chances (including a couple of goal chances). By contrast, the Waterford forwards showed great accuracy with the balls coming their way, and led 0-5 to 0-2 after 15 minutes with some super scores. Waterford at this stage enjoyed their only period of dominance in the game, with Limerick looking very nervous and playing poorly.

However, Waterford’s early accuracy suddenly deserted them, and they struck four bad wides in a row. Yet they then struck what we hoped would be a decisive blow when corner forward Aaron O’Sullivan made a great catch out on the right and cut through on goal. Although the Limerick goalie stopped his first shot, he calmly collected the rebound and slotted to the net, giving Waterford a lead of 1-6 to 0-3 after 21 minutes.
Any hopes that Waterford would drive on from this fillip were dashed, however, as Limerick raised their game considerably to reduce the deficit to just three points, 1-7 to 0-7, by the interval.

Limerick took control of the game after the restart, with Waterford struggling to get decent possession in midfield and in their half forward line. As the game progressed and the scores began to flow (especially from Eoghan McNamara’s impressive freetaking) Limerick’s confidence grew, while Waterford’s went in the opposite direction. Poor striking and decisionmaking undermined confidence, leading to even poorer striking and decisionmaking. They went 18 minutes before Jack Prendergast finally got them on the second half scoreboard with a free, only to be followed by the same player’s dispiriting aforementioned misses in the 22nd and 24th minute.

He was not the only one. Midfielder JP Lucey had an awful miss from in front of the goal and their last chance of getting back into the game went abegging when Eddie Meaney seized on a mistake by a Limerick defender to bring the ball in along the end line, but instead of using his size and pace to take on the goalie, he opted for a shot from an angle which was easily blocked out.

Referee Philip Kelly of Tipperary didn’t help matters with a truly appalling decision to award Limerick an easy free when one of their forwards took an obvious dive, while ignoring two blatant fouls on different Waterford players immediately beforehand. The resultant free put Limerick four points in front and in the clear for the first time.

In the closing minutes, Waterford substitute Mikey Daykin got clean through and was just about to shoot from point blank range when the referee called play back for a free. There is supposed to be an advantage rule but it certainly was not applied in this case, as Billy Nolan’s follow-up free flew inches over the bar. However, a goal at that stage would have made no difference to the end result.

With Waterford unable to get decent possession in the midfield area, and with the game not yet out of reach, I thought the selectors might have brought Billy Nolan out of goal in the closing quarter to try to change things around. In addition, Conor Prunty, another potential ballwinner, spent most of the game at corner back marking Limerick danger man Peter Casey, and should also have been moved further outfield in the later stages of the game, in my view.

Waterford were able to stay in touch due to Limerick’s inability to score goals. While they could have done better with some of the many opportunities they created, credit is due both to goalkeeper Billy Nolan who made several good stops and clearances, and to a beleagured defence which stuck at its task despite being under intense pressure for much of the match. Captain Darragh Lyons did as much as he could around the midfield area. Andy Molumby started well at centre forward but faded out as the Waterford front line became toothless after the change of ends.

Waterford: Billy Nolan (Roanmore, 0-1 free); Darragh Lynch (Passage); Conor Prunty (Abbeyside); Darragh McGrath (Abbeyside); Jordan Henley (Tallow); Darragh Lyons (Dungarvan); Cormac Dunphy (Ballyduff Lower); Calum Lyons (Ballyduff Lower, 0-1); JP Lucey (Shamrocks); Glenn Waters (Dungarvan (0-1); Andy Molumby (Cappoquin, 0-2); Eddie Meaney (De La Salle); Aaron O’Sullivan (Cappoquin, 1-0); Jack Prendergast (Lismore, 0-3, 2 frees); Peter Hogan (Ballygunner, 0-1).

Substitutes: Jake Beecher (Tallow) for McGrath (37 mins); Mikey Daykin (Mount Sion, 0-1, free) for Waters (45 mins); John Kennedy (Ballyduff Lower) for Lucey (48 mins).

