Slick Kilkenny leave Waterford licking their wounds

Cody’s men conjure a blistering second-half display to consign Deise to a relegation play-off

Kilkenny’s Richie Power in action against Noel Connors of Waterford at Nowlan Park yesterday. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho

Kilkenny 4-22 Waterford 0-14

We waited exactly one hour and 10 minutes for Derek McGrath to vacate the Waterford dressing room – exactly enough time for the Waterford manager to calmly reflect on every little detail of this latest dismantling of his team.

At least that’s what he told us. How McGrath actually reflected on this performance with his players can’t have been all calm, not after seeing them concede 9-40 in their last two games, and with that find themselves in the relegation play-off against Dublin next weekend.

Indeed McGrath’s performance in putting on a brave face easily surpassed anything his team displayed on the field.

While claiming “the mood is very positive” and “morale is not an issue with this particular group”, it is not normal to detain players for so long after a game,


What must have hurt here as much as the end result was the fact Waterford stood up to Kilkenny for about 15 minutes, before being walked all over – or “over run, basically” – as McGrath put it. In the end even Kilkenny seemed surprised at how easily they’d booked their place in the quarter-finals.

They were expecting a scrap for it, and instead waltzed through with a 20-point victory – two goals coming from Mark Kelly, and one each from Jonjo Farrell and Eoin Larkin.

Perhaps a more worry statistic for Waterford is their lack of goals – only one in six games so far this season, and they never got a sniff of one here.

Their defence, taken apart by Clare last Sunday, fell into further disrepair here, and Kilkenny could easily have added another goal or two.

“Of course we’d be disappointed,” conceded McGrath. “When you come out here you’re representing your county, you’re representing your families, and your clubs, and you don’t want to be beaten in the fashion we were beaten.

“We have no choice but to dust ourselves down. As I’ve said before, we’ve a young group, a fusion of more experienced members of the panel, with young guys coming into the panel. That takes time. Morale is not an issue with this particular group. They’re very spirited. We feel we’re unified.

“That’s not just preaching pragmatism. But the reality is we targeted our two home games, and were very close to picking up something in the Tipperary game. I think we have the same number of points as three other teams but yet we find ourselves in a relegation match.”

As a game this soon spilled into the calmly predictable, with Kilkenny reserving their big scores for the second half, including goals for Larkin on 41 minutes, then two for Kelly, on 47 minutes and 54: in contrast Waterford managed just six points in the second half, fading badly in a game they’d started quite well.

A sweet succession of points from Colin Fennelly, Henry Shefflin, Richie Hogan and substitute Richie Power ensured the second half played out entirely at Kilkenny’s ease. All this contrasted with a tense first half, marked by plenty of untidy hurling, yet saw Waterford hit three opening points without reply, two coming from placed-balls from Pauric Mahony. Kilkenny’s early shooting was a lot more wayward, and included three successive wides from Shefflin.

Eventually the first clean ball to Fennelly on 16 minutes ended with their opening point, and not long after Kilkenny were level - thanks to a more accurate Shefflin. Then Larkin’s determined run at goal ended with Farrell making the decisive finish, putting the home team up 1-3 to 0-3. The points swung back and forth until half-time, which had Kilkenny up by two, 1-7 to 0-8, and a slight but ultimately telling momentum.

No wonder there was so much to reflect on during McGrath's one hour and 10 minute dressing-room post-mortem, and somewhere in there he did find some positives: "The level of application and work rate in the first half was right. We just didn't show up for the second half, and were over run, basically. Kilkenny did what they do. They got a scent of blood and went for the jugular. We're no different to other teams that have come up here over the years."
KILKENNY: E Murphy; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, J Holden; B Kennedy (0-1), J Tyrrell, C Buckley; P Walsh, R Hogan (0-3); W Walsh (0-3), C Fennelly (0-4), H Shefflin (0-7, five frees); J Farrell (1-0), M Kelly (2-0), E Larkin (1-2). Subs: R Power (0-2) for Farrell (27 mins), K Joyce for Kennedy (52 mins), L Ryan for P Walsh (56 mins).
WATERFORD: S O'Keeffe; T de Burca, S Fives, N Connors; J Nagle, M Walsh, Philip Mahony; K Moran, S O'Sullivan (0-1); J Baron (0-1), Pauric Mahony (0-5, all frees), S Molumphy; M Shanahan, B O'Sullivan (0-2), A Gleeson (0-1, a sideline. Subs: B Coughlan for Nagle (32 mins), R Barry (0-4) for Shanahan (33 mins, inj), S Prendergast for Gleeson (48 mins).
Referee: James Owens (Wexford).