Dublin 0-13 Waterford 0-17
JOB done, panic over… for the moment at least. That hissing sound in Dungarvan around 4.0 yesterday afternoon was the collective sigh of relief from the big crowd in Fraher Field after Waterford’s hurlers had secured their place in Division 1A next year.
That ‘beleaguered’ tag that had been attached to both the team and manager Michael Ryan for so long was finally shaken off when they wrapped up their league campaign, and avoided the drop, with their second victory on the trot.
They were undoubtedly helped by the fact that Dublin, already bound for the relegation play-off, fielded a team that included only five of last year’s championship starters.
And then, when the visitors started to get a foothold after half-time, they had Dean Curran sent off in controversial circumstances.
But the Deise always looked in control and though they let an eight-point half-time lead (0-12 to 0-4) slip to four on the hour-mark, they kicked on when they needed to, reinforcing the stereotype that they’re a team who take pride in defying the odds and produce their best when their backs are firmly against the wall.
Relieved manager Ryan denied afterwards that there had ever been a crisis.
“Everybody said it was a crisis but, after three rounds of the league, Dublin hadn’t won any game. The National Leaguechampions haven’t won any of their first five games, is that a crisis?” he countered defiantly.
“It was a question of being patient — we’ve a new management team, we were without a lot of players early on and this was never going to happen overnight.”
You could argue that Waterford are now actually on their second new management team of 2012, considering the selectorial musical-chairs that saw Ken McGrath and Sean Cullinane parachuted in recently.
Whatever the impetus, they’ve come out fighting in the last fortnight, when it most mattered, and Ryan preferred to give the players the credit.
“The pressure was really on but they responded to it and we’d nine different starters today than against Cork (in their opener). We struggled early on when we had a lot of injuries but we didn’t have a settled team and now we have,” he said.
When Dublin scored 0-6 to 0-2 after the break to cut the lead to four, it was notable that the three points that Waterford then rattled off in quick succession to kill the game came from John Mullane, substitute Eoin Kelly and Maurice Shanahan (free).
But Waterford’s effort all around the pitch had improved, with Eoin McGrath, Pauric Mahony and Kevin Moran and Dean Twomey in particular working their socks off.
The form of corner-forward Gavin O’Brien once again caught the eye.
The Roanmore teenager is only out of the minor ranks but his four points from play by half-time swung the game, even if he faded out of it afterwards when Oisin Gough upped his game to quieten him.
The only bad news for Waterford was a worrying knee injury to Liam Lawlor that will now need urgent investigation, but they do have a 10-week break to their Munster Championship opener against Clare on June 17.
You could quibble that they failed to get goals when they looked there for the taking, but Dublin tightened up at the back after the break and improved considerably with the introduction of Ross O’Carroll, Conor Clinton and Danny Sutcliffe.
Ruari Trainor had an excellent game at corner-back but, not for the first time this year, their forwards were horribly wasteful, shooting nine wides in each half.
Manager Anthony Daly admitted that he had experimented with an eye towards the relegation play-off but he was none too happy with referee Diarmuid Kirwan for sending off Curran in the 56th minute for two yellow cards in quick succession.
“They were two of the most harmless things, and to be put off the field for it?” he mused. “Up to the sending-off we were coming right back into the game.
“We probably needed a goal but who’s to say the goal wouldn’t have come if we had had a three-man full-forward line, but that’s ruled out when a man is put off for very little, to say the least.”
After losing two games by a point and drawing another, the reigning league champions, who have been plagued by injuries in the past 18 months, now face a relegation play-off against a side stinging from yesterday’s trashing by Kilkenny and Daly grimaced at the thought.
“We’ve performed against every other team bar Galway this year. They beat us by seven points, so our lads have all the incentive to prove they can compete with them and we’ll look forward to that,” he said.
Man of the Match — G O’Brien (Waterford)
SCORERS — Waterford: G O’Brien, M Shanahan (2f) 0-4 each, Pauric Mahony 0-3f, J Mullane 0-2, T Browne, K Moran, S Walsh, E Kelly 0-1 each. Dublin: D Treacy 0-4 (3f), E Dillon 0-3, R O’Carroll 0-2, N McMorrow, D Sutcliffe, R O’Dwyer (f), J McCaffrey (f) 0-1 each.
Waterford — A Power 7; A Kearney 7, L Lawlor 8, Philip Mahony 7; T Browne 8, M Walsh 7, S O’Sullivan 8; K Moran 8, D Twomey 7; M Shanahan 8, Pauric Mahony 8, E McGrath 8; G O’Brien 8, S Walsh 7, J Mullane 7. Subs: S Daniels 7 for Lawlor (39, inj), S Molumphy 7 for Pauric Mahony (46), M O’Neill 6 for McGrath (62), E Kelly 7 for S Walsh (63), D O’Sullivan for Twomey (73).
Dublin — G Maguire 7; R Trainor 8, N Corcoran 7, O Gough 7; D Curran 6, M Quilty 6, J McCaffrey 7; D Curtin 6, S Lambert 6; D Treacy 7, M O’Brien 6, R O’Dwyer 6; N McMorrow 7, D O’Callaghan 6, E Dillon 8. Subs: P Carton 7 for O’Brien (h-t), C Clinton 7 for Lambert (h-t), R O’Carroll 7 for O’Callaghan (45), D Plunkett 6 for McMorrow (52), D Sutcliffe 7 for Curtin (60).
Ref — D Kirwan (Cork)