Munster SHC, round 5: Tipperary 0-21 Waterford 1-24
Emotions running wild in the evening sunshine at Semple Stadium. Tipperary just about keeping their hurling summer alive, despite this gentle hiding from Waterford, on their home turf, against a team already on a hiding to nothing.
It finished with Waterford convincing winners, only their second ever win in 16 games to date in the Munster round-robin hurling championship. It was a result never in doubt either, Waterford in front throughout, and with Dessie Hutchinson nailing their first and only goal of the provincial campaign in the 52nd minute, turning over both the goalie Rhys Shelly and Bryan O’Mara to score.
That put Waterford up 1-19 to 0-13 and there was no way back for Tipperary from there; still, for Tipp, an All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final against Offaly beckons. And the promise for perhaps something more.
“I think we are very fortunate to be still in the championship,” Tipperary manager Liam Cahill mused afterwards, nodding also to Limerick’s win over Cork. “All credit to Waterford, they showed what they are capable of, but we made some basic errors. Waterford really asked questions of us.
“We’re still alive, that’s the main thing. The heart mightn’t be great, but once we’re alive, we still have a chance.”
Waterford manager Davy Fitzgerald, clearly emotional not just about the result, was looking backwards and forward, leaving no doubt he’ll be back for at least a second year in 2024.
“We were hurt,” he told us, eye to eye. “We’ve only played two bad halves of hurling this year, you’d swear to Jesus, we were terrible all year, with the carry-on of some people. I could say a word, because it annoys me so much, that we got cut, the way we got cut . . .
“The only chance we have is to get people behind us, and there’s enough hardship in life, without knocking .... It’s been a tough month, I can tell you. And it’s so annoying to see the way they’ve been treated. And I think today they showed what they’re about, and fair play to them.
“The only chance we have is to get people behind us, an there’s enough hardship in life, without knocking . . . It’s been a tough month, I can tell you.”
Waterford set up to bring their game to Tipp: Austin Gleeson, Conor Prunty and Jamie Barron didn’t start through injury, with Billy Nolan called into the sweeper role, to immediate effect.
Waterford finished with nine different scorers, Hutchinson already well in the game before his goal, finishing with 1-3, all from play. Patrick Fitzgerald was also excellent, nailing three from play.
Manager Fitzgerald was buoyant about the performance, and rightly so: “If we beat Limerick in the first round, what do you think would have happened today? Tipp are out of the championship, we’re probably through. That’s how it goes. It’s that close so it is.
“We’re killing ourselves, we’re not going out to play bad. We’re actually trying really hard. Is there a few things we have to put right? There is one or two things outside of hurling that we need to put right. We started that today.
“It’s a game of hurling; there’s more things to life. I’m in the job five months, you’d swear I was there five years. There’s other managers there three or four years and have won zero and are not getting half the hassle. What is that about? I’m so happy for the team. We trained hard. We’re so disappointed.”
Strangely, Tipp didn’t bring much of a threat in front of goal, Seamus Callanan the leading danger, finishing with three from play, and Noel McGrath keeping things ticking over with his frees. But they were always chasing the game, down 0-17 to 0-8 at halftime, Waterford by far more energetic and interested.
Cahill was in no way surprised by the Waterford resistance: “That Waterford team are only the good team I know they are, and I was fortunate to be involved with the last three seasons,” he added Cahill.
In the end, Fitzgerald had ample praise for his team, including Nolan’s role as sweeper.
“Billy plays centre back for Roanmore, he plays in that role for WIT. Logically, it made sense to do that and the move worked. Look at the players we were missing today. My God, if people tell me that team are bottlers or that Waterford are bottlers. Waterford are not bottlers, 110 per cent, and I think we proved that today.
“Tipp might have been a bit flatter today after last week, I don’t know, but we were probably 10 to 12 points better than they were today. But you know what? We still had a bunch that fought on their backs for their county and they love their county.”
TIPPERARY: R Shelly; B O’Mara, M Breen, R Maher (0-2, 1f); E Connolly (0-1), D McCormack, B McGrath (0-1); S Kennedy, C Stakelum; A Tynan (0-1), N McGrath (0-7, 0-4 frees, 0-3 65s), G O’Connor (0-4, 0-3 frees); P Maher, S Callanan (0-3), M Kehoe (0-1). Subs: C Bowe (0-1) for O’Connor (25 mins, inj), Johnny Ryan for B McGrath (44-50, blood), Johnny Ryan for B McGrath (53 inj), S Ryan for Stakelum (54), J McGrath for P Maher (61), J Fogarty for Kehoe (67).
WATERFORD: S O’Brien; C Gleeson, M Fitzgerald, I Daly; J Fagan (0-3), C Lyons (0-1), D Lyons; P Leavey, N Montgomery (0-2); P Hogan (0-1), Stephen Bennett (0-9, seven frees), J Prendergast; B Nolan (0-1), D Hutchinson (1-3), P Fitzgerald (0-3). Subs: P Curran (0-1) for D Hutchinson (blood sub), Curran for Montgomery (56 mins), C Dunford for Prendergast and Kevin Mahony for Hogan (both 61), DJ Foran for Patrick Fitzgerald (66), C Ryan for C Gleeson (73).