McGrath blow for Waterford as Cats click into top gear

Waterford 0-17 Kilkenny 2-16

Almost 12,000 fans were enthralled by every thrilling exchange.

With ten minutes remaining the sides were deadlocked. But in those closing minutes Kilkenny emerged the stronger, rifling over five unanswered points to clinch a victory their second-half performance richly merited.

Waterford will be disappointed with their fade out and the loss of the points, but most of all they will be gutted by the last quarter injury which forced Ken McGrath off with a suspected broken collarbone, which is likely to sideline him for up to ten weeks.

Waterford were slow enough to settle but once they did Kilkenny who found themselves more and more in retreat.

The returning Fergal Hartley settled in comfortably in his new full-back role, and with captain Eoin Kelly providing inspirational leadership, Waterford called most of the first-half shots. The absence of the injured Henry Shefflin robbed the Cats’ attack of much of its firepower, and they had good reason to be thankful for the majesty of Tommy Walsh’s performance at centre-back and the consistency of corner-back John Tennyson.

Although Martin Comerford gave Kilkenny the lead inside 20 seconds with a peach of a point, Waterford were level when Ken McGrath found the range from a ‘65’. With Kelly popping over precision points, they eased into a five point leas, 0-8 to 0-3, after 20 minutes.

Things got progressively worse for Kilkenny when, in the space of two sensational minutes, they were denied the services of defenders James Ryall and JJ Delaney, both dismissed on yellow cards.

However, the accurate free-taking of Richie Power and the opportunism of newcomer Willie O’Dwyer kept Kilkenny in touch, and they were probably well pleased to go in at the break just four points adrift, 0-11 to 0-7.

The Waterford lead was extended when Mullane set up Paul Flynn for a great point within two minutes of the restart, and Mullane himself was unlucky to have had his point wiped out seconds later when the referee awarded a free out.

The game was to undergo a dramatic change on 50 minutes when Waterford conceded the first of two crucial goals.

Comerford’s long delivery dropped menacingly into the goalmouth, and with an otherwise excellent debutant keeper Clinton Hennessy advancing when he might have been better advised to stay on his line, John Hoyne capitalised to slip the ball to the net.

Three minutes later the Waterford defence was breached again, this time the direct result of a poorly struck sideline ball by Tom Feeney. The ball was snapped up by Jimmy Coogan who completed his incisive run with a pinpoint pass to outstanding midfielder Derek Lyng, who rattled the net from close range.

Now two points in arrears, Waterford responded superbly to restore equility with quality points from Kelly and Michael Walsh. With a nail-biting finale on the horizon, Kilkenny suddenly assumed mastery virtually all over the field.

As Waterford faded out of the match, a string of points by Coogan, two from excellent debutant midfielder Brian Barry, and one each from Lyng and Comerford, sealed Kilkenny’s victory.

Scorers: Kilkenny: R. Power (0-5, frees); J. Hoyne (1-1); D. Lyng (1-1); W. O’Dwyer (0-3); M. Comerford (0-2); B. Barry (0-2); E. Brennan, J.Coogan (0- 1) each. Waterford: E. Kelly (0-8, 0-2 frees); K. McGrath (0-4. 0-2 frees, 0-2 ‘65s’); J. Mullane, S. Prendergast, D. Shanahan, M. Walsh, P. Flynn (0-1) each.

KILKENNY: J. McGarry; J. Tennyson, N. Hickey, J. Ryall; M. Kavanagh, T. Walsh, J. J. Delaney; D. Lyng, B. Barry; J. Fitzpatrick, M. Comerford, E. Brennan; R. Power, J. Hoyne, W. O’Dwyer.

Subs: C. Phelan for Fitzpatrick (inj); B. Hogan for Ryall (yellow carded, 17th min); S. Dowling for Delaney (yellow carded 23rd min); J. Maher for Brennan; J. Coogan for Phelan.

WATERFORD: C. Hennessy; T. Feeney, F. Hartley, E. Murphy; B. Phelan, J. Murray, T. Browne; K. McGrath, M. Walsh; E. Kelly, D. Shanahan, P. Flynn, J. Mullane, S. Prendergast, J. Kennedy.

Subs: P. O’Brien for Flynn; E. McGrath for Kennedy; D. Bennett for Browne.

Referee: Seamus Roche, Tipperary.

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