Deise’s Passion Play

Pauric Mahony’s 10-point haul against Galway at Walsh Park on Sunday last leaves him on a tally of 1-69 after six NHL outings this spring.			| Photo: Sean Byrne

Pauric Mahony’s 10-point haul against Galway at Walsh Park on Sunday last leaves him on a tally of 1-69 after six NHL outings this spring. | Photo: Sean Byrne

National Hurling League Quarter-Final

Waterford 0-20
Galway 0-12

For the second successive Sunday, a mobile, industrious and box clever Waterford physically over-whelmed and outfoxed opposition whom at the start of the year, stood above them in the inter-county pecking order.

For the second successive Sunday, this developing Waterford side sent out a clear and telling message about their prospects for both the remainder of this National Hurling League and a summer that appears laced with promise. Derek McGrath’s team mean business and they did the business in impressive style at a windswept Walsh Park on Sunday last, dumping Galway out of the League to advance to an April 19th semi-final against Tipperary. And you know what’s often been said about the bigger they are.

With promotion to Division 1A already in the bag, most of Sunday’s 3,550-strong paying attendance questioned how Waterford would fare when stepping up against top grade opposition. And what an answer they provided, going in front through captain Kevin Moran (superb throughout) after 40 seconds and remaining ahead throughout the fixture thereafter. The previous Sunday in Wexford Park, they emerged victorious having never been in arrears over the entire match either, which speaks volumes for this young side’s mental resolve.

With the aid of a strong wind, after Galway bizarrely opted to play against it despite winning the toss, Waterford built up a commanding 0-14 to 0-5 lead by the break, primarily due to the free-taking precision of Pauric Mahony.

Less than a minute after Moran’s opener, Brian O’Halloran doubled Waterford’s lead as the hosts suitably demonstrated their intent from the throw-in.

Joe Canning, who chipped in with four of Galway’s five first half points, opened his account via a fifth minute free, only for Austin Gleeson to cancel that score with near immediacy following a fine assist from Pauric Mahony.

Two minutes later, Galway corner back Johnny Coen upended the industrious O’Halloran, leading to another Mahony conversion, and the Ballygunner clubman repeated the feat just a minute later to send Waterford four points clear.

Canning’s second free reduced the Tribesmen’s arrears in the ninth minute and his surprising miss from a free in front of the posts 90 seconds later drew audible gasps from the chilled Walsh Park throng.

On the quarter hour, Mahony struck again from a placed ball and his shooting remained well calibrated 90 seconds later, after Brian O’Halloran drew another free, this time from Galway full-back Paul Killeen.

Jake Dillon, hurling with such confidence and purpose these past few months for college and county, picked out O’Halloran with a cross-field pass from the Slievekeale Road side of the pitch, and the Clashmore attacker made no mistake from 13 metres.

While Waterford often left just Stephen Bennett alone on the inside line in the opening half, the accuracy of their passing and their pressurising Galway while in possession gave them a huge level of control. Indeed, by full-time, the Deisemen had registered only five wides, adding only one ‘as láthair’ effort to their half-time tally.

Andy Smith struck Galway’s first point from play in the 19th minute following fine support play from Canning, who, at times, was mounting a one-man resistance for the men in maroon.

A further brace of Mahony frees in the 21st and 22nd minutes was brilliantly added to by Moran in the 24th minute, when the skipper stuck a marvellous point from inside his own 65-metre line.

Canning and Mahony exchanged frees in the 25th and 29th minutes before Dillon pointed superbly after brilliantly fielding Shane Fives’ deep, downfield ball.

But the score of the match was delivered after 32 minutes via a 50-metre sideline cut from Austin Gleeson, who judged the wind perfectly, fading the sliothar brilliantly between Colm Callanan’s uprights to leave the home crowd purring.

A minute from the break, Canning’s fourth free ensured Galway still had a sniff at a second half resurgence given the strength of the gale, but still they trailed by nine points.

