Waterford Crystal Cup Final – Waterford v UCC

Waterford defeated UCC by 1-9 to 0-11 in the Waterford Crystal Cup Senior Hurling Final on Sunday in Fraher Field Dungarvan.

Timely wake up call for out of sorts Waterford

BY PHIL FANNING for the Waterford News & Star newspaper

WATERFORD 1-09 U.C.C. 0-11

HAVING enjoyed an impressive pre season campaign in the build up to last Sunday’s Crystal Cup final with U.C.C. Waterford were given a timely reminder that there is still some work to be done prior to next Sunday week’s opening league tie against Dublin as the team that crushed Clare a week earlier produced a very flat performance at Fraher Field when stuttering to a fragile one point win over the Cork students. U. C. C. came to Dungarvan on the back of a devastating Fitzgibbon Cup defeat by Limerick I. T. but their determination to bounce back from that disappointment was obvious in the manner in which they carried the game to Waterford from the first whistle and were it not for some woeful finishing that produced thirteen first half wides to Waterford’s four the home side would have been facing a much heavier deficit than three points going into the second half.

Displaying far greater urgency after the break Waterford took the lead in the 36th minute through a well worked Martin O’Neill goal but did well to hang on for victory after the sending off of Eoin Kelly on a straight red card in the 40th minute by Limerick referee Damien Richardson whose overall interpretation of the rules, experimental and established, left much to be desired. For a team that went through a protracted ‘warm up’ ritual Waterford were stone cold in the opening quarter as the students were allowed to dominate from midfield going forward. Three points from placed balls by Eoghan Murphy and one from Eanna Martin gave their side a four point lead inside six minutes and the College side would not at all have been flattered to have at least doubled that lead before Waterford finally got on the scoreboard in the 17th minute with a fine point from Kevin Moran. Moran’s score seemed to settle his side down as Maurice Shanahan followed up with a point from a free following a foul on Thomas Ryan and in the 19th minute Shanahan was heavily fouled by Joe Jordan, at the cost of a yellow card to the Blarney man, and the Lismore youngster’s point from the free amazingly left Waterford just a single point adrift.

BELOW PAR

That margin was maintained after another exchange of points from frees between Murphy and Shanahan and it took a goal line intervention by Jerome Meagher to deny U. C. C. a certain goal before late points from another Murphy free and wing forward Shane Burke gave their side a 0 – 7 to 0 – 4 half time lead which was the least they deserved having had by far the better of the play in the first half. Having had time to reflect on a dismal first half performance Waterford came out for the second half in more positive mood and with Gary Hurney being fouled twice by Abbeyside club mate Richie inside two minutes Maurice Shanahan duly reduced the deficit to the minimum. Michael Walsh was now dominating play from centre back position and the Waterford half forward line was coming more into the game.

In the 36th minute the hard working Gary Hurney had the College defence at full stretch to create the opening for Thomas Ryan to lay the ball off to Martin O’Neill in front of goal and the teenager gave Anthony Nash no chance as he fired his side into the lead for the first time. U.C.C. hit back immediately with a point from Tadhg Og Murphy but Maurice Shanahan set up Kevin Moran for an excellent point and it looked as though Waterford were about to take control of the game.

DOWN A MAN

It all went wrong however, soon after, with the dismissal of midfielder Eoin Kelly following an incident on the touchline in front of the stand. Kelly won possession close to the side line and found himself being pushed towards the line by Eoghan Murphy. It was a clear free to the Waterford player but the referee took no action and when the ball dropped to the ground Kelly pulled a wild stroke to catch Murphy on his leg. There followed a bust up involving a prominent U. C. C. mentor who appeared to lash out at the Waterford player and aggravated the situation.

When peace was restored the referee showed Eoin Kelly a straight red card that will keep him out of the first two games of the league at least but, inexplicably, neither the referee nor his linesman, who was on the spot, took any action against the College mentor. It will be very interesting to see what the referee’s report says about this incident. Waterford were now under pressure and forced to play with just Gary Hurney and Thomas Ryan up front as Martin O’Neill was sent outfield and the extra man playing in front of the Cork goal worked to good effect, winning the breaking ball and effecting good clearances. Points from substitute Luke O’Farrell and Robert White levelled the tie in the 47th minute and the pressure was now back on Waterford. At that point the Waterford selectors sent on Bryan Phelan and Eoin Whelan in midfield for James Murray and Thomas Ryan with Martin O’Neill moving forward to rejoin Gary Hurney the front line.

DEISE EDGE IT

The deadlock was maintained for the following ten minutes as the Waterford defence held firm under strong pressure with the introduction of Aidan Kearney for Declan Prendergast having a huge influence in support of Michael Walsh in the half back line. The Waterford cause was helped by the continued failure of the U. C. C. forwards to convert some straightforward scoring chances but as the game went on the home defence gained the upper hand though the College introduced some fresh legs as the game went into the home straight.

There was concern in the Waterford camp as Mark O’Brien had to be stretchered off following a heavy knock in the 55th minute to be replaced by Michael Doherty but a minute later Maurice Shanahan calmly slotted over a free from midfield to put his side back in front. The sides were level again a minute later with Stephen Moylan slotting over a 20 metre free and when Aiden Kearney was narrowly wide with a long range strike the game looked destined for extra time.

The pressure was put back on U. C. C. however when Kevin Moran sent over his third point of the game in the 60th minute but there was still time for the College to hit back as the officials signalled four minutes of added time as a result of the delay for Mark O’Brien’s injury. The final minutes saw the Waterford defence in control as the clock ran down and the referee allowed the game to carry on beyond the four minutes into five until someone reminded Michael Walsh that under the new experimental rules the ball had to go out of play before the final whistle would sound.

It was a hard earned win for this young Waterford side but U. C. C. will feel they should have won this game in the first half when they dominated possession for long periods. While Waterford upped their game in the second half they really owed their victory to their strong defensive display when reduced to fourteen players. In goal Clinton Hennessy controlled his area well while never being seriously tested in terms of shots at goal.

Liam Lawlor did his prospects of securing the full back position no harm at all with a solid display while, after a tentative opening quarter, Michael Walsh settled down to again emerge as his side’s ‘man of the match’. As already pointed out the arrival of Aidan Kearney in the last quarter had a big influence in the closing exchanges.

Waterford never really gained a foothold in midfield at any stage of the game and with Eoin Kelly now ruled out for the opening games of the league, at least, the selectors have some work to do on this sector. In attack the Waterford half forward line of Shane Walsh, Kevin Moran and Maurice Shanahan continues to impress even if the return in scores from play was less than in previous outings. Up front Gary Hurney worked hard and Thomas Ryan and Martin O’Neill will gain in experience from this game.

U. C. C. will certainly feel that they left this game behind them but they will be happy to have regained confidence for their upcoming Fitzgibbon Cup games with G.M.I.T and Waterford I. T. after their heavy defeat to L. I. T. last week. Waterford’s final outing before the league clash with Dublin will be against Cork on Saturday evening next in Riverstown to mark the switching on of the new floodlights at the Sarsfields club grounds.