VICTORY, hard earned but deserved, for Waterford in a first round Munster U-21 hurling championship game that only came to life in the closing ten minutes before a 3,000 attendance at Fraher Field, Dungarvan, last night.
Limerick will feel hard done by to have conceded the winning point deep into added time, midfielder Darren Russell superbly finding the range. However, over the hour Waterford proved themselves marginally the better side but they will need to display a major improvement if they hope to master Cork when they travel to Leeside for next month’s semi-final.
An interesting spectator was Manchester United’s John O’Shea but he, or anyone else at the ground, wouldn’t have been impressed by the mediocrity of a pedestrian paced first-half. Territorially Waterford enjoyed a definite advantage in that opening moiety but their forwards, with the exception of Mark Gorman, wasted much of the supply provided in the main through their sheet anchor half back trio of Richie Foley, Kevin Moran, and Wayne Hutchinson.
Full-forward Michael Fitzgerald was proving a handful whenever he gained possession, but they were reliant on the accurate free taking of David Breen.
Waterford’s 0-7 to 0-6 half time lead didn’t flatter them, but it was Limerick who assumed command on the turnover, but without translating their superiority into scores they were ultimately to pay the penalty.
They were level within five minutes of the restart when wing back Garvan O’Mahony slotted over a quality point, and when corner forward Peter Cregan, now operating on the right wing, scored an even better one four minutes later Limerick were in front.
Waterford, struggling to regain the initiative, had to wait all of 19 minutes before registering on the scoreboard when Gorman pointed a free. The introduction of Jamie Nagle into the Waterford attack proved a shrewd selectorial move and he neutralised another Breen point to leave the sides still deadlocked with little more than five minutes remaining.
Substitute Cathal Mullane missed a golden goal chance for Limerick in the 58th minute but 60 seconds later he grabbed the lead point for his side only for Gorman to again level for Waterford from a free less than a minute before the end of normal time.
Twice Limerick goalkeeper Ger Flynn smartly cleared dangerous deliveries into his goalmouth as Waterford went in search of a winner. And with the fans finally warming to a game that had been as flat as the proverbial pancake for so long moments of real drama still lay ahead.
Russell rifled over a prodigious point in the 61st minute to restore the Waterford lead and seconds later Limerick full back Eddie Kiely was sent off following an altercation in their goalmouth. To their credit they mounted a series of attacks in the two minutes that remained but the home defence stood firm and Waterford held out for a victory they just about deserved.
Scorers: Waterford; M. Gorman (0-5, 0-4 frees); T. Power (0-2, 0-1 free); S. O’Sullivan (0-1); G. O’Connor (0-1); J. Nagle (0-1), D. Russell (0-1). Limerick: D. Breen (0-5, 04 frees, 0-1 “65’’); N. Fitzgerald (0-2); G. O’Mahony (0-1), P. Cregan(0-1), C. Mullane (0-1).
WATERFORD: D. Ryan; J. Farrell. J. Kindregan. M. O’Brien; R. Foley. K. Moran. W. Hutchinson; S. O’Sullivan. D. Russell; J. Shanahan. G. O’Connor. D. Hickey; M. Gorman. L. Lawlor. T. Power.
Subs: J. Nagle for Hickey; P. Kearney for Power.
LIMERICK: G. Flynn; D. Moloney. E. Kiely. L. Hurley; W. Hutchinson. E. Benson. G. O’Mahony; S. Hickey. P. Russell; A. Brennan. J. Ryan. D. Breen; P. Kirby. M. Fitzgerald. P. Cregan.
Subs: C. Mullane for Kirby; D. Hurley for J. Ryan; R. Ryan for Russell.
Referee: S McMahon (Clare).
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