Allianz HL Division 1A
Kilkenny 0-17 Waterford 1-15
Jamie Barron’s long-range strike decided this Division 1A clash in chilly Nowlan Park yesterday, Waterford edging Kilkenny by the narrowest of margins for a first win on Noreside since 2004.
Waterford manager Derek McGrath paid tribute to his players for “putting their bodies on the line” to get over the line, particularly as a draw looked likely late on.
“It did, and I was delighted to eke it out, in the face of a Kilkenny onslaught.
“It was very, very rewarding and it will be an important two points before the end of the year.
“It was a proper competitive game, a proper contest and I think we on the line felt an element of freedom in it because it was just a contest.
"To be honest, we were a small bit worried in the run-up to it, trying to combine the fellas that have played Fitzgibbon Cup with those that have not and the possibility some guys would be under-cooked as well.
“That was the absolute worry of the management going into it, so to see fellas put their bodies on the line when not quite at it yet was great.”
Free-takers TJ Reid for the home side and the visitors’ Pauric Mahony were the principal scorers early on, until the significant score of the game, which came in the 12th minute.
Waterford attacker Tom Devine slipped his marker and made ground before passing cleverly to Patrick Curran, who goaled from close range: 1-3 to 0-2.
Reid and Mahony continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over but Waterford maintained that goal difference between the sides as the half wore on, with both sides leaking frees.
It was 1-11 to 0-10 at the break but the second-half ramped up in intensity, with the physical challenges coming thick and fast, primarily in repeated rucks over the ball.
Mahony’s accuracy meant Waterford were six up on 44 minutes but then Kilkenny started to make ground.
Sub Walter Walsh and three Reid placed balls made it 0-14 to 1-13 going into the final quarter.
Mahony (free) and Barron gave Waterford some breathing space with five minutes left but Reid nailed a 65, and Eoin Murphy bombed over a long-range free.
A draw looked likely but Kilkenny missed a couple of chances, and resolute defending - and clever clearances - got Waterford over the line.
Working the ball upfield with intent pleased McGrath no end: “I think that was very encouraging. I imagine the onlookers had last year’s semi-final drawn match in their heads, but we thought we played very well here.
"It looked like we were going to get turned over for the draw or even the loss at the end.
“To be able to dig it out, to show the composure, we got a bit of luck towards the end - that period of play involving Pauric (Mahony) and Michael (Walsh) and fed the ball into Austin, that was very pleasing, to keep the ball in the face of relentless Kilkenny pressure and onslaught.”
Cats boss Brian Cody was philosophical: “They had the wind in the first-half so they had more of the ball. The ball was travelling down the field to their scoring area more so than ours, but I thought we were competitive. There was very little in it and that’s the way the game went.
“The possibility was there (for a draw) alright, the score was tight but we didn’t get it. That was the way it went.”
Waterford will take serious heart from a gutsy win, though the perfectionist in McGrath will fret over a couple of goal chances his side left behind, as well as some some low-percentage point shots that could have made the game safer.
On the other hand, the Waterford manager could point to a youthful forward line and the gradual reintegration of Austin Gleeson, introduced to move Kilkenny’s defensive lynchpin Paul Murphy upfield.
For the home side a defeat by the neighbours will bite, but the auditions will continue, despite Brian Cody’s comments afterward (“That was our full team, we’re not suggesting we were absent our missing players, we had 15 players the same as them”). Next weekend in Ennis will ask more questions.
Scorers for Kilkenny:
TJ Reid (0-10, frees, 0-2 65s); L. Blanchfield, P. Lyng, O. Walsh, R. Hogan, W. Walsh, E. Murphy (free), K. Joyce (0-1 each).
Scorers for Waterford:
P. Mahony (0-10, 0-9 frees, 0-1 65); P. Curran (1-1); J. Barron (0-3); C. Gleeson (0-1).
E. Murphy; J. Holden, P. Walsh, C. O’Shea; P. Murphy, K. Joyce, C. Buckley; O. Walsh, C. Fogarty; P. Lyng, TJ Reid, S. Morrissey; JJ Farrell, L. Blanchfield, R. Hogan (c).
W. Walsh for Morrissey (HT); P. Deegan for O. Walsh (51); R. Leahy for Lyng (inj, 55); S. Prendergast for Buckley (61), C. Martin for Blanchfield (73).
I. O’Regan, S. Fives, B. Coughlan, N. Connors, T. de Burca, S. Daniels, M. Kearney, J. Barron, C. Gleeson, K. Moran (c), P. Mahony, M. Walsh, P. Curran, T. Devine, S. Bennett.
A. Gleeson for Kearney (53); B. O’Halloran for Bennett (55); J. Dillon for Devine (63); G. O’Brien for Curran (68); S. McNulty for Daniels (70).
F. Horgan (Tipperary).
*Kilkenny County Board informed visiting media yesterday there was “no time restriction” on using an indoor heated workspace after the game. Other venues please copy.
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