Waterford hold off a stirring Dublin to come away with victory

After starting slowly Dublin woke from their slumber but Waterford had too much

Waterford 2-19 Dublin 1-17

It’s not just Dublin hurlers who can impersonate Messrs Jekyll and Hyde.

On the theatre that was the pristine turf of Croke Park on an evening which changed from dry to a wet and cool one, Waterford were a transformed team in the second half to outmuscle and outwit the young Dubs for a precious Allianz League Division One win that rekindles their title ambitions.

After trailing by five points at one stage of the first half, Waterford put Dublin in their place in the second-half, aided by a quickfire Stephen Bennett goal – his second of the game – after a kamikaze style solo run from Dublin goalkeeper Conor Dooley ended in disaster as he lost possession to the Waterford full-forward and Bennett fired home into an empty net.


If that moment signalled an immediate turning point in affairs, the reality thereafter was that Waterford were very much a changed team in attitude and performance from the one that laboured for much of the first-half when Dublin – nippy to the ball and physical in the rucks – outperformed them.

Waterford started like a dervish intent on causing havoc in the opposing defence 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. As if awoken from their slumber, Dublin reacted like bees stirred from a hive by an unwelcome intruder into their domain. 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 goalkeeper Ian O’Regan to split the posts, a deed followed by a fine long range point from wingback Chris Crummy, another Burke freee 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 and abetted 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. It took a Burke free, well taken from near the left sideline to give 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 the net to give Waterford the lead they would never lose.

Mahony was immaculate with his free taking – apart from a couple of late glitches when the game was won – and, almost as importantly, Waterford’s defence kept tabs on Dillon through the second half and his impact, so important in the first period, was completely nullified.

Austin Gleeson came more into the match in that second half, providing physicality along with guile and led very much by example. One collision with his opposite number Liam Rushe was like two freight trains impacting head-on. Both dusted themselves down and got on with it. At the end, though, it was the Waterford man raising his hands in victory. Even the late sending off of Stpehen Daniels in added time couldn’t spoil Waterford’s party in the rain.

DUBLIN: C Dooley; J Madden, E O'Donnell, S Barrett; B Quinn, L Rushe, C Crummy (0 -1 ); N McMorrow (0-1), C Conway; R McBride (0 -2 ), R O'Dwyer (0-2), E Conroy; F McGibb, E Dillon (0 -4 ), D Burke ( 1- 9, nine frees).

Subs: C Boland for Conway (47 mins); C Mac Gabhan for Madden (55 mins); C Bennett for Conroy (61 mins); C O’Sullivan for Quinn (69 mins); F O Rian O Broin for Barrett (72 mins)

WATERFORD: I O'Regan; S Fives, B Coughlan, N Connors; R de Burca, A Gleeson (0 -2), S Daniels; J Barron, C Gleeson; K Moran (0 -2), P Mahony (0-12, ten frees), M Walsh; P Curran, Stephen Bennett (2 -2), Shane Bennett.

Subs: M Shanahan (0-1) for Curran (49 mins); m Kearney for Barron (50 mins); B O’Halloran for Shane Bennett (61 mins); J Dillon for Stephen Bennett (66 mins); D Lyons for Conor Gleeson (66 mins);

Referee: Johnny Ryan (Tipperary).

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times