Waterford 0-16 (16) Tipperary 1-14 (17) – Minor – Giveitfong’s view

(originally posted on boards.ie)

Missed goal chances, the concession of silly frees and various other unforced errors cost Waterford what would have been a famous, and deserved, victory over prematch favourites Tipperary in tonight’s Munster minor hurling championship game in Thurles. If you were told before the game that the starting Tipperary forwards would manage just a single goal from general play between them, and that their overall total from play would be 1-3, you would surely have expected Waterford to win this game.

And, in truth, they should have won comfortably. While Tipp had their moments, Waterford were the better team here and were a credit to their mentors who had their charges well prepared, well drilled, well focused and on top from the word go. They led for most of the first half, fell behind to a fortunate Tipp goal just on half time, went ahead again immediately after the restart, were still ahead after 50 minutes and had enough possession in the closing stages to close the game out.

That Waterford failed to win can be put down mainly to their failure to convert four clear goal-scoring chances and the needless concession of frees in scorable positions which were routinely punished by Tipp sharpshooter Daragh Cary who nailed eight in all, assisted by centre back Brian McGrath who converted two 65s and one long-range free.

Even the late converted 65 which gave Tipperary victory in the end was a result of an unforced error in the Waterford defence. Corner back Darragh McGrath, under pressure, passed the ball back to unmarked full back Conor Prunty. However, Prunty (who otherwise had an excellent game) failed to control the ball which allowed the Tipp forwards to surge in on goal. Some desperate defence managed to keep them out, but the ball was deflected out for the converted 65 which gave the home side the narrowest of victories.

On a beautiful evening, before an official attendance of 2,821, Waterford quickly got into their stride, driven on by captain Darragh Lyons who lined out at centre back. They had their first missed goal chance after just two minutes, when a poorly struck shot from the edge of the square was hit straight at the goalie. They were having some problems against a strong Tipperary half back line who were very good in the air, but with their own defence dominating proceedings, they were getting enough ball into the inside line to force Tipperary into conceding frees which were unerringly converted by full forward Jack Prendergast. Meanwhile in the right corner Aaron O’Sullivan was having a dream game, nailing four points from play by half time, with Glenn Waters in the other corner also landing a lovely score.

Another goal chance went abegging in the 12th minute when Waterford got the ball into the Tipperary square but no one could get the vital touch to send it over the line. One of O’Sullivan’s points should also have been a goal, as he drove the ball inches over the crossbar from point blank range in the 28th minute. That would have put Waterford four points ahead and really in the driving seat coming up to half time. They were to rue these misses when, as often happens in these situations, Tipperary managed to find the net with their first goal-scoring attempt one minute later. After a shot had been blocked out to the left, the ball was returned to the Waterford goalmouth where a defender crucially failed to keep possession and in the ensuing melee, which looked like an old-fashioned rugby foot rush, the ball was eventually forced over the line leaving Tipp ahead, 1-7 to 0-9, at the interval.

Two quick points after the restart put Waterford back in the lead and, with their defence continuing to do well, they reached the 50th minute still ahead, 0-14 to 1-10. However, they were unable to extend their lead beyond the bare minimum. JP Lucey, with an easy tap-over point at his disposal, decided to take on the Tipp defence looking for a goal and was eventually forced out over the end line and I think it was the same player who, some minutes later, missed the fourth goal chance when his point blank shot was stopped on the line when he should have done better. If either of these chances had been converted, I reckon there would have been a different result to the game.

Tipp eventually drew level before going ahead with the aforementioned 65. The referee played four minutes of added time which gave Waterford ample opportunity to get the equaliser. However, nothing went right (or was done right) in those four minutes. Peter Hogan’s hurried shot went wide of the post. Darragh Lyons, running onto a lateral pass in midfield, failed to control the ball and was then adjudged to have handled it on the ground. Substitute Eoghan Murray, attempting to round his man on the right, was forced out over the sideline.

Big-hitting goalkeeper Billy Nolan, instead of letting the ball down the field, attempted to find Darragh Lyons out on the right but overhit his puck. Then, in the dying moments, Conor Prunty did well to gain possession and pass the ball out to Jordan Henley. However, instead of driving the ball up to the forwards, inexplicably he attempted a lateral pass to Darragh Lyons which again was overhit and went out over the sideline. The ensuing sideline was followed by the final whistle.

