DUBLIN 4-13 WATERFORD 1-17
Johnny McCaffrey, Dublin, in action against Michael Walsh, Waterford
DUBLIN’S hurlers had waited 11 years to bag a win in Blaa-land but they got it when they most needed in this relegation dogfight at Walsh Park.
After struggling on the road all season they finally pulled out an away win which was, also, their first in their last seven visits to Waterford. They fully deserved to retain their premier division status and manager Anthony Daly didn’t put a tooth in its significance.
“It’s vital because the last couple of years have been a bit disappointing really at underage,” he said. “We’ve lost a few to football as well, so there’s only one place to be and that’s up there.”
Danny Sutcliffe’s two second-half goals, within the space of four minutes, swung this big game beyond doubt and it was surely no coincidence that he was missing when they lost to Waterford by three points in their earlier league meeting.
Everyone in the 3,835 crowd got a serious flash of deja vu to that meeting when Shane O’Sullivan got a red card in the 27th minute, an incident that brought back memories of Brick Walsh’s dismissal in that earlier clash.
On that occasion being reduced to 14 had only spurred Waterford on to victory but this time they were hit on the double as their other starting midfielder, Stephen Molumphy, had already gone off injured.
He was replaced by Darragh Fives who, on his comeback after a season-long hamstring problem, promptly did the classic hurling sub trick of ghosting in for a goal before his marker could locate him, which restored Waterford to a four-point lead.
But within 12 minutes of half-time Fives was gone again with a calf injury.
Throw in the fact that the Deise were already without Maurice Shanahan and Jake Dillon, were forced to withdraw Stephen O’Keeffe and Jamie Barron beforehand and then lost Philip Mahony to a twinge in the warm-up, and it’s fair to say that everything that could go wrong for them did on the final day of their injury-littered campaign.
Manager Derek McGrath didn’t comment on O’Sullivan’s dismissal for catching Michael Carton high, which some felt was harsh and actually left the Ballygunner man himself with a cut eye. It undoubtedly influenced the game as it gave Dublin the impetus and space to push on from their one-point half-time lead (2-6 to 1-8) but the reality was that they were always the better team. They started slowly, conceding the opening five points, so, was Daly really worried at that point?
“I would have been if we were Spurs!” quipped the Tottenham fan, revealing that his team had actually practised 14 v 15 during the week. They immediately got into the game when Paul Ryan goaled a 20-metre free, despite Shane Fives getting a stick to it.
Darragh Fives’s goal reply again saw Dublin trail by four but the visitors got back into it when Mark Schutte set up Colm Cronin for a brilliantly-taken second goal on the half-hour. The truth was that they should have been far further ahead at half-time. The final wide count was 14-6 to Dublin but it was 8-1 at the break.
The big game-changer, apart from O’Sullivan’s dismissal, was a tactical one. Sutcliffe started at full-forward but then switched very deep behind his own midfield in a sweeping role but once he was restored to the full-forward line after the break, he took flight.
His first goal, on 42 minutes, was fortunate enough in that Paul Ryan was brilliantly blocked when going for a point but managed to regain possession and put him through.
Two minutes later, he finished well after Carton and Mark Schutte combined to set him up. Those goals and good points from Alan McCrabbe, Ryan O’Dwyer and Conal Keaney catapulted Dublin into a six-point lead which they quickly extended to eight.
Losing a man so early was fatal but, apart from Padraig Mahony, their forwards again struggled to win primary ball. Their full-back line played well before half-time but that was partly because Dublin’s early two-man full-forward line allowed Shane Fives to cover well.
But once Dublin got a run on them even the Deise’s big-name defenders struggled and letting in 4-13 on top of the 9-40 that they’d conceded in their two previous games against Clare and Kilkenny underlines the problems they’ve got to sort out before meeting Cork in late May.
“I am not going to comment on it (the red card) until I view it (again),” McGrath said. “But Dublin learned a lot from the last time they were here with 14 men and that’s the reality.”
The Waterford boss tried to put a brave face on it, pointing out that both Cork and Clare were in the relegation spot last year and ended up contesting the All-Ireland. But he admitted it was a blow and will probably “be a huge deal for the Waterford public in terms of perception.
“We’re very disappointed to go down because Waterford had been the bookies’ favourites to go down for a number of years and have shown great resolve to maintain their status.”
Scorers – Dublin: D Sutcliffe 2-0, A McCrabbe 0-6 (4fs), P Ryan 1-1, C Cronin 1-0, R O’Dwyer 0-2, C Keaney, P Schutte, D O’Callaghan and C McCormack 0-1 each. Waterford: P Mahony 0-11 (8fs), D Fives 1-0, R Donnelly 0-2, J Nagle, B O’Sullivan, R Barry and S Walsh 0-1.
Dublin – G Maguire 8; S Durkin 8, P Kelly 7, P Schutte 7; J Boland 7, L Rushe 7, M Carton 8; C Cronin 7, J McCaffrey 6; R O’Dwyer 7, A McCrabbe 7, C Keaney 6; P Ryan 7, D Sutcliffe 8, M Schutte 7. Subs: D O’Callaghan 7 for Cronin (49), C McCormack 7 for McCaffrey (53), N McMorrow 6 for Keaney (59), C O’Callaghan 6 for P Schutte (65).
Waterford – I O’Regan 6; Tadhg de Burca 8, S Fives 7, N Connors 7; J Nagle 5, M Walsh 5, K Moran 6; S O’Sullivan 6, S Molumphy 6; G O’Brien 5, Pauric Mahony 9, A Gleeson 5; B O’Sullivan 5, S Prendergast 7, R Barry 6. Subs: D Fives 7 for Molumphy (inj, 47), S Walsh 6 for Prendergast (42), E Barrett 6 for Fives (inj, 47), R Donnelly 7 for Gleeson (58), S Roche 5 for Barry (64).
Ref – J Ryan (Tipperary)