Waterford’s rise continues as they clinch final meeting with Cork

Pauric Mahony’s 69th-minute free settles to-and-fro encounter with Tipperary

Waterford’s Colin Dunford celebrates at the final whistle of the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 semi-final against Tipperary at  Nowlan Park in  Kilkenny. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Waterford’s Colin Dunford celebrates at the final whistle of the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 semi-final against Tipperary at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

 

Waterford 1-19

Tipperary 2-15

These games matter and they don’t matter. Tipperary turned up in Nowlan Park just a little heavier-legged than they were able to get away with and slid off into pre-championship having paid a price they can well afford.

Yet though the defeat won’t cost Eamon O’Shea’s side a thought come the end of year accounts, Waterford went home feeling like tech tycoons. From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.

Whatever happens in the final, this was a coming-of-age afternoon for Derek McGrath’s young band of up-and-comers. Not only did they bloody the nose of one of the gentry in a knock-out encounter, they did what most of us assumed they couldn’t along the way – spot a free-scoring team an early lead and chase them down.

Waterford gave up two early goals but went on to outscore Tipp by 1-16 to 0-11 over the last 50 minutes of the game. Not bad for a fleet of parked buses.

Possession team

Pauric Mahony will always take up a huge slice of their scoring burden – he finished with 0-13 here, all but one of it from placed balls – but they have whip-crack hands all around the pitch to back him up.

Austin Gleeson has the look of a spiritual leader for the next decade, Tadhg De Búrca and Colin Dunford were match-winners at either end of the pitch.

None of the three of them have had their 21st birthday yet. Jamie Barron has a year on them, Maurice Shanahan a couple more – both put in monumental second half displays to get Waterford into the league final.

“We’re a tight unit,” said McGrath afterwards. “No more than any other intercounty team – but we try to create that spirit that Brian Cody has been talking about all these years, all those core elements. We don’t have ego but we have absolute confidence. You don’t want a fella who’ll crawl into his shell.

“There were elements of our build-up to the day that could be better. We were trying to simulate as best we could what’ll happen on June 7th. We came up here for a run last Saturday week. We went to the Newpark Hotel but I thought we were a bit giddy. Then again, you probably don’t want to quell giddiness in a young team.”

Lack of panic

For all the chat about their defensive system, the first goal didn’t require anything over-elaborate from Tipp. A puck-out broken by Seamie Callanan, the break mopped up by Bonner Maher hurtling though and a routine finish past Stephen O’Keeffe.

The second was a more intricate affair, a surging Brendan Maher run off the shoulder of a Jason Forde catch, a pass inside for John O’Dwyer and a sumptuous blur of flick, palm and strike on 13 minutes to put Tipp 2-2 to 0-3 ahead.

A couple of Seamus Callanan points followed to push the gap out to seven and most of us presumed that was that.

Far from it. Waterford got the margin down to three by half-time and kicked on from there.

Eamon O’Shea said afterwards that Tipp probably still had too much of their training week in their legs and that certainly seemed somewhere close to the truth.

Laser pass

Paul Curran

Tipp roused themselves and managed to wipe what had become a four-point deficit by the time the game kicked to a close, including a massive score from the unimpeachable Pádraic Maher.

But a final free from Mahony – one of the trickiest of the day from out near the right sideline – settled it in Waterford’s favour.

For Tipp, there will be some wound-licking to do but not to any significant degree. O’Shea was more concerned about O’Dwyer’s apparently broken finger afterwards than the result. They have eight weeks before they see the championship – this will be a footnote and no more.

“We never got a rhythm and we need a rhythm to play,” O’Shea said. “I thought we did well to get it back to level, I thought we showed good heart. But one defeat at the end of the league here doesn’t mean we didn’t get a lot from the league. Even from today’s game – I thought we got a lot from today’s game in terms of what we want to do in the future. Look, it was very disappointing. We wanted to win the game, obviously.”

WATERFORD: Stephen O’Keeffe; Shane Fives, Barry Coughlan, Noel Connors; Austin Gleeson, Tadhg de Búrca, Philip Mahony; Jamie Barron (0-1), Kevin Moran; Michael Walsh, Pauric Mahony (0-13, 0-11 frees, 0-1 65), Jake Dillon (0-1); Colin Dunford (1-1), Maurice Shanahan (0-3), Stephen Bennett. Subs: Brian O’Halloran for Bennett (51 mins), Tom Devine or Dillon (56 mins), Shane O’Sullivan for Walsh (63 mins), Eddie Barrett for Moran (71 mins).

TIPPERARY: Darren Gleeson; Paddy Stapleton, Conor O’Mahony, Paul Curran; Michael Breen, Pádraic Maher (0-1), Ronan Maher; James Woodlock (0-1), Shane McGrath; Patrick Maher (1-0), Brendan Maher, Jason Forde (0-1); John O’Dwyer (1-1), Séamus Callanan (0-8, 0-5 frees, 0-1 65), Niall O’Meara (0-2). Subs: James Barry for Stapleton (44 mins), Shane Bourke for O’Dwyer (45 mins), Conor Kenny (0-1) for Forde (53 mins), Gearóid Ryan for McGrath (58 mins)

Referee: Barry Kelly (Westmeath)

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