Kilkenny get some points on the board
Brian Cody’s side come from behind to register first win of league campaign
Moral victories not having much currency in the county, Kilkenny will be well happy to have secured their first points of the Allianz Hurling League campaign without performing terribly well for most of the match and with their list of absentees extended after Richie Power had to cry off with illness before the start.
Before a crowd of 6,887 at Nowlan Park yesterday, the home side left it late to get on top of a battling Waterford who led for much of a decent contest in the currently familiar conditions of biting cold and intermittent freezing rain.
“Ah yeah, we obviously needed to win the game,” said Kilkenny manager Brian Cody. “Without any points starting off so if we were going to retain any interest in the league we had to win today. And we did and for a long time it looked like we were going to find it very, very difficult to win.
“Waterford were playing very, very well, there wasn't much in it, a strong breeze and that, but there was never much in the game. We kept in touch and I suppose, like, goals matter so much. We didn't concede today and we got a couple so we came out the right side of it.”
The relief of victory came at a cost with both corner backs Jackie Tyrrell and Paul Murphy picking up hamstring injuries and there were fears that Murphy in particular looked as if he could be out for a while.
As Cody said, goals proved vital on an afternoon when Kilkenny got two and Waterford rarely threatened one. The visitors had been getting a satisfactory return from their short puck-outs but when such a strategy backfires, the result can be problematic and with Kilkenny trailing by three on the half hour, Ger Aylward intercepted a re-start and moved swiftly towards goal before finishing to the net to tie the match up at 1-4 to 0-7.
Waterford's response was game and yielded two points in a minute for Jake Dillon and Shane O'Sullivan and they led by two at the break, 1-6 to 0-11.
The second goal arrived at a point when Kilkenny had just taken the lead after an hour's play. Again it was a mistake at the back after Paddy Hogan's long-range free had dropped just short. Goalkeeper Stephen O'Keeffe failed to hold the ball and Matthew Ruth, a second half replacement, was quickest to react and flicked in the goal for a decisive lead of 2-13 to 0-15 with little more than five minutes remaining.
Waterford's feelings were more or less the opposite of the winners'. They put in a hard working performance but inability to generate more of a lead and the costly lapses which led to goals undid their chances of remaining unbeaten.
Nonetheless they hurled with sufficient determination for most of the match to send an uneasy tremor around Nowlan Park.
Having worked hard in the first quarter to catch Kilkenny's early lead, Watreford had tied the match at 0-4 each by the 16th minute. They were using the wind effectively to send over a number of long-range points, including two all the way from centrefield by Shane O'Sullivan and an inter-continental strike from a free by O'Keeffe.
Kilkenny had their All-Ireland defence on duty and behind them Eoin Murphy, in his second league match, was confident under the dropping ball and in general assured.
Yet Waterford sustained themselves on what was available. In the first half Jake Dillon added to the good notices gathered so far, clipping a lineball over the bar and adding two more points.
Their defence was for the most part competent and safe apart from the carelessly conceded goal although there were signs that there might be goals in it for Kilkenny. Shane Fives cleared after Eoin Larkin had whistled the ball across goal and in the second half Colin Fennelly soloed in until almost eyeballing O'Keeffe only to drive into the side netting.
Earlier Aylward had miss-hit after being nicely placed by Richie Hogan.
To their credit, Waterford held steady in the third quarter after an early three-point blitz put Kilkenny ahead, 1-9 to 0-11. An uninterrupted sequence of four points, three frees, by Pauric Mahony restored the lead.
As events turned out, Kilkenny were better able to turn the screw on their opponents’ attack without their first-choice corner backs, as Waterford struggled to exert the same pressure apart from some menacing runs by Brian O’Halloran.
As the match wore on, the Waterford defence had to deal with the dispiriting sight of cleared ball coming straight back at them. Kilkenny finally found their range and banged off 1-4 without replay - points from Aylward, Lester Ryan, Ruth after a shot had been saved and a free from Larkin setting the scene for the second goal.
2The goals we gave away, they were very hard to make up,” was Waterford manager Michael Ryan's reaction. “The second goal in particular, they were on the run after that with the wind behind them and there was no catching them.”
KILKENNY : E Murphy; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Hogan, K Joyce; L Ryan (0-1) , P Hogan; A Fogarty (0-3), R Hogan (0-2), E Larkin (0-6, five frees); G Aylward (1-1), C Fennelly (0-1) , M Bergin. Subs : P Walsh for Tyrrell (24 mins), M Ruth (1-1) for Bergin (half-time), W Phelan for Murphy (46 mins)
WATERFORD: S O'Keeffe (0-1, free); S Fives, L Lawlor, S Daniels; J Nagle, M Walsh, K Moran (0-1); S O'Sullivan (0-2) , P Prendergast; P Mahony (0-6, five frees) , S Prendergast, B O'Halloran (0-1); J Dillon (0-3, one lineball), S Walsh (0-1) , B O'Sullivan. Subs: J Barron for B O'Sullivan (46 mins), M Shanahan (0-1) for S Walsh (56 mins), R Barry for Moran (64 mins)
Referee : J McGrath (Westmeath)