At the 10th time of asking in league and championship, they put Kilkenny to the sword, ending a losing streak that stretched back to March 2009. The win also pushed them further away from their last league defeat, which came against Dublin in the 2013 relegation play-off.
That the Cats were sluggish will and should qualify the relevance of the result but there was little to discount in their performance. Their wide count of 18 in such wearying conditions was quite phenomenal. Just as it pointed to wayward shooting, it indicated the close to 40 scoring opportunities they produced. For a team that’s been told it’s too defensive and limited, it was a defiant tally.
That they managed one clearcut goal chance, Shane Bennett’s point towards the end of the first half, will be held against them but Kilkenny mustered but the same themselves and Padraic Walsh’s shot at the end was easily fended off by Stephen O’Keeffe.
Waterford had posted 11 wides by half-time when they led 0-8 to 0-6 and the fear among the home support was their erratic striking would come back to haunt them. But Kilkenny’s lack of fieldwork since their return from their team holiday in Thailand in the middle of last month reared its head as they visibly tired in the last quarter.
On a heavy surface and with 25 of the 30 that started last year’s All-Ireland semi-final featuring, the opening half was full of physical exchanges. A little levity was provided by the public announcer who informed spectators in the first half an e-cigarette had been handed in only to follow up a minute later with a reminder of the stadium’s no-smoking areas.
Working in packs, Waterford tormented Kilkenny into turnovers when it had been felt the heavy sod would have been more to the visitors’ liking. Maurice Shanahan and Austin Gleeson were struggling to find their range but Kilkenny were offering little in attack themselves, scoring just three points from play in the first half.
A brace from Colin Dunford and further efforts from Bennett and Curran (free) gave Waterford that merited half-time advantage. Relying so much on TJ Reid’s free-taking, Kilkenny were back on level terms by the 39th minute but didn’t trouble the scoreboard for another 20 minutes. In that time, Waterford fired over three points, two from Shanahan who by that stage had grown into the game.
Colin Fennelly’s red card for a second yellow card offence in the 65th minute put the tin hat on a day Kilkenny will be keen to erase from their thoughts before hosting Tipperary next Sunday.
There was personal succour for Brian Cody in his son Diarmuid’s solid debut but he acknowledged it could have been worse than a four-point reverse. “It wasn’t a question of pressing on; we were hanging in moreso for the duration of the game, really. If their shooting was a bit more clinical, we would have had a much more difficult battle. But we stayed with it.
“I’d say, from a physical preparation point of view we haven’t a lot done either, but there are no excuses – the better team won, that’s it. We’d love to get the two points but we’ll just work ahead.”
While pleased by the honesty shown by his players, Derek McGrath was quick to dismiss the psychological impact of the result or display. “I don’t think Kilkenny will be too perturbed by us beating them in the second week of February when it comes to the summer.”
M Shanahan (1 free), S Bennett (2 frees) (0-3 each); P Curran (free), C Dunford, J Dillon (0-2 each); P Curran, A Gleeson (0-1 each).
TJ Reid (0-7, 6 frees); P Walsh, C Fennelly, R Hogan (0-1 each).
S O’Keeffe; B Coughlan, S Fives, N Connors; P Mahony, A Gleeson, K Moran; J Barron, C Dunford; M Walsh, P Curran, J Dillon; D Fives, M Shanahan, S Bennett.
C Roche for M Shanahan (blood, 61-66); B O’Halloran for P Curran (66); S McNulty for N Connors (blood, 70-73).
E Murphy; P Murphy, J Holden, S Prendergast; P Walsh, K Joyce, D Cody; C Buckley, C Fogarty; W Walsh, R Power, TJ Reid; JJ Farrell, C Fennelly, M Kelly.
J Maher for M Kelly (48).
C Fennelly (second yellow, 65).
A Kelly (Galway)