Depleted Waterford no match for Limerick

Limerick 1-18; Waterford 1-9

There can be no arguments about this one – a well turned Limerick combination came to Suirside last Sunday and inflicted a convincing nine points defeat on Waterford in the inaugural match in the recently launched Waterford Crystal Munster Council organised ten team tournament.

The Shannonsiders were in sparkling form showing that they have been particularly active over the Winter months, and according to reliable sources started training in early November with the 2006 season in mind. Waterford on the other hand only got together for the first time last week and for a variety of reasons had to take the field without more than a few regulars. In the circumstances only one result was inevitable and while it took a long while for the visitors to fully assert themselves , their 1-18 to 1-9 triumph in the end proved thoroughly deserved.

So for the second year running, the Shannonsiders have beaten the Decies on the opening day of the season and this result should enhance their prospects of beating Tipperary in the next round of the competition next Sunday, when home advantage should make a whale of a difference for what now amounts to be a full scale Munster championship rehearsal. This was quite an accomplished Limerick performance and they provided the Waterford mentors with a fair deal to think about before they set out to make their plans for the League and that opening match against Wexford at Fraher Field on February 19th. The vanquished next play either Clare or U.C.C. who meet in the Crystal competition this coming week end in a special “Plate’’ series, commencing on January 28th , but of course will have no further interest in the main section of the new tournament until next season.

Heavy under-foot conditions

Quite frankly, under foot conditions proved anything but conducive to quality hurling at Walsh Park last Sunday – overnight torrential rain on an already well soaked surface militated against all of that, and players found it exceedingly difficult coping with the normal lift and strike situations. Even so in all the circumstances, both teams tried manfully to give the fans something some thing to enthuse about and at times succeeded to a commendable extent.

The homesters adapted themselves better to the limitations for most of the first half and stayed marginally in front for all of the opening quarter. All this notwithstanding the fact that they didn’t never came to grips satisfactorily with the situation in the middle of the field , and if anything , were struggling trying to keep a respectable flow of the ball to the forwards. Right from the start the Waterford defence really played well – goalkeeper Clinton Hennessy was rarely if ever troubled, John O’Leary looked the part at full back and Denis Coffey readily fulfilled the promise shown last season when promoted to the senior panel. Tom Feeney was back to his best form in his more accustomed right corner back berth, and all half backs – Brian Phelan, James Murray and Eoin Murphy, seldom put a foot wrong. As the game progressed deficiencies in the home attack manifested themselves to an alarming extent and apart from newcomer Conor Carey, who unquestionably had an auspices debut on the 40 yards mark on no less an opponent that the experienced Brian Geary, none of the others came anywhere near their best form. The fans showed their appreciation for a number of jinking runs from John Mullane, and new team captain Paul Flynn looked dangerous in possession, but collectively the Waterford attack failed to function and that in the final analysis proved the chief difference between the teams in the end.

A most unexpected Limerick goal in the 24th minute also helped to put the visitors on a new plain coming up to the break ,and helped them enjoyed a 1-7 to 0-6 lead at half-time, and on the run of play this was just about deserved. The change of ends saw Waterford cut the deficit by two inside as many minutes, but it was simply their swansong of monumental dimensions, and they didn’t score again until two minutes into injury time, when Dave Bennett came on as a substitute for the second time and pointed a “65” with the second last puck of the game.

In between Limerick undoubtedly demonstrated a greater hunger for the contest – picked off some magnificent points, and proved once again that their fine showing against Kilkenny in last years Croke Park showdown was no passing fancy, and come what may , they are going to be a force to be reckoned with again in the coming season. With nine of their championship team in the starting fifteen ,Waterford should have fared much better on this occasion, but it was abundantly obvious that fitness is not their greatest asset at the moment.

On the credit side the continued safe handling and vigilance of Clinton Hennessy proved a bonus, and John O’Leary staked a further strong claim to take over the full back role in the coming season. Diminutive Denis Coffey also showed remarkably well in the left corner , The more established defensive quartet of Tom Feeney, Brian Phelan, James Murray and Eoin Murphy equally acquitted themselves, while disputant Wayne Hennessy showed some nice touches around the middle of the field and warrants a further chance. The distinct success of Passage clubman Conor Carey making his debut on the 40 yards mark, probably pleases Justin McCarthy and his fellow selectors most and his progress from here on in will be watched with acute interest.

