Sporting Fingal 1; Waterford United 4

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Waterford United may have fallen behind after only 45 seconds at the Morton Stadium on Friday night last but they fought back in brilliant fashion to record their eighth victory from the last nine games in the league.

Add in the draw against UCD the previous week and what you get is a team who are really red-hot right now. Victories against Clonmel Town (Munster Senior Cup) and also versus Carlow and Shamrock Rovers (League Cup) brings their unbeaten run to 12 games and needless to say the record books will be well and truly researched this week.

Stephen Henderson’s team played superbly against the Hoops the previous Tuesday in the cup game and many feared they would find it difficult to come back down to earth and repeat that performance. Those people were correct. They did not repeat that performance. They performed even better!

This current squad, put together by Henderson, are a top-class team. They do the simple things well, and the harder tasks equally efficiently, and that is the sign of a very fine outfit indeed.

Sporting Fingal were outplayed in every department, and when one considers that they were the odds-on favourites to win the league (and “a Premier team in all but name”, as Henderson said beforehand) you get some sort of idea just how good this Blues team is.

Next up is a visit from Wexford Youths. Surely, the Waterford public will come to see the new league leaders entertain our neighbours from the Model County. The manager has made an appeal to the people of Waterford city and county to come and support the players. To date his pleas have fallen on deaf ears. The time has now come for large numbers to get behind the squad. They deserve it, believe me.

Terrible start

Sporting Fingal got off to a dream opening by scoring after only 45 seconds. Colm James played a quick free kick down the right to Conan Byrne who in turn crossed from the endline to Eamon Zayed who tucked the ball into the net from close range.

Most teams would have folded after such a terrible start, but the Blues equalised with a truly wonderful goal on 15 minutes. Seamus Long played a long ball forward to Willie John Kiely. The Abbeyside-born ‘flying postman’ controlled the ball on his chest before unleashing a magnificent shot past the Fingal goalkeeper Darren Quigley from the edge of the penalty area.

Blues goalkeeper Michael Devine turned away an effort from Conan Byrne on 22 minutes following good work by former United star Alan Kirby. Waterford went in front on 39 minutes with another superb goal. Paul McCarthy played the ball down the right flank to Kevin Waters. The long-serving Blues player lost control of the ball but somehow, despite the close attentions of defender John Frost, another ex-RSC favourite, he regained his composure and got a cross in with his left leg. Graham Cummins came storming forward and looped a header over Quigley who was well off his line.

More goals

Waterford should have been awarded a penalty kick nine minutes into the second half when Colm James handled a shot from Waters, but referee Paul Tuite waved away the appeals from the Waterford players.

Fingal were all over the place at this stage and they got off the hook on 61 minutes when Graham Cummins headed wide from a good position after meeting a cross from Waters. Ten minutes later however the Sporting Fingal challenge was well and truly put to bed. A three-man move involving Kevin Waters, Paul McCarthy and Kieran Fitzgerald saw a corner kick forced out on the left. Alan Carey took it and when Seamus Long headed the ball back into the six-yard box Kenny Browne was on hand to blast the ball home.

Things went from bad to worse for the home side on 77 minutes when the former Waterford United captain John Frost failed to deal with a ball played forward by Alan Carey and, with Quigley out of position. Willie John Kiely simply walked the ball into the net.

The only sour note arrived shortly afterwards when full-back Seamus Long was sent off for a professional foul on Kirby. It was a harsh decision by Paul Tuite because Long was not the last covering defender.

Declan Woodgate replaced Long and he will now fill the left-full position against Wexford. Superb football from a Waterford United team who are making a lot of people sit up and take notice, including the Sporting Fingal manager Liam Buckley no less, who described Waterford’s performance as “awesome.”

Sporting Fingal: Darren Quigley, Colm James, John Frost, Shaun Williams, Brian Gannon, Gareth Whelan, Conan Byrne, Shane McFaul, Eamon Zayed, Alan Kirby, Ross Gaynor. Subs: Lorcan Fitzgerald for Byrne (72 mins), Kevin Boyd for James (72 mins).

Waterford United: Michael Devine, Seamus Long, Kevin Murray, Alan Carey, John Kearney, Kevin Waters, Kieran Fitzgerald, Paul McCarthy, Graham Cummins, Willie John Kiely. Subs: Declan Woodgate for McCarthy (80 mins), David Grincell for Cummins (86 mins).

Referee: Paul Tuite (Dublin)