Tipperary 4-23 Waterford 0-25
At the end, Davy Fitzgerald and Liam Cahill finished their handshake with a finger point at each other. 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 them and Waterford and the fact that Billy Nolan had to be called on repeatedly tells its own story. A 10-point win was perfectly fair.
There were spells here though that hinted at there not being a lot between these two if they’re both on a going day. Waterford were seven points down in the 33rd minute but had closed the gap and made it a level game 10 minutes after the restart.
Two goals in a couple of minutes coming up on the hour mark did the job for Tipp – particularly as they sandwiched an off-the-ball red card for Jamie Barron. But when this was a game, it sizzled.
Calum Lyons landed four from play for Waterford, Barron was a wizard when he was on the pitch, Jack Prendergast was sharp. Best of all for Waterford, Tadhg De Búrca played a full game. No Waterford year can have any length in it without him in situ.
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 point 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 will be delighted with the night’s work.
There were times 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. Any ball sent his way was an automatic trigger for the others to sprint off him – the very least they knew was that he’d make it hard for the Waterford defence to get it away cleanly. When you build from that base, there’s damage to be done.
In the first half alone, Maher scored a point, sent Noel McGrath clear for one of his own and put Jake Morris in for a goal chance – one of three Tipp had before half-time. Maher’s point came in the 19th minute and was him to a tee.
A long ball forward had him and Morris fighting a two-on-three battle with the Waterford full-back line. Maher got in there, awkward as a birds-and-bees chat, and turned a 40-60 ball into a 51-49 one. It was enough to get the ball on the ground and when the cluster scattered, he flicked his score.
By the stage, Tipp had nosed ahead after a slightly rickety opening. Waterford whipped over the first three points of the night through Jack Prendergast, Neil Montgomery and Stephen Bennett (free) but Morris’s early goal soon turned the night Tipp’s way. It came on eight minutes, after McGrath picked out Dan McCormack on the run and Morris buried a low shot past Nolan from the right of the large square.
Nolan had two other saves to make before the break, as Tipp gradually took hold of matters. They were similar to the eye – Seamie Callanan (six minutes) and Morris (32 minutes) making him get down smartly to his left to deflect low shots away. Only for him, the carrot might have been dangling too far off in the distance for them to bother chasing.
As it was, they did well not to let the Tipperary lead become unmanageable. Gearoid O’Connor was in ruthless form on the frees for the home side, with six and a 65 in the first half alone. He landed a long one from play as well and with Waterford missing a world of chances at the other end, it all meant that Tipp were 1-11 to 0-7 ahead with half-time approaching.
To Waterford’s credit, they rallied back. Barron whipped a couple of points, Stephen Bennett potted his frees. A four-point margin at the break was wiped out in short order on the restart. Prendergast and Lyons nailed fine efforts and they twice came close to scoring goals. The angle was tight for both Prendergast and Montgomery though – they each might have been better taking their point. League lessons, cheaply learned.
By the 45th minute, we had a rattling good game on our hands. Conor Stakelum swished a point at one end, Iarlaith Daly hit back at the other. When Prendergast split the posts from distance on 46 minutes, Waterford were in the lead for the first time since Morris’s goal, 37 minutes beforehand.
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)