Jake Morris leads goal burst as Tipperary eventually break Waterford challenge

The home side ultimately won by being more clinical, but the overall impression was there will be little to separate the sides come summer

National Hurling League, Division 1B: Tipperary 4-23 Waterford 0-25

At the end on Saturday night, Davy Fitzgerald and Liam Cahill finished their handshake with a finger point at each other down by the tunnel. You didn’t have to be standing close by to work out what was said or what was meant. These two will see each other again. When they do, it’ll be worth catching.

This wasn’t a stunner or anything. Tipperary were too clinical and Waterford too open to allow any sense of parity to fall across the evening. A Jake Morris hat-trick allowed the home side to put open water between the sides and the fact that Waterford goalie Billy Nolan had to be called on repeatedly tells its own story. A 10-point win was perfectly fair.

“In fairness, Tipp were the better team tonight,” Davy Fitzgerald conceded afterwards. “But I saw patches from Waterford that were encouraging. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out we should have hit the net – I think we had a couple of really good goal chances between the first half and the second half. The difference is, Tipp finished theirs and we didn’t finish ours. Tipp are a really good team. They’re going to cause some trouble in that championship, let me tell you.”


It’ll be no surprise if Waterford do some troublemaking of their own. They have a few injury worries now that could complicate the coming weeks – Austin Gleeson and Conor Prunty departed early here with hamstring trouble and Fitzgerald told us afterwards that Mikey Kiely is going to struggle to make the start of the championship with a similar complaint. But there were spells here that hinted at there not being a lot between these two if they’re both on a going day. Outside of Limerick, Munster will be the same tombola spin as ever.

But this was Tipp’s night. Morris was deadly when put in the clear for his chances, Jason Forde came off the bench at a crucial juncture in the game and stitched six points in 20 minutes. Ronan Maher held the centre and pulled off a magnificent hook on Calum Lyons in the first half when Waterford were threatening. Liam Cahill was quietly delighted with the night’s work.

“The honesty of the lads showed there,” Cahill said. “The physical stakes were really good. These boys train hard and we’re always trying to bring our training game out onto the field. There was lots of intensity out there, for a game in the middle of March with weather conditions not where they will be come May when we do battle again. I suppose it was a nice little taster for what’s coming down the tracks.”

Which is, in fairness to all concerned, just about the most you can ask of these league matches. There were times here when Tipp looked set fair to loose the chains and drain all mystery from the night. They were far more cohesive in attack, where Bonner Maher gave them a centre point and the other Tipp forwards sprang off him like spokes on a bike wheel.

His influence was key in Tipp building up a 1-11 to 0-7 lead as half-time approached. Morris got in for an early goal, Noel McGrath and Alan Tynan popped points from distance, Gearoid O’Connor was ruthless on the frees. The only black mark was Séamus Callanan leaving the field after 20 minutes with a worrying looking knee injury. Two fine Billy Nolan saves were all that stopped the gap becoming unmanageable for Waterford.

But they stuck at it and for a good 25 minutes either side of half-time, we had a highly enjoyable encounter on our hands. Scores from Jamie Barron and Stephen Bennett just before the break closed the margin to four and it was Waterford who trampolined into the second half.

Jack Prendergast and the outstanding Calum Lyons nailed fine efforts and they twice came close to scoring goals. The angle was tight though for both Prendergast and Neil Montgomery and they blazed wide they might have been better taking their point. League lessons, cheaply learned. When Prendergast split the posts soon after, Waterford were in the lead for the first time since Morris’s goal, 37 minutes beforehand.

The two sides went at it then, point-for-point, stride for stride. When Forde scored with his first involvement off the bench on 55 minutes, it drew Tipp level at 1-16 to 0-19. Anyone’s game.

It was Morris who blew the whole thing open then. He sniped in on a mistake in the Waterford backline, streaking away after Mark Kehoe had robbed Conor Ryan. His finish made it 2-16 to 0-19 and when Barron saw red a minute later for an off-the-ball strike, you could feel Waterford losing their grip. Sure enough, Conor Bowe came off the bench in the next breath to score a goal with his first touch and all the fight fell out of the Waterford challenge from that point on.

WATERFORD: Billy Nolan; Mark Fitzgerald, Conor Prunty, Shane McNulty; Calum Lyons (0-4), Tadhg De Búrca, Iarlaith Daly (0-1); Austin Gleeson, Jamie Barron (0-2); Neil Montgomery (0-1), Jack Prendergast (0-3), Patrick Curran; Dessie Hutchinson (0-1), Stephen Bennett (0-8, 0-8 frees), Colin Dunford (0-1). Subs: Carthach Daly for McNulty (blood), 16-23 mins; Kevin Mahony for Gleeson, 30 mins; C Daly for Curran, half-time; Conor Ryan for Prunty, half-time; Patrick Fitzgerald (0-3, 0-2 frees) for Bennett, 60 mins; Paudie Fitzgerald (0-1) for Dunford, 65 mins.

TIPPERARY: Rhys Shely; Johnny Ryan, Bryan O’Mara, Eoghan Connolly; Michael Breen, Ronan Maher, Seamus Kennedy (0-1); Conor Stakelum (0-2), Noel McGrath (0-1); Dan McCormack, Gearóid O’Connor (0-9, 0-7 frees, 0-1 65), Alan Tynan (0-1); Jake Morris (3-0), Patrick Maher (0-1), Seamus Callanan. Subs: Mark Kehoe (0-2) for Callanan, 20 mins; Jason Forde (0-6, 0-1 free) for Tynan, 48 mins; Conor Bowe (1-0) for O’Connor, 58 mins; John McGrath for Bowe, 67 mins; John Campion for N McGrath, 69 mins.

Referee: James Owens (Wexford).

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times