Strong sideon duty

Limerick fielded a strong team ,made up of eleven of last years championship starting fifteen and before the hour had run it’s course they had drafted in additional regulars – brothers T.J. and Donie Ryan and Donal O’Grady ,while impressive newcomers Eoin Benson who despite been listed as centre back didn’t start, but came into the fray before the end. So all in all a good day at the office for the visitors, and none contributed more to victory than defenders Stephen Lucey, Mark O’Riordan, Brian Geary and Ollie Moran, with Paul O’Grady a trump card in the middle of the field and Niall Moran, Mark Keane, James O’Brien and Andrew O’Shaughnessy the toast of the attack.

How the scores came

In practically their first attack after two minutes play, Waterford opened the scoring with a point from their new team captain Paul Flynn. The lively exchanges continued until Mark Keane from a placed position levelled matters for the visitors in the 4th minute. With James Murray ever so prominent in the heart of the home defence, it didn’t come as too great a surprise, when John Mullane with his first touch of the ball, put Waterford back in front after five minutes. Shortly afterwards the combined play of Eoin Kelly and Conor Carey resulted in the Passage man getting his name on the score board for the first time ,and while James O’Brien duly replied for Limerick sixty seconds later, Waterford’s new centre forward added his second point to the home tally, after an inch perfect pass from John Mullane. Niall Moran had Limerick’s second point in the 15th minute, and John Mullane with neat delivery also raised a Waterford white flag in the same minute..

The Shannonsiders beginning to take over around the middle of the field came back to force equality for the second time before the game’s 20th minute – Mark Keane and Andrew O’Shaughnessy obliging from play, and when a rather speculative James O’Brien delivery dipped in under the cross bar in the 23rd minute, the visitors had taken the lead for the first time – and to the delight of their supporters present at the game, maintained it to the very end. Niall Moran and Conor Carey exchanged points ,before Paul O’Grady extended the Limerick lead with a further point in the added on time, but even at that the winners goal bore a charmed life seconds later, when any of three Waterford forwards might have found the net.

Half-time score: Limerick 1-7; Waterford 0-6.

Visitors take over

After Paul Flynn (free) and John Mullane (play) halved the interval deficit within two minutes of the restart, the prospects of a home win improved considerably, but alas, it didn’t last long. Limerick quickly reasserted their authority in a major way and by the game’s 48th minute they had practically doubled their half-time advantage. Lively half back Willie Walsh opened their second half account with a weltaken 36th minute point, and four minutes later a defensive “giveaway” enabled midfielder Niall Collins to get his name on the score sheet – next flowed unanswered points from Mark Keane (free), Donal O’Grady and Niall Moran (two) and incredibly the homesters first second half wide wasn’t recorded until the game’s 50th minute.

Flagging Waterford hopes did receive something of a boast some seven minutes from the end, when substitute Gearoid O’Connor laid on a ball in the middle and Conor Carey was in the right place at the right time to find the Limerick net. That score cut the deficit to five points, but it was the closest Waterford came to winning this match. The Shannonsiders responded in real positive fashion – Niall Moran pointed twice in the same minute, his brother Ollie, tagged on another and super sub Donie Ryan added two more white flags for good measure. The Decies did have a late consolation point direct from a “65’ by Dave Bennett, but it was simply a classical example of too little too late to make any appreciable difference, and it was Limerick who emerged undisputed and worthy winners by 1-18 to 1-9 when the long whistle finally sounded.

Scorers

Limerick: Ollie Moran 1-5, Mark Keane 0-3, James O’Brien and Donie Ryan 0-2 each, Andrew O’Shaughnessy, Paul O’Grady, Willie Walsh, Niall Collins,Donal O’Grady and Ollie Moran 0-1 each. Waterford ;– Conor Carey 1-3, John Mullane 0-3, Paul Flynn 0-2 and Dave Bennett 0-1.

Teams

Limerick: Timmie Houlihan, Denis Moloney, Stephen Lucey, Mark O’Riordan, Willie Walsh, Brian Geary, Ollie Moran, Paul O’Grady, Niall Collins, Mike O’Brien, James O’Brien, Niall Moran, Andrew O’Shaughnessy, Sean O’Connor, Mark Keane. Subs- Donie Ryan for James O’Brien, Donal O’Grady for N.Collins, T.J.Ryan for M.Keane, Michael Fitzgerald for S,O’Connor, Eoin Benson for W.Walsh.

Waterford: Clinton Hennessy , Tom Feeney, John O’Leary, Denis Coffey, Brian Phelan, James Murray, Eoin Murphy, Ger Power, Wayne Hennessy, John Mullane, Conor Carey, Eoin Kelly, Dan Shanahan, Seamus Prendergast, Paul Flynn . Subs – Gearoid O’Connor for D.Shanahan, Eoin McGrath for G.Power, Dave Bennett for W.Hennessy.

Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork).

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