A 13th qualifier defeat in 14 campaigns brought the curtain down on what, despite the McGrath Cup win in January, another disappointing year for the senior footballers of Waterford.
Short 16 players of his strongest panel due to withdrawals and other factors, Tom McGlinchey faced a difficult task in terms of turning things dramatically around in the wake of the Deise’s Munster Championship drubbing in Thurles.
Towards the conclusion of Saturday’s first half, played in glorious sunshine, Waterford welcomingly showed their fighting qualities to ensure they went into the second half with at least some hope of victory. But they added only two points to their tally thereafter while Offaly struck 1-11 to record their first Championship win in four campaigns.
The visitors made the brighter start and were three points up inside three minutes as Graham Guilfoyle, Joseph O’Connor and Nigel Dunne got the visitors off on the front foot.
By the fourth minute, Offaly were four clear thanks to another Dunne point, while the home support, ‘out-shouted’ by the more vocal travelling Faithful fans, were having an unwelcome sense of déjà vu in the wake of the Munster Championship defeat to Tipperary.
And when Anton Sullivan made it five points without reply, it was hard not to fear the worst for Waterford.
But back came Waterford with successive points inside the eighth minute from Mark Ferncombe and JJ Hutchinson to relievingly bolster their challenge.
Yet Offaly, demonstrating a greater range of passing and movement in their game, added two further points from Graham Guilfoyle and Bernard Allen in the 12th and 16th minutes, with both efforts narrowly flying over Sean Barron’s crossbar.
In searing heat, both sides made some poor handling errors, with Offaly particularly guilty of some wayward shooting and seven minutes elapsed before the next score materialised, via the fist of Offaly’s Bernard Allen.
But Waterford didn’t cave in, as Tommy Prendergast found his range from an acute angle in the 27th minute, before adding a superbly worked goal five minutes later.
A powerful run by corner back Dean Crowley picked out lively substitute Darren Guiry who in turn released Joey Veale to goal from point-blank range. Hope reared its head for a few welcome minutes last Saturday – but not nearly for long enough.
Waterford goalkeeper Sean Barron brilliantly tipped William Mulhall’s 34th minute shot over the crossbar while in additional time, Patrick Hurney found his range to reduce the host’s arrears to the minimum at the interval, as Offaly led by 0-9 to 1-5.
Offaly were somewhat more relieved at the break, and they clearly used the time well to steady the ship.
A trio of Nigel Dunne points by the 45th minute, met with a sole response by Joey Veale at the opposite end put the Faithful in command, with further efforts from Conor McNamee and Eoin Carroll leaving them five points ahead come the 48th minute.
Liam Lawlor kept Waterford in the contest with a 51st minute point, but Offaly’s greater fitness was in clear evidence in the closing quarter.
Another Dunne free, coupled by two monstrous efforts by Johnny Moloney and Peter Cunningham, sent the Faithful 10 points clear with 16 minutes remaining.
Prior to his substitution, impressive Offaly midfielder Graham Guilfoyle struck his third point from play, and by then it was clear that the Waterford effort had well and truly run out of steam.
Nigel Dunne’s fourth point from play in the 64th minute was seen and raised by Anton Sullivan’s goal two minutes later, when his high, inswinging ball was adjudged by an umpire to have been carried over the line by Sean Barron.
For Waterford, Dean Crowley, Tadhg Ó hUallacháin, Joey Veale and substitute Darren Guiry all featured prominently, but none played with more passion, drive and conviction than Shane Briggs.
In what was his final inter-county match for the Deise, Briggs ran himself into the ground, and not for the first time.
The Ballinacourty clubman would love to have gone out on a higher note than this results wise, but anyone who has witnessed Shane in action down through the years will be in no way surprised that he went down fighting. What a player. What a Deiseman. Thanks, Briggsy.
Waterford: Sean Barron; Dean Crowley, Tadhg Ó hUallacháin; Shane Briggs, Paul Whyte, Steven Prendergast; Tommy Prendergast, Craig Guiry; JJ Hutchinson, Mark Ferncombe, Michael O’Halloran; Liam Lawlor, Joey Veale, Patrick Hurney.
Substitutes: Darren Guiry for JJ Hutchinson (25 mins), Liam Ó Lonáin for Michael O’Halloran (46), Cillian O’Keeffe for Patrick Hurney (51), Michael Curry for C Guiry (59), Jason Curry for Joey Veale and Kieran Murphy for Tommy Prendergast (both 67).
Scorers: Joey Veale (1-1), Mark Ferncombe (0-2), Tommy Prendergast, Liam Lawlor, Joey Veale and Patrick Hurney (0-1 each).
Offaly: Alan Mulhall; Brian Darby, Paul McConway, Cian Donohue; Niall Darby, Johnny Moloney (0-1), Joseph O’Connor (0-1); Conor McNamee (0-1), Niall Smith; Peter Cunningham (0-1), Graham Guilfoyle, Anton Sullivan; Bernard Allen, Nigel Dunne, William Mulhall (0-1).
Substitutes: Eoin Carroll for William Mulhall (Black Card, HT), Nigel Bracken for Bernard Allen (HT), Jamie Evans for Graham Guilfoyle (62), Daithi Brady for Brian Darby and Niall Geraghty for Niall Smith (both 67) and Paul McPadden for Johnny Moloney (70+).
Scorers: Nigel Dunne (0-8; 0-4f), Anton Sullivan (1-1), Graham Guilfoyle (0-3), Bernard Allen (0-2), Johnny Moloney, Conor McNamee, Joseph O’Connor, Peter Cunningham, William Mulhall and Eoin Carroll (0-1 each).
Referee: John Hickey (Carlow)