Saturday, 16th December 2017
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Waterford win, but at a cost

The Waterford Senior Hurlers came through a tough encounter against Wexford at the newly refurished Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Sunday last to seal their place in the All-Ireland semi-final.

The 1-23 to 1-19 win, which probably flattered the Slaneysiders a little, was achieved before over thirty one thousand patrons and added to the crowd of just under that on Saturday the whole weekend proved a huge success for the Association and in particular the Cork GAA Board who have shown real initiative with this new development.

The Deise went into this game as the warmest of favourites but Wexford under the stewardship of the wily Davy Fitzgerald, former Waterfords bainisteoir, were coming in perhaps a "little under the radar" following a win over Kilkenny and a huge loss to Galway. With the traffic restrictions which had been flagged all week most supporters were on the road early although the game was to start at 4pm.

It was good decision as we had time to stroll along the city by the Lee for a couple of hours before heading out Centre Park Road to the match. The opening game of a double header featured Kilkenny and Cork in the Intermediate All-Ireland Final which the Cats won on a 2-23 to 2-18 scoreline. Now for the "big one". Waterford fielded as selected although there were a few positional changes.

Wexford on the other hand made four personnel changes before the start. Following the throw in by referee Fergal Horgan from Tipperary it was Waterford who opened the scoring with a free from Paudie Mahony following a foul on Michael Walsh. Indeed the "Brick" was to prove a real handful thoughout the opening half as time and again the Wexford defence were forced to concede frees on the Stradbally man.

In the 2nd minute Slaneysiders talisman Lee Chin landed a point from a free as Austin Gleeson picked up a yellow card. Waterford captain Kevin Moran and Diarmuid O'Keeffe exchanged points before Moran edged the Deise back in front. Michael Walsh then produced a superb effort from out wide to see the favourites 0-4 to 0-2 ahead after five minutes. Again it was the "Brick" who won a free in the 6th minute and Paudie Mahony unerringly saw Waterford 0-5 to 0-2 ahead.

Wexford had two points from Conor McDonald and Jack Guiney (0-5 to 0-4) as the clock passed the ten minute mark. The exchanges were hard but fair as we waited for the game to "open up". A point from Jake Dillon and a brace from Paudie Mahony frees saw the Deise four ahead 0-8 to 0-4 after fifteen minutes. With Michael Walsh causing all sorts of trouble for the Wexford defence Rory O'Connor was booked but Mahony was wide with the resultant free.

A foul on Wexford full back Liam Ryan gave Jack Guiney a free which he converted but Darragh Fives landed a "beauty" from midfield for the Deise 0-9 to 0-5. Wexford had a run of unanswered points from the outstanding Lee Chin, Paul Morris and Diarmuid O'Keeffe to close the lead to a single point after twenty five minutes 0-9 to 0-8. However the Waterford reply was swift with Paudie Mahony landing a free, followed by one from Conor Gleeson and a magnificent effort from Austin Gleeson easing the lead out to 0-12 to 0-8. However Wexford again fought back for a brace of points from substitute Aidan Nolan Jack Guiney 0-12 to 0-10. Both teams had missed the target in between but the game swung decidedly towards Waterford in the concluding minutes of the half. The Wexford defence won possession but in attempting to pass back left it short and Shane Bennett collected and put Kevin Moran through on goal. The De La Salle man's ground shot hit the back of Mark Fanning's net and Waterford went to the break with a comfortable 1-12 to 0-10 lead. With both teams operating a defensive system the first half proved really dour but we looked forward to a more liberal and free flowing second half and at least we had a cushion of a lead. The second half began in whirlwind fashion for Wexford as they bagged three unanswered points from Liam Ryan who was on the end of a move by Lee Chin and Jack Guiney, Jack Guiney and Lee Chin. The Waterford lead was back to two points 1-12 to 0-13. Maurice Shanahan was brought into the Waterford attack to replace Jake Dillon. A Paudie Mahony free edged Waterford three points clear as Brian O'Halloran edged Shane Bennett in the front six. Paudie Mahony landed another free in the 45th minute and Austin Gleeson split the posts with a huge effort just three minutes later. Waterfdord had re-established their five point cushion 1-15 to 0-13. Jack O'Connor and Austin Gleeson exchanged points before an effort from Jack Guiney saw the lead bato four points 1-16 to 0-15. The magnificent Kevin Moran and Maurice Shanahan had a brace of points for Waterford but Diarmuid O'Keeffe and Jack Guiney did likewise for Wexford 1-18 to 1-17. Stephen Bennett saw action in place of Brick Walsh who received a huge ovation from the fans as the Stradbally man had been magnificent throughout the fifty odd minutes. Paudie Mahony converted a free in the 57th minute and Maurice Shanahan landed another within a minute 1-120 to 0-17. The following eight minutes saw both teams hit poor efforts wide of the target. An incident out on the left wing between the magnificent Tadhg de Burca and Aidan Nolan saw the Waterford defender red carded for what appeared an issue with the helmet face mask. The incident was brought, by the linesman, to the attention of referee Fergal Horgan who had no hesitation in sending off the Clashmore/Kinsalebeg defender. if the suspension is carried through it will see the Waterford player, perhaps the lynchpin of the defensive system, miss out on an All-Ireland semi-final. However we'll wait and see as I'm sure there will be an appeal. In the 66th minute Jack O'Connor had a Wexford point but Paudie Mahony from a free and one each from Colin Dunford and Brian O'Halloran saw the lead out to seven points 1-23 to 0-18. Tommy Ryan came into the action in place of Paudie Mahony. The final minutes of additional time saw Jack Guiney land a point for Wexford and in the dying seconds Jack O'Connor goaled following up a blocked free from Guiney. Too little too late for Wexford but in truth Waterford were the better side and thoroughly deserved their 1-23 to 1-19 victory. Following the draw on Monday morning the Deise will face Munster champions Cork in a repeat of their Provincial semi-final game. However at this stage we wait with bated breath on the conclusion of the Tadhg de Burca sending off.

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