A patched up surface prevented the prospect of a free-flowing affair and in a dogged second half, Waterford held Anthony Daly’s Dubs scoreless for 28 minutes.
“There was no master plan to it,” Derek McGrath maintained afterwards.
“It was about work rate and application and the boys made a promise at half-time that it could be a point in your season where when you are down to 14 men that you can just dig in and look back on it later in the year.”
So no words of wisdom imparted?
“Not too much. A lot of leadership comes from within the actual squad. We made a decision to go with six against five and see could we go to the 60 minutes without conceding or them getting ahead and then go back to locking it up at the back.
Pauric Mahony notched 1-8 for the winners, including an opportunistic goal on 23 minutes that marked Waterford first green flag in 163 minutes of league hurling. Amongst a tight knit back line, Stephen O’Keeffe pulled off an audacious close range block from Eamon Dillon at a crucial juncture of the second half.
The inner line Tadhg Bourke, Shane Fives and Noel Connors all had the Déise faithful up from their seats at various stages with Kevin Moran filled in more than capably for ‘Brick’ Walsh.
A bright Dublin opening with two frees from Alan McCrabbe and one each through Conal Keaney and David O’Callaghan put them three points to the good within seven minutes (0-4 to 0-1). Mahony and O’Callaghan traded blows before the Déise settled in. A Kevin Moran single and a Mahony pair tied the contest at five points apiece. Back to back Seamus Prendergast white flags nudged Waterford ahead for the first time.
On 23 minutes, Mahony broke free into open road and blast past Gary Maguire (1-8 to 0-7). Ryan Donnelly suddenly made that a five point lead before the locals were stunned by Michael Walsh’s straight red.
An innocent looking collision with Alan McCrabbe on 29 minutes left the number 11 on the ground and play continued on. After consulting with his umpires however, Cathal McAllister broke the bad news and Waterford were forced into a rethink. Both managers accepted afterwards that it was an accidental incident.
“I had a perfect view of it,” McGrath said afterwards. “Michael was trying to gather possession with his left hand and his right hand came back just to give himself balance and I don’t think that he saw the man on his blind side.”
An exchange between Mahony and Colm Cronin gave Derek McGrath’s men the breathing space of five points. The Ballygunner hotshot was held responsible for 1-6.
Mahony extended that to six within four minutes of the restart through another placed ball. The Sky Blues struggled to adapt to the new environment with their shooting and hit three wides in succession. Stephen O’Keeffe minded the house and collected a host of balls under the crossbar. With each passing minute, the majority of the 4,363 in attendance warmed to Waterford’s refusal to bend. A Tadhg Bourke block on Eamon Dillon increased the volume.
Stephen O’Keeffe then saved a point blank effort from Dillon on 55 minutes when he approached dangerously from the left. It was the hosts that managed to break a 19 minutes scoreless spell. Another block by Tadhg Bourke teed up substitute Brian O’Sullivan.
Alan McCrabbe finally opened Dublin’s second half account from a 65 after 63 minutes. Conor McCormack then saw red for a wild swing on Jamie Nagle towards the stand sideline.
Dublin came with a late charge. Defensive confusion allowed Conal Keaney to peg back a scruffy goal in the final minute. Dillon then tacked on a point in injury time. With the pressure building, the home side repelled one final rail in rousing style. Their turf protected through sheer graft.
Scorers for Waterford: Pauric Mahony (1-8, 6fs, 1 65), S Prendergast (0-2), B O’Sullivan, R Donnelly, K Moran (0-1 each).
Scorers for Dublin: C Keaney (1-1), A McCrabbe (0-3, 2fs, 1 65), D O’Callaghan (0-2), J McCaffrey, J Boland, C Cronin, E Dillon (0-1 each).
WATERFORD: S O’Keeffe; T Bourke, S Fives, N Connors; J Nagle, M Walsh, Philip Mahony; K Moran, S McNulty; R Barry, S Molumphy S O’Sullivan; R Donnelly, S Prendergast, Pauric Mahony.
Subs for Waterford: B O’Sullivan for Donnelly (46), S Roche for McNulty (46), E Barrett for Barry (56), B Coughlan for Prendergast (58), G O’Brien for Molumphy (63).
DUBLIN: G Maguire; C O’Callaghan, P Kelly, N Corcoran; S Durkin, L Rushe, M Carton; J Boland, J McCaffrey; R O'Dwyer, A McCrabbe, C Cronin; D O'Callaghan, C Keaney, M Schutte.
Subs for Dublin: E Dillon for Schutte (44), S McGrath for O’Callaghan (59), C McCormack for Cronin (59).
Referee: C McAllister (Cork).