Monaghan’s sore heads were massaged in a rehabilitative blowout in Fraher Field, as Waterford, still high on life from a first championship win in seven years, crumpled to a sobering 27-point hammering.
Thirty-two minutes — that was how long Waterford kept it maybe not competitive, but respectable. It wasn’t just the fact that Monaghan blasted 2-2 onto their already 1-9 to 0-4 lead, it was the ease with which they did it.
The tide was well and truly in at the bay end as the Monaghan attack crashed up against and eroded the Waterford blanket. Monaghan, with Fermanagh’s late raid still in their heads, finally seemed liberated as hard hits, quick breaks and searing heat left Waterford screaming for the break.
It was then that Karl O’Connell slalomed around two statuesque Waterford defenders for the first goal, before Conor McCarthy had all the time in the world to feed Fintan Kelly for the second.
Eleven of the Monaghan starting 15 had scored by half-time. By the final whistle, 15 different names were on the Monaghan scoresheet. Defender Barry Kerr and centre-forward Dermot Malone were the only two to play more than a half of football and fail to score, if you can even describe that as a failure.
The Monaghan defence alone outscored the Waterford team 2-6 to 0-9. So what did Malachy O’Rourke learn? That was perhaps the hardest question to answer.
“It’s just great to get over the hangover after losing in the Ulster Championship, and the way it happened,” replied O’Rourke.
“We had the game won going into injury time and to be hit with a sucker punch like that, it’s very hard to deal with immediately. In the first week or two, there’s no doubt you could sense a hangover amongst the boys. The longer time went on, we got a spark back in training and this is the best thing, to come back out on the field, get a good victory and get up and running again ahead of next weekend.”
What of Waterford, though? The welcoming hosts skittled by the gulf in standard between Divisions 1 and 4. And only hours after their U20s were crushed by Kerry – 3-22 to a solitary point.
“The scoreline is very hard and people who weren’t here might say ‘What are Waterford football at?’” said manager Tom McGlinchey.
“But there’s a good committed bunch of players there, they’re very dedicated and honest. What we need to do is get up the divisions, but it’s going to be a long process.”
“Let’s be realistic, we weren’t going to make the Super 8s, we weren’t going to win a Munster final. It’s about winning a qualifier and we did that against a team of a higher division. You can’t ever take away the Wexford game from us. I know Friday night was disappointing for the U20s, it’s a very chastening experience for that to happen to them in Kerry, but there is a core of good Waterford footballers and there are good football people in the county.
“We just have to try to build on what happened this year.”
Whether he’ll be there to continue that building process is to be decided.
“Today isn’t the day for that because my year is over now,” McGlinchey explained. “The Waterford County Board and players will have to look at it.”
Victory was never in doubt — Monaghan’s first six points of the match saw to that. The chances they created were of such high quality that they’d totalled 1-8 before they missed one. Even then, they disputed the umpire’s call on that Rory Beggan free.
No HawkEye here, but plenty of other comforts.
Waterford missed their first four efforts so poorly that the ball never went dead. More fodder for the Monaghan counter-attack. Their goal, a Conor McManus penalty, was won on the break by Ryan McAnespie after a superb steal by Kerr.
“Every mistake we made, like passes dropping short, tackles going in late, was capitalised on by Monaghan, which doesn’t happen at Division 4 or Division 3 level,” said McGlinchey.
“We couldn’t afford to give away cheap ball or take the ball into the tackle, but when you’re out there in the heat of the battle, sometimes messages get lost and fellas just forget where they are. Monaghan just punished us every time.”
There were positives on kick-outs — they only lost two to Monaghan in the first-half as Tommy Prendergast and Kieran Power both took marks — and in Thomas O’Gorman, who had Conor McManus well held in open play. When Waterford were patient in attack, they were rewarded with fine scores from Power and Gavin Crotty. JJ Hutchinson hit the post with a second-half goal chance, but where Waterford missed Monaghan scored.
Dessie Mone goaled upon his introduction after a pair of heroic blocks by Michael Curry, while McCarthy skinned his marker to put Monaghan’s fifth goal on a plate for Shane Carey.
Stephen Enright, who had earlier saved from McCarthy, blocked Carey in injury time to keep the gap to 27.
C McManus (1-0 pen, 1 free), D Mone (1-1 each); J McCarron (0-4, 3 frees); K O’Connell, F Kelly, S Carey (1-0 each); C McCarthy (0-3); D Hughes, D Garland (1 free), R Beggan (2 frees), N Kearns (0-2 each); V Corey, C Walshe, R McAnespie, C Boyle (0-1 each).
J Curry (0-4 frees); K Power, G Crotty, C Murray, S Prendergast, J Mullaney (0-1 each).
R Beggan; C Boyle; D Wylie, C Walshe; F Kelly, B Kerr, V Corey; N Kearns, D Hughes; R McAnespie, D Malone, K O’Connell; C McCarthy, J McCarron, C McManus.
S Carey for Wylie (ht), R Wylie for Corey (ht), D Mone for Walshe (45), N McAdam for Hughes (45), K Duffy for Kerr (BC, 45), D Garland for McManus (55).
S Enright; T O’Gorman, J McGrath, A Trihy; J Mullaney; B Looby, M Curry, S Ryan; T Prendergast, K Power; C Murray, G Crotty, D Guiry; J Curry; JJ Hutchinson.
S Prendergast for McGrath (42), J Allen for Guiry (42), M Cummins for Looby (54), J Veale for J Curry (56), E O’Brien for Hutchinson (65), M Kiely for Trihy (70).
D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).
The result was never in question but the feelgood nature of this blowout for Monaghan takes the edge off the Fermanagh loss.
They’ll fancy themselves to beat any potential qualifier opponents in a stacked draw which features half of the Division 1 teams.
A 27-point winning margin. 5-21 scored. As with such things, it could’ve been more. When compared with the competitiveness and joy produced from Waterford’s win over Wexford, it underlines the merits of a tiered structure.
The Monaghan defence. Not only did they keep a clean sheet. Not only did they keep Waterford under 10 points. They outscored the Waterford team 2-6 to 0-9.
On top of scoring a single point in an embarrassing 30-point loss to Kerry U20s on Friday, this 27-point defeat was further damage to the reputation of Waterford football.
Kieran Hughes missed out due to a hamstring injury. He carried it through the Fermanagh game but hasn’t been able to train fully in recent weeks.
Waterford did dominate their own kick-out against the Monaghan press, but gave the visitors easy possession at the other end and were rushed into poor shot options in attack. Malachy O’Rourke replaced full-back Drew Wylie with attacker Shane Carey in response to the Waterford blanket at half-time and was rewarded with a goal.
Ryan McAnespie may have only scored one point, but he set up the first two scores, won the penalty for the first goal and was involved in the second too. A busy performance to wrap up an early win.
Derek O’Mahoney’s call for a black card against Barry Kerr was harsh, but otherwise a good outing.
Monaghan are back in action next Saturday in round 3 of the qualifiers. Waterford have plenty of time to run off a newly streamlined club championship.