Waterford whetted the appetite for a tasty South East derby against Wexford on Sunday as they savaged Antrim yesterday.
A composed Derek McGrath wasn’t getting too carried away by a 32-point victory margin.
“When we got the draw for the league we had Wexford, Offaly and Limerick away. On paper, we had the more difficult away games. We’re just taking it one game a time. We want to get better and we want to improve with every performance. We have two massive weeks ahead of us because that result qualifies us for a league quarter-final as well.”
Stephen Bennett ignited a lazy Sunday stroll at Walsh Park. He had 1-4 to show for 42 minutes labour as the hosts made light work of a tame Saffron side. The Déise boss won’t rush the All-Ireland minor medallist however given his recent hip injuries. “He has had difficulties with his hips. We just need to mind him because we might keep him for two weeks’ time instead of next week.
“It’s unfortunate for a young lad to be in that situation. We have a great physiotherapy team so we are being led by them and that’s the right thing to do. It’s good for Stephen’s confidence.”
While the intensity dropped considerably during the second half, Maurice Shanahan raised his hand for next weekend’s trip to Wexford Park. The Lismore man hit 2-5 from play in just 28 minutes.
Waterford opted to play against the wind and brought Colin Dunford out around the middle to leave a two man inside line. A fine reaction save by Chris O’Connell denied Stephen Bennett a goal in the seventh minute but three points from Pauric Mahony and one apiece from Kevin Moran and Stephen Bennett had Waterford on a role. On 18 minutes, Colin Dunford fed Stephen Bennett and he gave O’Connell no chance with a powerful drive.
Bennett tagged on two more efforts close to the sideline as he ended the half with 1-3 while Pauric Mahony also shot seven points. Antrim’s difficulties up front were clearly highlighted when Kevin Ryan opted for a double substitution after 23 minutes and Conor Johnson broke their duck from play four minutes later. They trailed by 1-13 to 0-5 at the break.
The second half substitutes were eager to make an impression with next week in mind. Bennett’s replacement Maurice Shanahan kept the numbers moving at a furious rate while other replacements Tom Devine, Shane O’Sullivan and Paudie Prendergast also added their names to the growing list of scorers. Devine fired to the roof of the net with five minutes left. A three man move featuring O’Sullivan and Devine allowed Shanahan crash home his second in the last minute. It was an unhappy homecoming for Mount Sion native Kevin Ryan. He didn’t hide his emotions.
“It was demoralising and deflating. We just had a chat about it inside there about why and what’s changed in four weeks. Down in Wexford, it looked like we were getting off to a good start to the league.”
Scorers for Waterford: Pauric Mahony (0-11, 6 frees); M Shanahan (2-5); S Bennett (1-4); T Devine (1-0); M Walsh (0-3); P Prendergast, J Dillon (0-2 each); C Dunford, K Moran, S O’Sullivan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Antrim: P Shiels (0-5, 4 frees); Conor Johnson, Ciaran Johnson (1 free) (0-2 each); S McNaughton (0-1, free).
WATERFORD: I O’Regan; S Fives, B Coughlan, N Connors; Philip Mahony, T De Burca, K Moran; J Barron, M O’Neill; J Dillon, M Walsh, Pauric Mahony; B O’Halloran, S Bennett, C Dunford.
Subs: M Shanahan for Bennett (42); T Devine for O’Halloran (42); S O’Sullivan for O’Neill (45); S McNulty for Connors (56); P Prendergast for Pauric Mahony (60).
ANTRIM: C O’Connell; R McCambridge, N McAuley, A Graffin; S McCrory, C McKinley, M Bradley; N McManus, Ciaran Johnson; N McKenna, T McCann, P Shiels; PJ O’Connell, S McNaughton, C Clarke.
Subs: M Donnelly for Clarke (23); Conor Johnson for McKenna (23); E Campbell for T McCann (H-T); C McCann for McManus (H-T); T O Ciarain for McNaughton (47).
Referee: D Kirwan (Cork)