By Noel Dundon
Tipperary U-21 hurling Manager Ken Hogan likened his sides win over Waterford in the Bord Gais Energy Munster quarter final on Wednesday evening last to victory over Cork at the same stage in last years campaign.
The Lorrha Dorrha man had watched his side coast through the first half, but then struggle to get to the pace of the game in the second as Waterford came back strong at Tipp and almost pulled off a famous win. Twelve months ago, Tipp scored a remarkable win over Cork in Pairc Ui Chaoimh and the game was to define Tipp’s season as they went on to win the Munster and All-Ireland titles with some ease afterwards.
“We knew Waterford would come back hard at us and I suppose the lads have a lot of hurling done already and a lot of work done in preparation for the games. I’m just pleased to get a win and we look forward now to playing Cork, eventhough it seems to be a long way away at this stage,” Ken said afterwards.
Tipperary, the defending Munster and All-Ireland champions knew that this was a highly fancied Waterford outfit. Minor provincial champions two years ago, they came to the Field of Legends with a lot of ‘street cred’ and fancied their chances of upsetting the home side in their own backyard in front of 4392 patrons. With players of the quality of Maurice Shanahan, Noel Connors, Padraic Mahony and Darragh Fives in their ranks, their hopes were well founded.
Once the teams settled down in this one, Tipp showed that they possessed all the shots in the bag. A serious of fracas before the ball was thrown in occupied the attention of referee Diarmuid Kirwin and when the dust finally settled he had the names of Tipp’s Sean Curran and Waterford’s Darragh Fives in the book – the Cork official was to draw the ire of the Deise supporters before the game was out after a series of disupted decisions went against them, including the second half dismissal of sub Owen Whelan for two debatable yellow cards – he was only on the field for ten minutes in total.
The skirmishes didn’t affect Tipp though. A Noel McGrath penalty goal in the 4th minute after Brian O’Meara had been dragged to the ground, set the scene for a very confident Tipp half with scores of great quality flying over. John O’Dwyer and Brian Stapleton pointed before Tipp had another goal from Sean Curran after John O’Neill had passed across goal to him. Tipp were 2-2 to 0-2 in front – Padraic Mahony and Maurice Shanahan getting Waterfords scores – and coasting.
The points, all of excellent quality, continued to flow for Tipp with Noel McGrath at midfield showing great class in reading the play and distributing ammunition like a major general. Adrian Ryan, Paddy Murphy, Brian O’Meara, McGrath, Ryan again and John O’Neill in the 28th – after he caught the puckout superbly – saw all six Tipp forward scores as the momentum continued in Tipp’s favour.
And, by half time, Tipp were 2-9 to 0-7 in front – Waterford had come across points through Padraic Mahony (2), Maurice Shanahan (2) and Brian O’Sullivan as they began to fight their way back into the match.
Waterford threatened goals on a number of occasions – Kevin O’Gorman making a fantastic block from Eamon Murphy in the 27th. If they could get a goal, it would be a big help to them, but the chances of them stemming the Tipp attack was slim.
Upon turnaround Waterford banged over four points in succession from Brian O’Sullivan, Maurice Shanahan, O’Sullivan again and Padraic Mahony – the lead was down to four – and although John O’Neill had a score for Tipp, Waterford responded through Jake Dillon.
The Deise were dealt a bodyblow when Owen Whelan received his marching orders in the 10th minute, having come on at the interval. The Mount Sion star received two yellow cards – each one as harsh as the other.
Waterford’s woes continued when John O’Neill bagged a 14th minute goal after Brian O’Meara set him up following another one of his great catches, and Adrian Ryan had another point for Tipp to ease the Premier lads into an eight point advantage.
Waterford, to their credit, continued battling, and even allowing for the numerical advantage, they were the ones making all the running. Padraic Mahony, Brian O’Sullivan and Mahony again fired points while a Brian O’Sullivan goal two minutes into injury time left just two in it – Tipp were living very dangerously and Waterford could sense another goal in the air. They could have had it too when Eoin Madigan shot for glory only to see his effort beaten away by Tipp keeper Paul Ryan. Owen Connors cut the lead to one but from the puckout, Tipp went downfield and secured the win through a second goal from John O’Neill.
Tipp had rode their luck but they lived to tell the tale. They scored an impressive 3-11 from play on the night, but will have to question how they came to be in such difficulties at the end, especially when they had hurled with such precision and abandon in the first half. The fluency and verve seemed to disappear for long periods of the second half – Noel McGrath’s reducing influence perhaps explaining some of this as the game wore onwards. He had hurled immaculately in the first, but tired as the game went on.
John O’Neill was lethal for Tipp on the night as were Paddy Murphy and Brian O’Meara. The departure of James Barry through injury at half time was a blow, but Tipp had other fine displays from Brian Stapleton, Padriag Heffernan and Kevin O’Gorman, with Stephen Maher doing well in the corner.
Tipp will have learned much from this game and will use it by way of preparation for their clash against Cork in the semi-final on July 20th in Semple Stadium.
Waterford will point to a number of factors in their losing of this game. The sending off was a big one, while missed chances in the first half also cost them very dearly. Decision making in possession could also have been better as they tended to run into blind alleys on a number of occasions. While Diarmuid Kirwin endured their wrath at the end, they will perhaps, upon reflection, realise that this game was theirs for the taking.
Brian O’Sullivan, Maurice Shanahan, Darragh Fives, Noel Connors, Padraic Mahony and Stephen Roche were best for them on the night.
Tipperary: P Ryan( Upperchurch Drombane), C Haugh (Lorrha), K O’Gorman (Sarsfields), S Maher (do), B Stapleton 0-1 (Templederry), J Barry (Upperchurch Drombane), P Heffernan (Clonoulty Rossmore), N McGrath 1-1 (Loughmore Castleiney), J Gallagher (Kildangan), S Curran 1-0 (Mullinahone), P Murphy 0-2 (Nenagh Eire Og), B O’Meara 0-1 (Kilruane MacDonagh), J O’Dwyer 0-2 (Killenaule), A Ryan 0-3 (Templederry), J O’Neill 2-2 (Clonoulty Rossmore). Subs: S O’Brien (Newport) for J Barry; A McCormack (Sarsfields) for J Gallagher; M Sheedy 0-1 (Portroe) for S Curran;
Waterford: S O’Keeffe, J Barron, N Connors, P Prendergast, P Mahony, D Fives, S Daniels, S Roche, M O’Neill, E Murphy, A Brophy, P Mahony 0-6, B O’Sullivan 1-4, M Shanahan 0-4, J Dillon 0-1. Subs: O Whelan for M O’Neill; O Connors for A Brophy; E Madigan for E Murphy;
Referee: D Kirwin (Cork)