Apart from conceding unnecessary frees, the Waterford defence gave an excellent account of themselves. Apart from the scrambled goal, they conceded just two points to the opposing forwards, both scored by substitute Lyndon Fairbrother shortly after he was introduced late in the first half. However, the defence quickly got to grips with this new threat and little was seen of him afterwards. Tipp’s only other score from play was landed by midfielder Liam McCutcheon.

I thought that, apart from his late error, Conor Prunty did very well at full back, using his height and reach to repeatedly bat away high incoming ball. Darragh Lyons played some marvellous hurling at centre back, but was in trouble in the air against his marker. However, this threat was well countered by the judicious switch of Jordan Henley to the centre after half time.

Calum Lyons did well at midfield and notched two excellent points. However, his partner, JP Lucey, never got into the game and, having been moved to the forwards, was eventually substituted after his two second-half misses. The Achilles heel of the Waterford team was the half forward line, which always struggled against strong opponents who were very good in the air. Andy Molumby did some good work, but Peter Hogan made no impression and, while Eddie Meaney looked threatening when he did get possession, his lack of physicality and failure to compete for ball were key problems throughout.

In the full forward line, Aaron O’Sullivan failed to repeat his first-half heroics after the change of ends (due, in no small part, to a reduced supply of good ball). While unerring from frees (he scored six in all, some from difficult angles), Jack Prendergast was unable to contribute further from general play, while Glenn Waters’s impact was also limited. Ballyduff Lower’s John Kennedy, who missed this game due to injury, should certainly be able to strengthen the forward division if he is fit for the next game. This will be away to Limerick on May 6 and, with the latter shipping a heavy defeat in Cork tonight, Waterford must have a good chance of qualifying for the semi-final which would be in Walsh Park against Cork, as far as I am aware.

Waterford: Billy Nolan (Roanmore); Darragh Lynch (Passage); Conor Prunty (Abbeyside); Darragh McGrath (Abbeyside); Jordan Henley (Tallow); Darragh Lyons (Dungarvan, 0-1 from free); Cormac Dunphy (Ballyduff Lower); Calum Lyons (Ballyduff Lower, 0-2); JP Lucey (Shamrocks); Peter Hogan (Ballygunner); Andy Molumby (Cappoquin, 0-1); Eddie Meaney (De La Salle, 0-1); Aaron O’Sullivan (Cappoquin, 0-4); Jack Prendergast (Lismore, 0-6, all frees); Glenn Waters (Dungarvan, 0-1). Substitutes used: Michael Roche (De La Salle); Eoghan Murray (Cappoquin).

Other substitutes listed: Donagh Looby (Ballinameela); David Cullinane (Ballygunner); Jake Beecher (Tallow); Cárthach Barry (Brickey Rangers); Mikey Daykin (Mount Sion); Mark Mullally (Ballygunner); Andrew Casey (Ballyduff Upper).

Our summer of discontent

21 Waterford v Wexford 19 July 2014

Stephen Bennett is the symbol of all our hopes and fears for the recent past, present, and near-to-medium-term future of Waterford hurling.

Before looking at that click-baiting statement in more detail, let’s look at our current position. By any objective measure, Waterford went backwards in 2014. After being hot favourites for relegation in each of the previous years of the six-team division format in the National League, we fell through the trapdoor just when people were hesitant about tipping us to fall through the trapdoor because we kept on refusing to fall through the trapdoor. We went out at the same stage of the Senior championship, but there was a difference between the manner in which we nearly picked Kilkenny’s pocket in 2013 and how we clung on to the coattails of a Wexford team who would have been knackered after their efforts against Clare in the previous weeks in 2014. There were striking parallels between the efforts of the Minors over the two years – won a titanic Munster semi-final, lost to Limerick after a replay in the Munster final, went toe-to-toe with Kilkenny for 60 minutes – but while it was certainly a valiant effort, it was still a step backwards overall.

Although not half as big a step as the Under-21’s. While mulling this over, I had the thought that the loss to Cork this year was worse than the 2011 Munster final, worse than the 2008 All-Ireland final, worse than the 1998 Munster final replay. Now that it’s come to writing it, I realise that is ridiculous. However, in each of those cases we went into the game with modest expectations, and while we found we had much to be modest about it helped dull the pain. We also had events that followed that lifted the spirit: a homecoming for the ages in 2008 and thumping wins over Galway in 1998 and 2011. There was no such backlash in 2014 for the Under-21’s, merely the added dismay of watching Clare demonstrate that Cork really were no great shakes. It has been a bad year, and subsequent results have only made it feel worse.

