Allianz NHL Division 1 – Waterford 1-19 Offaly 1-16

Waterford defeated Offaly by 1-19 to 1-16 in round 6 of the Allianz National Hurling League Division 1 on Sunday in Fraher Field Dungarvan.

Déise deliver after tight battle

Waterford 1-19 Offaly 1-16

By Michael Moynihan for the Irish Examiner newspaper

Monday, April 05, 2010

A THREE-POINT win for Waterford over Offaly on a day when a third consecutive draw was a live possibility for the Déise. The first half of this NHL Division One clash won’t linger in the memory, but the fare warmed up after the break on this chilly afternoon in Walsh Park, and the hosts had just enough to get over the line. “Waterford dragged themselves into it in the last ten or 20 minutes, playing with the breeze probably wasn’t the advantage it appeared to be, there was a lot of crowding in the forward lines. We had chances, maybe if we’d taken our points we might have gotten a draw, but I’m pleased. We’re disappointed to lose but we put up a good performance.”

They did that. Waterford looked like they’d taken too much notice of Offaly’s struggles to beat Limerick last week, and in a first half of tit-for-tat scoring – and stop-start playing – Shane Dooley (0-6) and Eoin Kelly (0-7) swapped frees en route to a one-point lead for the home side at the break, (0-11 to 0-10). Neither side would have been pleased with their performance in a stuttering 35 minutes marred by wayward hand passes and poor control. Waterford boss Davy Fitzgerald was amongst those less than impressed. “I wasn’t happy with our lads at half-time,” said Fitzgerald. “I felt we weren’t winning the fifty-fifty balls, that Offaly were, and we told them a few home truths.”

The tie picked up in intensity in the second half. Richie Foley and Shane O’Sullivan came into the game for Waterford, but David Kenny was driving Offaly on from centre-back. Dooley and Kelly continued to swap frees until Waterford took the initiative on 44 minutes: a Kelly pull was taken on by Tomas Ryan, and when his shot rolled across the square, Dan Shanahan finished calmly to put his side ahead 1-12 to 0-14. At the same time, Fitzgerald withdrew Seamus Prendergast, who’d scored two points, and Eoin Kelly, who’d notched eight from frees. The manager expanded on his reasons afterwards. “Eoin has had a lot of good days and hopefully he’ll have a lot more. You won’t have a good day every day and if you don’t play well you won’t stay on the field, that’s the bottom line. That’s what we’re there to do, but I’d have no fear of Eoin, I’m sure he’ll bounce back.”

The move worked – John Mullane came on for Prendergast and energised the Waterford forwards, with Maurice Shanahan in particular coming into the game with two points. However, Dooley responded from placed balls to keep Offaly in touch, and with ten minutes left they surged upfield: Joe Bergin hit a ball across the Waterford square which caused the traditional affliction of full-back lines – consternation – and Dooley touched home an Offaly goal to leave it 1-16 to 1-15 with the visitors one ahead. “We got back into it with the goal,” said Dooley, “But we just weren’t picking up the breaks. One or two players seemed to tire a bit, we have lads coming back from injuries.”

Offaly hit some poor wides after their goal, but Waterford responded to the challenge, with Maurice Shanahan (three) and substitute Shane Walsh hitting the points that earned the victory. “I’m happy with the character, if not the performance,” said Fitzgerald. “Everyone was expecting Waterford to walk through this one – I didn’t think that would happen, but I’m glad that it turned into a battle. “It showed that we have the character to fight our way out of trouble.”

The Clare man had praise for Richie Foley but admitted ‘Brick’ Walsh will be Waterford’s championship centre-back, while the evergreen Tony Browne became the 32nd player the county used in the league when he came on yesterday. “We have fair fighting for places,” said Fitzgerald. “Let them fight away and the best horse will jump the ditch when it comes to the championship.”

Scorers for Waterford: E Kelly 0-8 (8f); M Shanahan 0-6 (4f); D Shanahan 1-0; S Prendergast 0-2; S Walsh, J Mullane, S O’Sullivan 0-1 each.

Scorers for Offaly: S Dooley 1-10 (10f); D Molloy, D Currams 0-2 each; B Carroll, R Hannify 0-1 each.

Subs for Waterford: J Mullane for Kelly, S Walsh for Prendergast, (both 44); A Kearney for Fives (52); T Browne for D Shanahan, (65); J Maher for Murphy (70).

Subs for Offaly: D Hayden for Rigney (ht); C Mahon for Healion, (54); S Egan for Franks, (63); J Brady for Wynne, (67); C Parlon for Berin (70).

Referee: J Sexton (Cork)