DEISE’S HEAVY METTLE

Waterford edge past rejuvenated Wexford to reach NHL’s last four

Dermot Keyes at Wexford Park

Waterford’s match winner Maurice Shanahan gets away from Wexford’s Diarmuid O’Keeffe during last Sunday's ding-dong NHL Quarter-Final at Walsh Park. See Sport 2-4 for further coverage.							 | Photo: Noel Browne

Waterford’s match winner Maurice Shanahan gets away from Wexford’s Diarmuid O’Keeffe during last Sunday's ding-dong NHL Quarter-Final at Walsh Park. See Sport 2-4 for further coverage. | Photo: Noel Browne

A mix of satisfaction and relief was etched across Derek McGrath’s face as he reflected on his team’s last-minute, one-point win over a ravenous Wexford following last Sunday’s National Hurling League Quarter-Final.
“I’m just really delighted to be in a semi-final” was the Deise manager’s initial thought after Maurice Shanahan’s 70th minute free edged the League champions across the line by 0-17 to 1-13.
McGrath added that it was “hard to say” if Waterford’s ability to keep a nose ahead, which they have commendably demonstrated over the past two League campaigns, proved the major difference between the sides at Wexford Park.
“Wexford have had a lot of big match experience themselves in the last few years, and I know it might sound trivial to say, but I think it was probably just the bounce of the ball and the way the game went at that particular time that we got over it…I thought we managed the end of it very well in terms of the couple of rucks and throw-ins; the lads seem to know what they were doing and I was happy enough with that.
“I think we were four points up with three or four minutes to go and obviously when the tide turns against you, it’s nice to be able to dig it out, and I thought Maurice (Shanahan) stood tall there, in fairness…and he had to do it.”
Shanahan was on target with all bar one of his 10 frees, while Wexford sent four frees wide alone during the second half, and each would prove pivotal come the end of such a tightly-fought contest.
“We found it hard to break down Wexford’s seven (backs) against our six (forwards) – I had a feeling Wexford might set up like that but we’re just delighted to get through. People talk about a chasm between Division 1A and 1B – I was in Dublin last night watching Limerick and Dublin and there was certainly no chasm there.
“You were here today, and again there’s no chasm…it’s tight and sooner rather that later people might start believing us when we say there’s nothing between the teams on any given day and that you’re not deliberately building up an opposition, but I’m just delighted: if you told me this morning that we’d come out of Wexford Park with a one-point win over Wexford, I’d have taken the hand off you.”
He conceded: “Without a shadow of a doubt, some fellas were below par today – that’s unquestionable – but how many times have we seen an under par Waterford team being absolutely blown out the gate? It happened in Ennis and Nowlan Park in my first year in charge so any comment about us being below par might be seen as being a bit disrespectful to Wexford, because they’re a good team, and I’ve always said that.”
That the team dug out a victory without the engine running smoothly not only gives Derek McGrath something to work on ahead of the semi-final with Limerick on April 17th, but must also be deeply satisfying when it comes to assessing this group’s resolve.
“That’s very pleasing alright and we’re back in a League semi-final again. Ger Loughnane wrote something about the bigger teams keeping their powder dry – well, we don’t feel we can keep any powder dry. That all we have out there on that field. There’s no overall plan that ensures we will peak at a particular point…but we’re delighted to have reached a second successive semi-final.” And so he should be.
Waterford’s Austin Gleeson and Wexford’s Andrew Shore both fail to gain possession.

Waterford’s Austin Gleeson and Wexford’s Andrew Shore both fail to gain possession.

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