So what has all this got to do with Stephen Bennett? Each of his interactions with the three panels spoke volumes about where we are at and where we are going. His absence from the Minor team could be reasonably said to have proven fatal to their chances. I can hear the chorus line telling me that every county has to face up to the loss of most of the Under-18’s each year, but I say it as a positive, not a negative. Despite losing so many players, Waterford still put up a great show. While one Munster title and one All-Ireland isn’t a spectacular return for our five Munster final appearances, it has been a period of high competitiveness in the province, with Clare and Limerick both winning titles as well as ourselves. Even in 2014 there is great satisfaction to be taken out of lowering the Banner on two occasions, showing that a county that has gotten it so right at underage level as to win three Under-21 Munster titles in a row is not able to live with us at Minor level. We are clearly doing something right ourselves – the chairman of the Wexford County Board said as much – and it should be something to be excited about.

Despite not being in the Minor panel then – in fact, precisely because he wasn’t – Stephen Bennett casts them in a good light. The problems start when you move to the levels where is eligible. The most alarming thing about the Under-21’s and the Seniors is how both seem to be following the same strategy, i.e. keeping possession at all costs, exemplified by the effective abandonment of the full-forward line. Derek McGrath and Peter Queally were rivals for the post of Senior manager last year, and Queally (in)famously had little preparation time with the Under-21 panel. Given that, it would have been reasonable to expect him to adopt very different policies with regard to the team. Instead we had the Waterford Under-21 team run out in a game where they were warm favourites and proceed to stink the place out with the defeatist mentality that had characterised the Seniors, culminating in the horror show which saw a short puck-out intercepted by Alan Cadogan to allow him to bury the tie, only moments after we had had our hopes raised when Cork were reduced to 14 men. It’s a sound idea, having integration between the various levels of the game. We seem to be sharing ideas between the worst-performing levels though, while the best one stands in glorious isolation.

Compounding all this was the curious use of Stephen Bennett – yep, I’m finally getting to the point. At half-time in the Under-21 game, my brother and I were casting our eyes over the panel when our collective short-sighted eyes squinted their way towards the name of Bennett on the bench. With Gleeson, Kevin Daly, and M’s Harney and Kearney all making the step-up from the All-Ireland winners, it was a surprise to see the star of the team on the bench. It’s always possible that he hadn’t impressed in training or was jaded after the long slog of a winter with Ballysaggart. But that wouldn’t explain why, when Waterford were seeking a Clark Kent to explode out of a phone box, it was Bennett to whom they turned. And as if the parallels in terms of strategies between the two adult panels were not enough, Bennett was also kept under wraps by Derek McGrath until the situation was at its most dire against Wexford. Both changes reeked of desperation, and it’s surely a bit unfair to heap so much pressure on those young shoulders. Successfully blending the new talent into the Senior panel is essential to our future, and in fairness the performances of Messrs Gleeson, de Búrca and Dunford suggest it’s not all doom and gloom on that score, but the first steps for Stephen Bennett have not been the stuff of inspiration.

The message from the last couple of years are clear. We’re going gangbusters at Minor level and making a total hash of it at Under-21 and Senior level. That’s where we’re at. Where are we going, and how can we get to where we want to get? That’s for another day.

Waterford 2-17 (23) Limerick 3-14 (23) – Minor – Giveitfong’s view

(originally posted on boards.ie)

This Waterford minor hurling team should be called the “Comeback Kids”, as in each of their games to date they have saved the day with a late scoring surge. However, if they have any ambitions of winning titles they will have to produce more consistent high intensity throughout their games.

In the first game against Clare they played second fiddle for 50 minutes and if Clare’s shooting hadn’t been so wayward they would have been out of sight before Waterford finally roused themselves. In the second game against Clare Waterford were played off the pitch by 14 men for 20 minutes in the second half but the lead they had built up in the first half meant that Clare were within reach when the late surge came.

