Waterford 2-22 Tipperary 2-22: The width of a post has often been the difference between victory and defeat. Not here.
No, it was the width of an umpire’s head that was pivotal in helping to decide that Waterford would not hold on to an astonishing lead.
With their four games in four straight Sundays, Limerick being their home yesterday where there were more Tipperary folk among the 10,237 attendance than their own following, and their catalogue of injuries, fate had already played a major role in shaping Waterford’s championship. They wouldn’t have anticipated an umpire would appear as the villain in act two to twist the dagger.
At the time and in slow motion, it was evident that in the 62nd minute, Austin Gleeson didn’t collect Jason Forde’s long free from behind the goal-line, but as the former hurler of the year was on his way to clearing the ball, the green flag was held aloft and waved. Referee Alan Kelly went in to confer with his colleagues and the score stood.
Four years ago, HawkEye score detection technology had ruled out what Tipperary had hoped was a winning point for John O’Dwyer in additional time. Here there was no HawkEye nor goal decision system and how thankful they were for that, and for the lack of vigilance.
Having been 11 points in arrears in the 54th minute, they had pegged Waterford back to four points before the goal. Substitute Patrick Maher’s 58th-minute goal, the result of a rare Michael Walsh fumble, had made it a six-point game prior to a Forde free and a Seamus Callanan score.
Following the disputed goal, Pauric Mahony shot true to double Waterford’s lead. In additional time, another Forde free cancelled it out but Jake Dillon was clever in overturning Seamus Kennedy to point. Another contested Tipperary score followed, Ronan Maher’s effort deemed valid by Kelly despite being waved wide by an umpire. At this stage, it appeared the confidence of the officials at the Ennis end was on the floor.
“I haven’t a clue, not a clue,” said Michael Ryan of Kelly’s call. “I’ll just trust the umpires, trust the ref for that kind of thing and in fairness I think it was the ref that overruled that so clearly he had the best view of it, he was in the middle of the field.
“Look, we ride our luck, there’s no doubt at all. When you come out of a game like that and you get a draw, you’ve rode your luck, 100%. Plus the goalmouth incident where your man stepped back in behind the goal. Look, if we didn’t get those bounces, I wouldn’t be here talking to you… well I’d be here talking to you alright but I’d be crying!”
Austin Gleeson had a strike deemed wide as Waterford looked to create another two-point gap but it was Forde who earned himself a free to save the day as Jake Morris did for Tipperary the previous weekend.
Another time, we might focus on how, for the second day running, a team was able to salvage a draw playing most of the game numerically disadvantaged, or how, for the second Sunday running, Tipp were blessed to snatch a draw from the jaws of demise. But the sourness of the goal decision won’t be forgotten soon. Both teams will want to because they have to but it will rightly rankle with the Déise as much as it detracts from Tipperary’s comeback.
Michael Cahill’s sending off for a second bookable foul — deemed to have dangerously impeded DJ Foran on the Waterford forward’s way to scoring a first-half additional time point — appeared harsh but then Tipperary played second fiddle for two-thirds of the opening period.
Waterford’s first-half goals — Tom Devine’s in the ninth minute and Pauric Mahony’s in the 26th — were almost carbon copies: long deliveries that Tipperary failed to clear sufficiently and were pounced on. Devine was a real troublemaker early on and had two points scored before the goal.
Tipperary steadied themselves, outscoring Waterford 0-7 to 0-1 between the 14th and 23rd minutes to close in on the underdogs before Pádraic Maher batted a ball into Mahony’s path and his groundstroke found the net.
Waterford added a brace of points to go six up and that was the margin at the turnaround — 2-12 to 0-12. But they drove further on with the opening four scores of the second half. Only Forde’s frees were keeping Tipperary hanging in but even his marksmanship looked redundant as Waterford jumped into a double-digit lead by the 49th minute and went 12 up five minutes later.
Fourteen months ago, Galway fought back from a 10-point second-half deficit to beat a similarly-depleted Waterford side in a Division 1 quarter-final in Salthill to begin what turned out to be a winning run that went all the way to September.
Few are considering Tipperary will do the same now. This was an opportunity Waterford didn’t so much squander as lose through a combination of their own frailties and the inadequacy of others.
“We’ll take it on the chin the way we’ve taken other decisions,” said Derek McGrath. “It might be contradictory but I think hurling is one game that doesn’t need technology.”
Maybe it doesn’t, but Waterford sure need a break.
Scorers for Waterford:
Pauric Mahony (1-8, 0-5 frees); T. Devine (1-2); J. Barron, D.J. Foran (0-3 each); P. Curran (0-2); Philip Mahony, S. Bennett, T. Ryan, J. Dillon (0-1 each).
Scorers for Tipperary:
J. Forde (1-13, 1-12 frees); Patrick Maher (1-0); R. Maher (0-3); S. Callanan (0-2); B. McCarthy, N. McGrath, John O’Dwyer, C. Barrett (0-1 each)
S. O’Keeffe; C. Gleeson, S. Fives, N. Connors; Philip Mahony, A. Gleeson, M. Walsh; J. Barron, S. Roche; Pauric Mahony, P. Curran, D.J. Foran; M. Kearney, T. Devine, S. Bennett.
Subs for Waterford:
T. Ryan for M. Kearney (47); B. O’Halloran for P. Curran (55); J. Dillon for D.J. Foran (59); C. Dunford for S. Roche (62); S. McNulty for N. Connors (67).
B. Hogan; S. O’Brien, S. Kennedy, M. Cahill; Joe O’Dwyer, Pádraic Maher, B. Maher; R. Maher, B. McCarthy; D. McCormack, J. Forde, John O’Dwyer; N. McGrath, S. Callanan, J. McGrath.
Subs for Tipperary:
Patrick Maher for J. O’Dwyer (47); C. Barrett for N. McGrath (55); J. Morris for J. McGrath (59); S. Curran for D. McCormack (60); W. Connors for B. McCarthy (68).
M. Cahill (second yellow, 35+3).
A. Kelly (Galway).
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