National Hurling League Division 1B
Brian Flannery at Semple Stadium
New Waterford manager Paraic Fanning couldn’t have asked for an easier opening to his tenure as his side demolished a woeful Offaly side by 27 points in round one of the National Hurling League.Played at the neutral venue of Semple Stadium Thurles after Waterford was penalised for transgressing training rules last season, this game was a comcplete mis-match.
Offaly suffered the ignomy of relegation from the Leinster Championship to the Joe McDonagh Cup and on this evidence it will be some time before the Faithful ounty return to hurling’s top table.
Waterford looked far sharper in the opening minutes and despite playing into a strong breeze led 0-7 to nil by the end of the first quarter. Kevin Connolly finally opened the scoring for Offaly with a point after 17 minutes. Stephen Bennett was scorer in chief for the Déise in the opening period with seven points from eight shots with DJ Foran and Mikey Kearney both also nabbing a pair of whilte flaggers. Debutant goalkeeper Billy Nolan was practically redundant with Conor Prunty, making his first start, in dominant form along side Tadhg de Burca and Kevin Moran in defence.
Thomas Ryan and a returning Shane Bennett spurned a couple of gilt edged goal opportunities for Waterford in the first half with Offaly flattered to trail by just seven points (0-12 to 0-5) at the break. Upon the resumption and now with the breeze behind them Waterford went to town. DJ Foran waltzed through the opposition defence before shooting high to the net after 36 minutes, 1-12 to 0-05.The traffic was all one direction with Waterford extending their lead to 16 points (1-20 to 0-06) before veteran Michael Walsh (magnificently now in his 17th season) received warm applause from the official attendance of 2,395 on a bitterly cold afternoon when withdrawn in the 52nd minute. Foran, Kearney and Thomas Ryan were all enjoying the freedom and space offered them while Stephen Bennett gave a masterclass in point taking, from frees and play.
Substitutes Colin Dunford and Jack Prendergast combined for goal number two in the 66th minute with the WIT student Prendergast left with the simplest of chances to convert from close range. Stephen Bennett was the star player on show with a remarkable 0-16 to his name including six points from play over the 70 minutes. DJ Foran also enhancing his reputation with newcomer Conor Prunty catching the eye on an afternoon that was all too easy for Waterford.Offaly didn’t help their cause with 11 wides; however their manager Kevin Martin must be concerned following this listless performance.Waterford play Laois on Sunday next, February 3rd at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise with a 2pm throw-in.