Tipperary 3-16 Waterford 1-22
By John Murphy
SEMPLE STADIUM hosted a classic yesterday.
And though it is Waterford who progress to an Allianz NHL final with Galway, Ken Hogan’s Tipperary will be quietly satisfied with the outcome given their Munster SHC assignment against Clare.
Scoring differential was all important for the sides. Results in Páirc Uí Rinn and Pearse Stadium dictated that Tipp required a 14-point winning margin to leapfrog the visitors into that final spot. Hogan had deemed it an "unrealistic’’ target, but when Eoin Kelly goal stretched their lead to eight points within a minute of the restart, that sentiment looked a bit premature.
But then, two things conspired to halt their charge. Waterford, chasing their first league honours in 41 years, began to re-assert themselves. Secondly, and more controversially, Antrim match official Terry McIntyre began to imprint on the affair.
"It is up to the neutrals to comment on those second-half frees awarded against us," Hogan said. "Yes, it was very frustrating to be on the sideline but we aren’t offering any excuses for not winning the game,’’ he said.
The tempo of the game was frenetic from the off. The outstanding Eoin Kelly gave Waterford the lead after 27 seconds. Five minutes later his Tipperary namesake moved from corner to full-forward in a swap with Tommy Dunne. It proved to be an inspired switch.
His equalising point was followed by a purple patch by Tipp with Benny Dunne, Eddie Enright, and Paddy O’Brien landing scores. Then Eamonn Corcoran’s thunderous clearance out of defence found Benny Dunne who fed John Carroll for a goal in the 12th minute. The Premier men were now six points clear, (1-5 to 0-2), and looked to be in control.
Waterford responded with further points from Kelly, Séamus Prendergast, and Dave Bennett, to leave them five points adrift, (1-12 to 0-10) at the interval. Within a minute of the restart Kelly with ball in hand, was totally unmarked behind the Waterford full back line. He finished with ease.
Now the most searching questions of all were being asked of Waterford. But with their defence tightening, Ken McGrath and Tony Browne finally finding their feet in the half-line, they hit back with a vengeance.
Michael Walsh and John Mullane pointed, and the luck they so badly needed arrived in the 46th minute as Paul Flynn’s 20-metre free crept under the hurley of keeper Brendan Cummins for what ultimately proved to be a priceless goal.
Another Mullane point narrowed the deficit to just two, but all of that good work looked to have been undone when substitute Séamus Butler fastened onto a Tommy Dunne delivery and scored Tipp’s third goal in the 50th minute. Waterford again retaliated furiously. McGrath and Browne took command at the back, Eoin Kelly controlled the centre, and their industrious forwards forced the Tipp defence into the concession of frees which Flynn punished with unerring accuracy.
The prolific scoring corner-forward ended as top scorer with 1-11, but remarkably not one of them came from play. Point by point, however, he narrowed the gap from frees, and they were again within two of Tipp when goalkeeper Stephen Brenner rescued his side with a blinding save from Eoin Kelly in the 58th minute. Flynn and Kelly twice exchanged points, before pointed frees by Dave Bennett and Flynn secured the win.
Scorers: Tipperary; E. Kelly(1-7, 0-4 frees); J. Carroll(1-2); S., Butler(1-0); C. Morrissey(0-2); B. Dunne(0-2); P. Kelly(free), P. O’Brien, E. Enright(0-1) each. Waterford: P.Flynn(1-11, frees); E. Kelly(0-3); J. Mullane(0-3); D. Bennett(0-3, 0-2 frees); S. Prendergast(0-1); D. Shanahan(0-1).
TIPPERARY: B. Cummins; M. Maher. P. Maher. P. Curran; E. Corcoran. D. Fanning. D. Fitzgerald; E. Enright. P. Kelly; T. Scroope. J. Carroll. B. Dunne; P. O’Brien. T. Dunne. E. Kelly; Subs; C. Morrissey for Enright; S. Butler for O’Brien; N. Moloney for P. Kelly; M. O’Leary for Scroope.
WATERFORD: S. Brenner;J. Murray. T. Feeney. D. Prendergast; B. Phelan. T. Browne. K. McGrath; M. Walsh. D. Bennett; A. Moloney. D. Shanahan. E. Kelly; J. Mullane. S. Prendergast. P. Flynn; Subs; J. Kennedy for Moloney; P. O’Brien for Shanahan.
Referee: T. McIntyre, Antrim.