Yesterday in Cork they were seven points behind when the surge began, but it still took a goal in injury time to get the draw. If Limerick had converted even half of their nine second-half wides there would have been no way back. While the overall wide count was similar for both sides (Limerick 11; Waterford 10) a lot of Waterford’s six first-half wides resulted from balls being overhit with wind assistance and running harmlessly out over the end line – in other words they were not clearcut scoring chances like the ones Limerick missed.

Waterford have shown in patches in all three games that they can play excellent hurling. However, they have to gain possession first, and that has been their problem. At half-time yesterday I said to my companions that Waterford had the hurlers but not the required intensity. Limerick were sharper, more alert and quicker off the mark all over the field. They were also more physical both in tackling and taking tackles.

However, when the alarm bells started ringing with ten minutes to go, Waterford finally raised their game and took control all over the field. It may be that Waterford were simply fitter, but my own guess is that, due to their earlier lack of application, they had more left in the tank in the closing stages while Limerick’s earlier exertions left them unable to contain the Waterford surge.

The Waterford defence also seemed to be upset by the constant interchanging of the Limerick forwards and at times the players did not seem sure who was supposed to be marking whom. There was also a lot of confusion over puckouts, several of which went straight to unmarked Limerick players. Waterford players were making runs expecting balls which never came. There also seemed to be a concentration in the second half on hitting puckouts to Shane Bennett which wasn’t working out (just as there was an overconcentration on targetting Cormac Curran against Clare in Dungarvan which also did not work as it was too predictable).

Last year Limerick unexpectedly moved their freetaker Ronan Lynch from full forward to centre back for the replayed Munster final and it proved a master move as Lynch was the dominant figure in the Limerick victory. While Lynch also played at centre back in this year’s semi-final against Cork and was named in this position for the final, he actually played in midfield where again he had a major influence on the game, scoring three points from play.

I thought Waterford’s decision to start two physically small players with similar styles (Darragh Lyons and Andy Molumby) in midfield was the wrong mix – even though both players did a lot of good work – and Conor Gleeson seemed to have a substantial impact when he was switched to the midfield area.

However, the key switch was that which brought Cormac Curran to full forward midway through the second half. Curran actually started at full forward but was unable to gain possession from several high balls which were sent in to him, and he was then switched out to wing forward where he improved somewhat but was still not imposing himself on the game.

I have always felt that full forwards actually do better when playing against the wind as the incoming ball holds up giving the target recipient more of a chance to get in position to challenge for it (and even if the ball is missed it is not inclined to run over the end line). When Curran did move back to the edge of the square he did really well in gaining possession or otherwise causing panic in the opposing rearguard. He scored the goal which launched the comeback. Although he missed the high incoming ball, Patrick Curran was right behind him and did really well when he dived to get hold of the bouncing ball near the ground and then hand-pass back to the inrushing Cormac who finished to the net.

Patrick Curran got his injury in this incident when his marker fell on him, driving his knee into Curran’s back. First reports indicate that the injury is not severe, and hopefully he will be okay for the replay.

Cormac Curran then set up the equalising goal when he superbly flicked an incoming ball to Shane Ryan on his right, with the team captain finishing expertly to the net. Cormac had previously been unlucky when, after Shane Bennett’s 20 metre free was blocked out, he got a great flick on the loose ball only for someone on the line to somehow keep it out. Bennett, who played amazingly well given his recent hand injury, deserves great credit for the way he nailed a late free from out on the right sideline (after Patrick Curran got injured) to reduce the deficit to three points paving the way for Shane Ryan’s equalising goal.

While the overall team performance was rather uneven, I thought that Michael Cronin did well at left corner back and Colm Roche had a good second half at centre back. Andy Molumby, Peter Hogan and Aaron O’Sullivan all paid their way with two points apiece. For the replay I would be inclined to move Shane Bennett back to wing back where he was so effective last year. I think Eddie Meaney is due a start in the half forward line, perhaps with Conor Gleeson moving to midfield and Darragh Lyons to centre forward (with a roving role). Meaney could also come in at midfield, where he did well in a recent challenge against Dublin.

There is a lot of quality in this team and they definitely have what it takes to win the replay, but they need to hit the ground running and to stay running right to the end.