Monday, August 18, 2008

Waterford edges out Tipperary in titanic struggle at Croke Park on a score of 1-20 to 1-18

Today Waterford triumphed over Tipperary to secure a place in the All Ireland Senior Hurling Final against Kilkenny- for the first time since 1963. This was a game brimful of skilful hurling and intense excitement. The result could have gone either way.

Waterford started off like a hurricane and had six points on the scoreboard within nine minutes with John Mullane , Eoin Kelly,Eoin McGrath and Stephen Molumphy notching scores. Waterford moved the ball crisply and used the wings to great effect.
Low ball to the forwards was paying dividends. Ken McGrath was playing a blinder at centre back. Incidentally it was noticeable that when Tipperary switched Seamus Callinan onto Ken McGrath later in the game he troubled the Waterford centre back.
The concession of needless frees by Waterford brought Tipperary back into the game. Six of Tipperary’s scores in the first half came from frees as Eoin Kelly punished Waterford indiscretions. In addition the delivery of low ball to the Waterford forwards had dropped off. The half-time score was Waterford 0-10 Tipperary 0-10. Waterford had played most of the hurling but had little to show for it.

It appeared as if Tipperary had more in the tank. Eight minutes into the second half Tipperary hit the front for the first time with a point by Conor O’Mahony . The game see sawed. Half way through the second half Tipperary led by 0-16 to 0-14. Jack Kennedy replaced Seamus Prendergast and proceeded to have a blinder for Waterford.
In the 56th minute Eoin Kelly scored a goal for Waterford. From the puck out by Brendan Cummins Seamus Callinan scored a goal for Tipperary to keep the Premier county in front. With 8 minutes remaining the sides were level 1-17 to 1-17. With seven minutes remaining Waterford hit the front and ran out lucky if deserving winners on a score of 1-20 to 1-18. Indeed Tipperary missed several clear-cut chances in the last eight minutes.
Liam Sheedy has no need to be downhearted. He has already moulded a fine young team. Nevertheless inexperience in the last 10 minutes cost Tipperary the game.

Notwithstanding the fact that Waterford played with no mean skill and verve today Kilkenny will enter the final as the hottest of favourites. This Kilkenny team is a hurling machine. There is no major weakness in the Cats outfit. In addition the desire to win three in a row will drive the Black and Amber to new heights.

So Waterford enters the final as a rank outsider. Today the Waterford defence was tighter than in previous games. But it still is not tight enough to blunt the Kilkenny attack. There is still some looseness in defence and a tendency to concede needless frees. There is an inclination to ball watch.
Defence is a 70 minutes job and demands total concentration. In the last 10 minutes of today’s game several Tipperary forwards were left loose and could have made better use of scoring opportunities. Man marking must be total against Kilkenny forwards. Clinton Hennessy had an outstanding game in goal. Indeed all defenders played their hearts out.
Aidan Kearney will have benefited from today’s game.
The Waterford half back line blunted the Tipperary attack.
The Kilkenny forward line against Cork consisted of E Brennan, M Comerford, E Larkin, R Power, H Shefflin and A Fogarty. Each and every one of these players is a match winner in his own right. These forwards must be put under relentless pressure and allowed no space. They are not averse to using their physical power through the legitimate use of the shoulder to soften up defences. The Kilkenny attack must be smothered and allowed little room.
This is no easy task. Many would argue that it is well nigh impossible

Jamie Nagle is developing rapidly into a fine centre field player whilst Brick Walsh is returning to form. Nevertheless it will be necessary to deprive the Kilkenny centre field of good clean ball. Indeed Kilkenny centre field players have a tendency to crop up all over the field and will notch scores from any loose ball around the middle of the field or closer in for that matter. So Jamie Nagle and Brick Walsh will have their work cut out to even gain parity here.

The forward line performed well today with Eoin Kelly, Eoin McGrath, John Mullane and Stephen Molumphy playing particularly well. Dan Shanahan did much good off the ball work and was a handful for the Tipperary defence even if he is not yet back to full form.
Seamus Prendergast tried very hard. Jack Kennedy when introduced plucked some great balls out of the sky and had a blinder.
The Waterford forwards as a unit worked hard and harried the defenders clearing the ball.

In the final low ball to the forwards is a sine qua non. Use of the wings and diagonal ball can open up the Kilkenny defence. Bunching will suit Kilkenny backs who are powerful in the tackle. There must be no shooting from impossible positions. Ground hurling would also reap dividends. Goalkeepers dread the ground shot especially one from the vicinity of the square. It is essential that a Waterford player is available to take a pass from the player who is being tackled.
In essence Waterford must play at a far greater level of intensity against Kilkenny mindful of the fact that Kilkenny is a far more experienced team than Tipperary.
Kilkenny are the warmest of favourites with Waterford as rank outsiders.

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