Offaly 1-14 Waterford 0-21
You imagine there’ll be sterner examinations of Waterford but they disposed of Offaly with a consummate display at O’Connor Park on Saturday evening.
Stephen O’Keeffe may have been called to make two late saves, the first a majestically instinctive one from a Daniel Currams shot, but the visitors dictated matters for the majority of the affair.
Had James McGrath awarded a couple of merited Waterford penalty shouts in the second half, things could have been a lot more comfortable for them.
On an evening when, according to O’Keeffe, Maurice Shanahan stepped out of his older brother Dan’s shadow, Waterford shot 17 wides, two more than their total against Clare.
Shanahan was excellent throughout even if he did contribute three wides but Michael Ryan wasn’t too perturbed by his side’s profligacy despite it raising its ugly head for the second time in as many games.
“The plus side is that we got 21 scores and 17 wides, which meant that we had 38 shots at the posts away from home. Maybe some guys did feel under pressure. This win will be great for our team and our belief.”
After a week when former Waterford defender Brian Greene questioned the fitness of the team, Ryan was pleased their critics had been answered in front of the 8,200 O’Connor Park crowd.
“Despite what some people have been saying, we have a very high level of fitness. We’ve had more than 100 field sessions and our fitness is very good.
“Offaly had a major boost coming in having played so well against Kilkenny. We felt if we kept our composure, we would have a very good chance.
“We didn’t talk about what people said. The only thing I am interested in is the 32 or 33 players in with us.
“What happens with us is all that matters. We are a united bunch, we work hard together. People are entitled to their opinion, but for me it is what happens within that matters.”
Shanahan spoke similarly about the character shown by the players. “Everybody had to stand up because people were writing this Waterford team off. This Waterford team isn’t a bad team and we’re going to drive it on now.”
As Ollie Baker stated afterwards, both teams played better against the wind, Offaly choosing to face it in the first half after winning the toss.
Like in the Kilkenny game, Offaly goaled early when Shane Dooley pounced on a slack hand-pass by Liam Lawlor to Shane Fives in the eighth minute.
Offaly then lost Derek Molloy to a serious leg injury and were pegged back in the 17th minute with Shanahan’s second free of the game.
Offaly got their noses in front again but four unanswered Waterford points followed, Shanahan contributing three of them.
Backed by the bellowing breeze, they posted seven wides in the first half but went in four ahead at the break — 0-11 to 1-4 — thanks in no small part to Shanahan and Jake Dillon, who was causing bother in the half-forward line.
The question was would that margin of advantage be enough facing the wind in the second half and it appeared insufficient 12 minutes into the second half when a Kevin Brady point levelled the game.
However, Waterford responded quickly via Brian O’Sullivan and within two minutes, the Déise had gone two points ahead once more.
Seamus Prendergast also had a genuine penalty claim turned down as well and Dillon could have found the net but for kicking the ball wide from close range. Scores from Brian O’Sullivan and Shanahan stretched Waterford’s lead to three by the 54th minute and with Michael Walsh and Noel Connors composed in most of the ball that came their way, their team had developed quite the foothold in the game.
Once again, Offaly’s half-forward line disappointed while sub Pauric Mahony’s move to centre-forward in the second half worked a treat for Waterford.
Only three points separated the sides with five minutes remaining but Shanahan turned on the style to pick off a couple of scores with Offaly managing just one score from Currams.
The full-forward could have made it a one-point game in the penultimate minute of normal time but O’Keeffe was equal to his goalbound effort and the follow-up.
Baker rued those saved chances. “There were no real opportunities to take long- distance strikes.
“Oddly enough it wasn’t wides that cost us, it was just that we weren’t able to get enough ball.
“Their keeper made two fine saves there at the end of it and if one of them had gone in, I think we would have gone on. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Scorers for Offaly: S Dooley (1-4, 0-4 frees); D Currams, K Brady, J Bergin, B Carroll (0-2 each); C Mahon, D Morkan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Waterford: M Shanahan (0-13, 5 frees); B O’Sullivan (0-3); J Dillon (0-2); K Moran, S O’Sullivan, P Prendergast (0-1 each).
OFFALY: J Dempsey; C McDonald, D Kenny, D Mooney; R Hanniffy, G Healion, D Morkan; B Carroll, K Brady; C Egan, D Molloy, C Slevin; S Dooley, D Currams, J Bergin.
Subs for Offaly: C Mahon for D Molloy (inj 13); P Cleary for D Mooney (35+6); S Cleary for C Slevin (52); S Gardner for P Cleary (56); S Ryan for K Brady (70+1).
WATERFORD: S O’Keeffe; S Fives, L Lawlor, N Connors; J Nagle, M Walsh, D Fives; P Prendergast, K Moran; J Dillon, S Prendergast, S O’Sullivan; J Barron, M Shanahan, B O’Sullivan.
Subs for Waterford: P Mahony for J Barron (35+5); M O’Neill for S Prendergast (59); R Foley for D Fives (63); R Barry for J Nagle (inj 70).
Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath).
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