Derek McGrath says Waterford must find their mojo earlier
The visitors started off slowly at Croke Park but eventually put Dublin to the sword
Waterford manager Derek McGrath says his side must improve on their start. Photo: Inpho
What is that old cliché about a game of two halves? Waterford know it, only this time the mood swings – escaping lethargy to put on a hugely impressive performance – was all their own doing to ultimately outmuscle and outwit a young Dublin at Croke Park.
After trailing by five points at one stage of the first half – “We talked too much about the game as a group and then turned up and were completely flat in the first half,” admitted Waterford manager Derek McGrath – the winners put Dublin in their place in the second half.
Indeed, the game’s real turning point came almost immediately on the restart when Stephen Bennett netted. It was the full-forward’s second goal of the game and it came after a kamikaze style solo run from Dublin ’keeper Conor Dooley ended in disaster as he lost possession and Bennett fired home into an empty net.
Waterford began strongly from the first throw-in. The game was less than a minute old when Pauric Mahony tapped over a point and then, in the fifth minute, Mahony’s free rebounded off the upright. Dublin defenders stood like statues, and Stephen Bennett pounced to lash left-handed first time into the net.
Down 1-1 to 0-0 with many fans still drifting into the stadium, the wonder was would it be a landslide. The answer came swift. Dublin reacted like bees stirred from a hive by an unwelcome intruder. Donal Burke got them on the scoreboard with a straightforward free before Eamon Dillon lit the torch paper to really get them humming.
Dillon punished a loose puck-out from Waterford ’keeper Ian O’Regan to split the posts, a deed followed by a fine long-range point from wingback Chris Crummy, another Burke free and, then, another Dillon point. The Dubs had edged a point clear only for a Mahony free to restore parity.
Not for long, though. Rushe supplied Rian McBride for a point that edged Dublin ahead again, followed by Dillon – a man on fire – enjoying a roaming commission from centre-half forward to fire another point before Burke, in the 19th minute, reacted quicker than Waterford defender Noel Connors to fire home Dublin’s goal.
From four points down to five points ahead, Dublin seemed in control. Waterford, though, stuck to their task and, aided by a couple of poor frees from Dublin freetaker Burke, they manoeuvred back into the game with Mahony’s freetaking and some fine point-taking from Kevin Moran ensuring they got back to within touching distance. A fine Burke free, well taken from near the left sideline, gave Dublin a 1-10 to 1-8 interval advantage.
But that lead didn’t last too long into the second half as Bennett made his presence felt within two minutes of the restart to steal the ball from the roving Dooley and fire home low into an empty net to give Waterford the lead they would never lose.
Austin Gleeson came more into the match in that second half, providing physicality along with guile. . At the end, though, it was the Waterford man raising his hands in victory. Even the late sending off of Stephen Daniels in added time couldn’t spoil Waterford’s party in the rain.
The win was Waterford’s first at Croke Park since 2008, a point not lost on McGrath. “You’re always looking for an angle every week. We feel any psychological steps you can take along the way in terms of a performance or a win can help you in retrospect. Last year we beat Tipp for the first time in Thurles for a number of years, and Kilkenny in Nowlan Park for the first time this year. We’re setting ourselves little targets as a management. .”