Wasteful Waterford still ease by subdued Kilkenny
Derek McGrath’s team hit 18 wides yet win out low scoring affair by four at Walsh Park
Waterford’s Austin Gleeson holds onto possession after catching a high ball over Richie Hogan of Kilkenny. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Allianz Hurling League holders Waterford opened their defence of the title with a hard-fought win over All-Ireland champions Kilkenny in Walsh Park on Sunday afternoon. Despite hitting an extravagant 18 wides, the home side dominated the match over 70 minutes and pulled away in the end with Jake Dillon hitting the insurance point in injury time for a four-point win.
Kilkenny had Colin Fennelly red carded five minutes from time for a second yellow card but their forwards had lacked penetration throughout the match and it was Waterford inaccuracies that kept them afloat.
Waterford’s defence grafted and toiled over the 70 minutes and kept the concession down, which limited the damage caused by their wild shooting at the far end. Colin Dunford’s hard running and accurate shooting earned him two points in a lively display.
The match could have been over by half-time had Waterford taken even a small proportion of the 11 wides they shot with the assistance of a negligible breeze. The main culprits were Maurice Shanahan and Austin Gleeson with four each.
Shanahan’s dead-ball shooting was completely at odds with the metronomic accuracy of his performances last summer whereas Gleeson was more than a little indulgent with long-range efforts that fell wide.
Kilkenny made little early impact, as the sweeper defence mopped up most of the ball that they directed into the forwards. The difference was that TJ Reid proved more accurate with his frees and so Kilkenny, while looking just about engaged managed to keep up on the scoreboard.
Waterford broke away slightly just before half-time with points from Shane Bennett whose run in from the right wing could have brought more had he any support in the middle or had his waspish shot been a bit lower and a final free this time from Patrick Curran out around half-way.
On the resumption it looked as if Kilkenny would punish the wastefulness as they closed the gap while their opponents shot further wides but there was never a phase during which they looked like getting sufficiently on top to take control.
Waterford for their part plugged away, reduced the wides and took the lead again. Shanahan despite his free taking problems shot a couple of good scores from play, one finishing another good run from Dunford, as his team established a three-point lead, which they more or less maintained until the end.
Noel Connors made a terrific intervention to block Kilkenny replacement James Maher at the cost of a spell in the blood bin but despite a couple of good catches by Walter Walsh, the visitors couldn’t get the scores that might have created a late panic for the holders. WATERFORD: S O’Keeffe; S Fives, B Coughlan, N Connors; P Mahony, A Gleeson (0-1), K Moran (capt.); J Barron, C Dunford (0-2); M Walsh, P Curran (0-3, one free), J Dillon (0-2); M Walsh; S Bennett (0-3, two frees), M Shanahan (0-3, one free), D Fives. Subs: B O’Halloran for Curran (66 mins). KILKENNY: E Murphy; P Murphy, J Holden, S Prendergast; P Walsh (0-1), K Joyce, D Cody; C Buckley, C Fogarty; W Walsh, R Hogan (0-1), TJ Reid (0-7, six frees); J Farrell, C Fennelly (0-1), M Kelly. Subs: J Maher for Kelly (48 mins). Referee: A Kelly (Galway).