“We’re happy with that,” said UL selector Ger Cunningham when asked about their short-passing approach. “We have great hurlers and when you have good hands you can play a specific game. It suited us, though conditions were tough, but we hurled very well against the wind in the first half, and that’s where the short game helped us.”
Waterford had the wind in the first-half but struggled to hold the ball up front and most of their scores came from accurate midfielders Shane O’Sullivan and Richie Foley.
Kieran Morris and Eamonn Murphy – a Waterford panellist last year – showed up well for UL, but Waterford had nudged three ahead when the game’s only goal was scored on 30 minutes.
The Waterford full-back line didn’t clear a loose ball and former Tipperary senior star Paul Kelly’s first-time pull made the score 1-7 to 0-10.
“We had goal chances early on but didn’t take them,” said Waterford boss Michael Ryan.
O’Sullivan (free) and Murphy swapped scores to leave it level at the break, but on the resumption UL jumped out to a three-point lead through Morris (free), David Butler and Padraic Walsh, and Waterford could never reel them in. Ryan withdrew half his starting attack and moved veteran Seamus Prendergast to full-forward, where he won a penalty which Jake Dillon put over the bar. But, late on UL had points from their subs, Tommy Heffernan, Conor Ryan and Brian Stapleton, to make a deserved win safe.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Ryan. “All day long we struggled up front and our backs seemed to be under pressure. Only for Seamus Prendergast it would have been worse. He was very good for the last 20 minutes, he worked very hard and was a serious threat at full-forward.”
Ryan acknowledged that Eamonn Murphy’s display for UL was something he and his selectors could take out of the game: “He was good, he was lively and impressive and got four points.”
But there are other headaches for the home management team: “We haven’t spoken to Tony Browne yet,” said Ryan of the veteran star’s plans. “Maurice Shanahan and Padraic Mahony are both out for a while yet. I don’t expect Maurice back in action before March, though Padraic could be back in three or four weeks.”
For his part, Cunningham said UL weren’t playing with a full deck: “We have a few players to come back yet. The Clare lads are only just back with us, so we threw a few of them in today, Michael Fennelly of Kilkenny will join us this week and Darach Honan is also available to us.”
He also downplayed the proposed link with the Waterford coaching ticket — for now.
“It was in the paper yesterday,” said Cunningham. “I was talking to Michael (Ryan) but I have commitments elsewhere at the moment. Further down the line you’d never know what might happen.”
As he spoke the Waterford management were in the background, talking to their charges on the field and having a lengthy, and by the sounds of it robust, discussion. All concerned hoping for warmer times ahead, no doubt.
Scorers for Waterford: S. O’Sullivan 0-6 (0-2 fs, 0-1 65); R. Foley and J. Dillon (0-2 fs, 0-1 pen) 0-3 each; S. Prendergast 0-2; K. Moran, S. Walsh, J. Barron and G. O’Brien (f) 0-1 each.
Scorers for UL: K. Morris 0-7 (0-6 fs); E. Murphy 0-4; P. Kelly 1-0; A. Ryan and D. Butler 0-2 each; P. Walsh, S. Golden, T. Heffernan, C. Ryan and B. Stapleton 0-1 each.
WATERFORD: S. O’Keeffe, S. Daniels, L. Lawlor, N. Connors, P. Prendergast, M. Walsh, K. Moran (c), R. Foley, S. O’Sullivan, D. Twomey, S. Prendergast, R. Barry, J. Dillon, S. Walsh, J. Barron: Subs: K. Fitzgerald for S. Walsh, HT; G. O’Brien for Barron, 45; J. Nagle for Prendergast, 50; E. Madigan for Barry, 56; M. O’Neill for Twomey, 60.
UL: N. McGrath (Burgess/Tipperary), M. Carmody (Patrickswell/Limerick), M. Walsh (Young Irelands/Kilkenny), P. Ryan (Clonakenny/Tipperary), T. Ryan (South Liberties/Limerick), G. Brennan (Ballyragget/Kilkenny), J. Gallagher (Kildangan/Tipperary), S. Golden (Sixmilebridge/Clare) (c), P. Walsh (Tullaroan/Kilkenny), D. Butler (Drom and Inch/Tipperary), A. Ryan (Templederry/Tipperary), J. Fitzgibbon (Adare/Limerick), K. Morris (Moycarkey Borris/Tipperary), P. Kelly (Mullinahone/Tipperary), E. Murphy (Dunhill/Waterford).
Subs: P. Stapleton (Borrisoleigh/Tipperary) for T. Ryan, 45; B. Stapleton (Templederry/Tipperary) for Fitzgibbon, 50; T. Heffernan for Kelly and C. Ryan for Butler, both 58.
Referee: F. Horgan (Tipperary).