Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Waterford 4-23


Kilkenny 2-22


Maurice Shanahan celebrates with the Waterford supporters following Saturday night’s All-Ireland Qualifier win over Kilkenny in Thurles. Photo: Inpho.

All-Ireland SHC Qualifiers Round 2 – Waterford v Kilkenny; The Talking Points

Let’s put Saturday night’s win over Kilkenny in a bit of context.
The last time Waterford beat Kilkenny in the senior hurling championship was in the All-Ireland Final replay of 1959. That’s 58 years. A hell of a long time.
Eamon de Valera was President of Ireland. Sean Lemass was Taoiseach. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the President of the USA. Ben Hur was the biggest selling film. Marilyn Monroe won the Oscar for Best Actress in Some Like It Hot and Cliff Richard’s Living Doll was the biggest selling song of the year in the UK. The Soviet Union landed the first ever rocket (Luna 2) on the moon and it was ten years before the first man stepped foot on the moon. And future Irish sporting stars Paul McGrath and Stephen Roche were both born.
They say all good things come to those who wait, well then Deise fans have been waiting an awful long time to see their team beat Kilkenny in championship and I dare say that the vast majority of white and blue glad supporters in Thurles on Saturday night, never witnessed such a feat, a whole generation, but now the monkey is off the back. The hoodoo is broken and it was broken in style.
While it was a magnificent game and spectacle on Saturday night under lights in Semple Stadium, the truth is that this game should never have gone to extra-time. Waterford were by far the better team and should have won a lot more comfortably than they did but in the end who cares about that? If you’re going to do something you might as well do it with a bit of drama and they certainly did that by letting an eight point advantage with 11 minutes to play slip before going on to finish the job in extra-time.

In a game of so many twists and turns it is hard to pick out just one but I’m going to go for Jamie Barron’s goal right at the end of the first-half of extra-time. Austin Gleeson won possession in his own half before picking out Jamie Barron with a beautiful pass. A lovely first touch got the sliothar under immediate control around 48 yards out from the Kilkenny goal and the Fourmilewater man was off. He had Maurice Shanahan inside him but he had only one thing on his mind and when the ball hit the net the Waterford crowd were on their feet. From being level two minutes earlier, the Deise boys now went to the break in half-time in possession of a four point lead and try as they did Kilkenny didn’t have another outrageous comeback in them.

I was tempted to go for the aforementioned Jamie Barron goal or indeed any of the goals, each one were well worked and similar in style, running at the Kilkenny rearguard. There were a host of points in the mix too, including a few Austin Gleeson specials but I have to go for Maurice Shanahan’s goal. Not for the first time the big Lismore man was thrown into the deep end, having to take on the frees after Pauric Mahony went off, in the most pressurising of situations but once again he came up trumps and what about his goal? It came early in the second period of extra-time. TJ Reid had just cut the gap to three when Maurice gathered possession at the second attempt, 45 yards out from goal and heading goalward with three Kilkenny men as good as up on his back. But on and on he went and when faced eyeball to eyeball with Eoin Murphy he didn’t blink and batted the ball to the Kilkenny net for the Deise’s fourth goal to send Thurles into overdrive. There was no way back from there for the Cats.

To be honest I was a little disappointed with the attendance of 33,181 but the ones that missed out really did miss out. The first game was as one sided as you’ll see at this level but the second game more than made up for it. It had everything. Just like they did at the same venue in an All-Ireland semi-final replay last year, these two counties served up a game of hurling for the ages. It had everything, including the most positive results from Hawkeye I think there has ever been in any match since its introduction. When Waterford led by eight with 11 minutes to go it looked all over but anyone with the slightest interest in hurling will tell you that you never write off Kilkenny until the final whistle blows and so it proved as they mounted a truly remarkable comeback to send the game to extra-time. But two Waterford goals in extra-time were the difference and I think even the most ardent of Black and Amber fans will agree that the better team on the night won. 4-14 to 1-10 from play in favour of the Decies speaks for itself.

It was all that at times along the line but in the end it was Derek McGrath and his backroom team who finally got one over Brian Cody and his men in championship hurling. Derek McGrath and co. got it spot on. It stated with the decision to pick Jake Dillon in attack ahead of Maurice Shanahan and Stephen Bennett and then play Shane Bennett at full forward. It worked a treat and once again the bench played a huge part, with 1-6 coming from subs as well as other key performances also off the line.

Not a great outing for the Wexford man, James Owens. Seemed determined to let things go at all costs, which is fine but there a certain things you just have to blow for and often he didn’t and this lead to inconsistency on both sides and that’s what frustrates, players, management and supporters alike. Should have blown for a foul on Patrick Curran in the last minute of injury time at the end of normal time but didn’t. It didn’t matter in the end but it could have.

Too many to mention, most not surprisingly in white and blue shirts but for me the stand out men for Waterford, as they have been for the past two or three seasons were Tadhg de Burca, Jamie Barron and Austin Gleeson. Jamie Barron scored 1-3 from play from midfield and Gleeson scored 0-5 from play but my man of the match was de Burca who was absolutely magnificent from start to finish. Cody and Kilkenny played for most of the game with one or no attacker inside the Waterford 45 and it suited the Clashmore/Kinsalebeg man down to the ground. He was like a magnet for the ball and he even played a key role in Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh’s goal, getting forward to send a lovely ball into Shane Bennett who in turn set up the Stradbally man for a very rare championship green flag.

For Waterford it’s on to the All-Ireland Quarter-finals on Sunday week, while for Kilkenny it’s a rare early championship exit and a long wait before they get back into action in the NHL next February. While we advise humility and graciousness this week, we did spot a comment on the Journal.ie that we’d like to share from Mark DeFriest…’They’ve been taking our jobs and our women for years. Back up the road with ye now.’

A very happy group of Waterford Supporters following the final whistle in Thurles on Saturday night. Photo: Sean Byrne//Deise Sport.

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