Kilkenny moved a step closer to their 11th All-Ireland senior hurling title win in 16 seasons as Waterford’s long and winding season finally came to an end before a crowd of 41,226 at Croke Park on Sunday
Photo Credit: Piaras O Midheach/ Sportsfile
Despite rumours over his fitness Richie Hogan produced another spectacular performance with five points from play. They also had a 1-9 contribution from TJ Reid, while Ger Aylward scored four points.
But the game was won on the same old fundamentals that have become their trademark, a resolute defence and a familiar pattern of pressurising the opposition throughout the field. Waterford made too many errors and with their backs forced into clearances with little time or comfort, the ball heading into the Kilkenny half of the field tended to lack the precision needed to create openings and really stretch their backline.
The way Waterford set-up meant Kilkenny were afforded the luxury of playing Paul Murphy as a spare man and they coughed up no goal opportunities. Waterford needed a goal, but Kilkenny claimed the only one of the day in the 17th minute when Reid pounced on a defensive mix-up, Barry Coughlan and Tadhg De Burca going for the same ball. When it spilled behind them Reid was in the clear and finished impeccably.
Michael Fennelly returned to the team and played an outstanding match but not all of their attack prospered and for long periods 'Waterford were still in contention. Walter Walsh made some huge catches from Kilkenny puck outs in the first half, leading to Reid points when Walsh was fouled, and he tried hard throughout but failed to score and faded as the match went on. Eoin Larkin scored one exceptional point but lacked the same influence he enjoyed in the Leinster final and Colin Fennelly failed to really get into the match.
Waterford will be disappointed they didn’t put more pressure on the Kilkenny goal but Maurice Shanahan couldn’t win a clean ball off Joey Holden and several times they dropped balls into the hand of Eoin Murphy. Shanahan was exemplary though from placed balls, missing none, and he also chipped in with two from play to cap a fine individual performance, his final tally stopping at 0-9. They also had a huge second half from Colin Dunford who hit four points and could have had a couple more.
Kilkenny went in two points ahead at half-time, 1-9 to 0-10, looking the more dangerous side but unable to shake off a plucky Waterford resistance that relied heavily on Shanahan’s marksmanship for scores. Of their ten first half points Shanahan had seven including his two from play.
Reid was equally merciless for Kilkenny and scored 1-7 of their first half total. Waterford’s goal had a few nervous moments during the first half. A vital block and intervention was needed from Shane Fives to deny Larkin the game’s opening goal. De Burca had an excellent opening quarter and Austin Gleeson scored two inspirational scores, one a lineball, the other nearing half-time following a dramatic solo break out of defence, with him finishing beautifully off the stick.
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Aylward was almost in for a goal in the second half and Reid flashed a shot across the goal and wide when aiming for the top corner. But they couldn’t finish Waterford off until the final stages. They pushed the lead out to five with Larkin’s point after 47 minutes only for Dunford to score two in succession and raise Waterford hopes.
Hogan and Michael Fennelly responded for Kilkenny with points, and again Waterford had an answer, Gleeson and Dunford finding the target to leave a goal in it - 1-17 to 0-17 - with 15 minutes left. But the next ten minutes brought four unanswered Kilkenny scores, split evenly between Aylward, now roving out the field, and Hogan. That broke Waterford, the surprise League champions, and ended their memorable season. They will be encouraged that they were in contention for most of the match but the system they employ hurt them up front and has its inevitable limitations, especially against a team of Kilkenny’s experience and physical intensity. The modifications, if they come, are for another day. They have had a fine year and a bright future.
Photo Credit: Piaras O Midheach/ Sportsfile
Scorers: Kilkenny TJ Reid 1-9 (0-7 fs); R Hogan 0-5, G Aylward 0-4, C Buckley, E Larkin, M Fennelly 0-1. Waterford - M Shanahan 0-9 (0-5 fs, 0-1 ’65); C Dunford 0-4; A Gleeson 0-3 (0-1 lineball); Shane Bennett, K Moran 0-1.
Kilkenny: E Murphy; P Murphy, J Holden, S Prendergast; P Walsh, K Joyce, C Buckley; M Fennelly, C Fogarty; W Walsh, R Hogan, TJ Reid; G Aylward, C Fennelly, E Larkin.
Subs: J Power for W Walsh (66 mins).
Waterford: S O’Keeffe; S Fives, B Coughlan, N Connors; A Gleeson, J Barron, P Mahony; D Fives, K Moran; M Walsh, C Dunford, J Dillon; Shane Bennett, M Shanahan, T De Burca.
Subs: P Curran for Dillon (52 mins); Stephen Bennett for Shane Bennett (56).
Referee: B Gavin (Offaly).