Allianz Hurling League Division 1B: Waterford 2-19 Dublin 3-16
Micheál Donoghue articulated what we had all suspected. After a sugar-rush of a match that lurched one way and then another before his Dublin team equalised in the 77th minute against a Waterford team reduced to 13, he was happy to take it.
“We knew the second half was going to be tough and obviously the sendings-off had an impact but equally it could have gone either way towards the end but after 10 minutes if you had said ‘would you take a draw?’, I’d have taken a draw.”
The opening minutes must have had him wondering what he had done by taking the job with Dublin. In the face of Waterford’s lively movement, they were becalmed, chasing shadows as their opponents monopolised possession.
After one minute, Conor Donohoe got a yellow card. A minute later, Paddy Doyle took down Michael Kiely at the combined cost of a penalty and a sin binning. By the 12th minute, the typically buzzing Jamie Barron had put Waterford 1-5 to nil ahead.
Any talk of a draw would have prompted a drugs bust.
As the manager said afterwards, Dublin had gradually got their own game going and the purchase they had up front where Alex Considine and Cian O’Sullivan were posing problems for the Waterford defence, eventually paid off.
O’Sullivan’s two goals in the second quarter built a bridge back into the match. The first came after he picked off a wayward pass by Conor Prunty and played a 1-2 with Considine and stuck the ball to the net in the 23rd minute. Ten minutes later, he received a quick ball from Dónal Burke, slipped, regained possession and got a run on goal, finishing from a tight angle.
Waterford’s initiative had slipped and they went in at half-time level at 1-10 to 2-7. They must have been frustrated not to have made their clear superiority for so long count for more. League debutant Reuben Halloran pulled on a loose ball, which could have put his team 10 up but instead flew wide.
Just before Dublin’s first goal, Jamie Barron had scooted through the defence only to draw a great save from Seán Brennan.
Their lead ended up not only erased but in the process Dublin were imbued with a new belief once the shadow of a vigorous beating had passed.
The second half looked like it was on fast-forward, zipping one way and then another. Dublin’s scoring threat had been initially innocuous – it took them 17 minutes to register a first point and the scorer, Dónal Burke would hit three first-half wides.
Chris O’Leary broke through in the 29th minute, ignored Considine inside and then missed his attempt at a point but eventually Dublin began to exhibit more purpose.
Waterford needed to get back in the game and did when Bennett scored a second penalty after Daire Gray took down Kiely in the 46th minute. Shortly afterwards, there was a great roar as David Fitzgerald began to roll the bench. The lead regained at 2-12 to 2-9, Austin Gleeson and Dessie Hutchinson were released into the arena with the all the expectation of destruction that accompanied lions being let loose in the Colosseum.
Instead Dublin rallied. Considine squeezed one over from the right and Cian Boland – really good after his year out with serious injury – added another. A couple of minutes later he made the sort of leap that might have brought down a Chinese weather balloon to catch and go at goal – ending up being rugby tackled by Jack Fagan, who was already on a yellow.
Referee Liam Gordon completed the set for him with a black and consequent red in the 55th minute. Burke dispatched the penalty for a narrow lead, 3-11 to 2-13.
The balance shifted when Bennett – newly appointed joint-captain with Jamie Barron – lashed out at Doyle during a fracas on the sideline and saw Waterford’s second red. Sixty-two minutes gone and Dublin now had a two-man advantage.
Their injury misfortune with forwards had seen Ronan Hayes, who replaced O’Sullivan, forced to depart just six minutes after coming in for the second half. Then Considine went off with a blood injury in the 59th minute. It left them short of options to convert their numerical superiority into scores.
Waterford were high on the adrenalin of compensating for 13 men and did a good job of nearly taking the verdict against the odds. Score for score it went. Kiely looked as if he had sealed for the home side in the fifth minute of injury-time but a frenzied response saw Paul Crummey fouled by Shane McNulty.
Burke completed the scoring.
“It wasn’t too bad was it?” said Fitzgerald afterwards. “With 13 fellas I’d be happy enough – delighted with the character in the end. My honest opinion is we let them have two soft goals in the first half that brought them back into the game.
“I would not be happy defensively with how it happened. We have a certain set-up that we like to have but it’s our first big day out. We’ve to make sure we don’t leave any gaps. We did that today in the first half.
“We were totally in control of that game at the start, they didn’t have a clue what was happening. Then we gave them a way back into it. In fairness, when they got it, they took it.”
WATERFORD: Shaun O’Brien; Conor Gleeson, Conor Prunty, Shane Mc Nulty; Jack Fagan (0-1), Calum Lyons, Darragh Lyons; Micheál Harney Paddy Leavey; Jamie Barron (0-2), Reuben Halloran, Tom Barron (0-2); Kevin Mahony, Stephen Bennett (2-7, 2p 7f), Michael Kiely (0-2). Subs: Carthach Daly for D Lyons (17 mins), Austin Gleeson (0-4, 3f) for Halloran (49 mins), Dessie Hutchinson for Mahony (49 mins), Jack Prendergast (0-1) for Leavey (56 mins), Patrick Curran for T Barron (73 mins).
DUBLIN: Seán Brennan; John Bellew, Eoghan O’Donnell (0-1), Paddy Doyle; Conor Donoghue (0-1), Conor Burke (0-1), Daire Gray; Fergal Whitely, Chris O’Leary; Dónal Burke (1-7, 1p, 0-5f), Joe Flanagan (0-1), Cian Boland (0-3); David Keogh, Cian O’Sullivan (2-0), Alex Considine (0-2). Subs: Ronan Hayes for O’Sullivan (injured, half-time), Paul Crummey for Hayes (injured, 41 mins), James Madden for Keogh (45 mins), Cilian Costello for Flanagan (55 mins), Ronan Smithh for Whitely (74 mins). Blood replacement: Andrew Jamieson-Murphy for Considine (59 mins).
Referee: Liam Gordon (Galway).