After the interval, Galway hit the ground running, and reduced the margin to just four points by the 44th minute thanks to braces from Canning and Mannion, along with Andy Smith’s second point of the afternoon.

But that was as good as it got for Galway, who were held scoreless by Waterford over the next 21 minutes.
Marshalling the conditions superbly, the hosts got the scores they needed to edge them away from the Tribesmen and confidently into a League semi-final clash with high-flying Tipperary on Sunday, April 19th.

Pauric Mahony converted a 48th minute free to give Waterford a five-point lead. Three minutes later, substitute Maurice Shanahan, who must now be in the frame for a start against Tipperary after this tremendous performance, pointed well to the delight of the home crowd.

O’Halloran, a nuisance all afternoon, won another free in the 53rd minute which Mahony duly converted, by which time Galway’s initial second half grunt had been reduced to a whisper.

Mahony’s 55th minute free put eight between the sides, as his precision over the placed ball capitalised on a brilliant afternoon’s work from captain Moran, Tadhg De Búrca, the tigerish Jamie Barron and Philip Mahony.

Joe Canning ended Galway’s long wait for a score in the 65th minute and he tagged on a 65 a minute later after Ian O’Regan had brilliantly denied both Joseph Cooney and Andy Smith what appeared nailed-on goal attempts. ‘Iggy’ had another excellent 70 minutes between the posts, and the competition between the Mount Sion custodian and Stephen O’Keeffe reflects well on the in-house contest for starting places.

Two minutes from time, Shanahan surged onto a deep ball down the right flank and found fellow substitute Tom Devine in space, and the Modeligo man made no mistake from an acute angle. Devine is also putting his hand up in the best possible manner, and has added to the pleasant team selection problem facing messrs McGrath, Shanahan and O’Connor.

Devine turned provider just moments later when playing in Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh to complete the scoring at the end of a superb afternoon’s work by the men in white and blue.

While Waterford didn’t threaten a goal on Sunday, they reached the 20-score mark for the sixth successive League outing, a tally which would keep them in contention against most opponents right now.

That there’s still room for improvement means Derek McGrath has got his men just where he wants them: winning, wanting more and knowing what needs to be added to if this side is to threaten hurling’s ‘natural order’ this summer.

“The new team on the block” is how Cyril Farrell described Waterford on Sunday night. Management will wisely talk down their chances between now and April 19th, but this team, the only side still unbeaten in the League, has no cause to fear anyone.

Waterford: Ian O’Regan; Shane Fives, Barry Coughlan, Noel Connors; Tadhg De Búrca, Austin Gleeson, Philip Mahony; Jamie Barron, Kevin Moran; Jake Dillon, Pauric Mahony, Michael Walsh; Brian O’Halloran, Stephen Bennett, Colin Dunford.

Substitutes: Maurice Shanahan for Stephen Bennett (47 mins), Tom Devine for Brian O’Halloran (61), Shane O’Sullivan for Colm Dunford (64), Gavin O’Brien for Jake Dillon and Martin O’Neill for Pauric Mahony (both 68).

Scorers: Pauric Mahony (0-10; 0-9f), Brian O’Halloran and Kevin Moran (0-2 each), Austin Gleeson (0-2; 0-1 Sl), Jake Dillon, Michael Walsh, Maurice Shanahan and Tom Devine (0-1 each).

Galway: Colm Callanan; Johnny Coen, Paul Killeen, John Hanbury; David Collins, Pádraig Mannion, Gearóid McInerney; Andy Smith, Iarla Tannian; Joseph Cooney, Joe Canning, Jonathan Glynn; James Regan, Cathal Mannion, Jason Flynn.

Substitutes: Greg Lally for Paul Killeen and Niall Healy for James Regan (both HT) and Aidan Harte for Jason Flynn (54 mins).

Scorers: Joe Canning (0-8; 0-6f), Andy Smith and Cathal Mannion (0-2 each).

Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly)

Dermot Keyes at Walsh Park

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