All you hear is propaganda until the ball is thrown in. An old truth repeated itself in the pulsing air of Walsh Park, before Waterford finally disappeared over the hill, her hurl seething with the imperative of men in haste.
Two teams emptying their pockets left a stunned crowd of 10,982 at the end and Waterford took the last three points to come out on top in a savage battle that left Liam Cahill’s men feeling all emotion .
Make no mistake, Tipperary – disregarded almost to the point of social embarrassment at some points – brought their hosts to the brink of agony here. Four points clear at the break, they then led Waterford to the line after a quick ten-point turnaround safely to them seemed to calm down.
And as they did, you could almost feel something fumbling in Waterford’s chest.
Their status as irresistible favorites never went over well with the locals, with some lamenting rather melodramatically beforehand that it took them all the way back to 1974 to claim their last Munster championship win at the venue. Worse, Waterford had yet to win a single round-robin game in the modern championship structure.
So the all-singing, all-dancing stuff they mined 22 league goals from? Don’t cut ice here.
Within six minutes he was sprinting four points clear and suddenly fear ran in small streams through the stands as Conor Prunty bet on attacking a breaking ball, only to have Jason Forde drag a delivery over the Waterford captain’s head , for an unguarded Mark Kehoe to forcefully complete.
And Waterford duly froze.
They were scoreless for the next ten minutes, finding themselves trailing 4-0 to 4-1 before two Stephen Bennett free-kicks finally stopped the leak. Was Waterford built too high?
“It was really twitchy and edgy in the first 35 minutes,” Cahill said of a half that ended in a 0-11 to 1-12 deficit. “I just don’t know where that came from.”
“You’d like to think that’s not the case, but you’d have to ask the question afterwards, yes, absolutely,” he admitted.
To be honest, Waterford’s new scoring momentum seemed to nurture an obsession with green early on and with Ronan Maher as a reassuring presence on the D, Tipperary seemed happy about any physical contact with their inner defensive trio of Cathal Barrett, James Quigley and the successful Craig Morgan.
Waterford jitter, on the other hand, ran through each line.
In the 21st minute, for example, we saw Tadhg de Burca saunter into space and unload without pressure into the hand of a wild Noel McGrath, who duly pointed. It was like Fred Astaire tripping over his shoelaces.
Only a brilliant save from Shaun O’Brien then denied Forde a goal in the 26th minute that would have put Tipp seven points clear and he would repeat that act in the 56th minute and spectacularly ahead of Jake Morris after Conor Gleeson’s block on Kehoe rescue.
It would be wrong to portray it as a one-way street as Brian Hogan brilliantly intervened to smother a Mikey Kiely shot just before the middle, around which time Cahill sent Austin Gleeson and Jamie Barron down the line to warm up.
Here and there a stark reminder of Waterford’s strength at depth. And they needed every molecule.
Gleeson and Barron both came on for the restart and were both on the scoreboard within three minutes of arriving, either side of a venomous Kiely goal after an exceptional build-up from Stephen Bennett and Patrick Curran.
Within six minutes, Waterford had an unanswered 1-4 on the board against opponents perhaps shaken by the sight of team coach Tommy Dunne’s relegation to the stands after an exchange of views with Johnny Murphy.
In the 44th minute it looked like the game was over, Kiely bringing on Dessie Hutchinson for a second Waterford goal, Tipp now struggling to hold on in the middle third where arrivals from Gleeson and Barron were crucial.
But Dan McCormack also made an impressive impression off the tip bank and Kehoe then scored his second goal in the 58th minute when he fired deep through a grove of bodies to defeat a seemingly blind O’Brien.
It was banshee yelling in the stands from there to the end, Tipp reduced the lead to a single point with five minutes to go but then licked five wides through that period, her accuracy being marred – it seemed – by fatigue.
Gleeson’s glorious “cut” in the 67th minute increased the lead back to two and although McGrath responded with a free, the last three points were all Waterford’s, Shane McNulty with a monster, Curran and Hutchinson ending.
But for Colm Bonnar, the tenor of the performance was a real comfort.
“Even after their attack (in the second half) I looked at the scoreboard and there were still only two points on it,” he recalled afterwards. “And I said, ‘We’re not going to walk away in this championship.
“Listen, we’re disappointed we didn’t hear, but we’ve been doing too much work with this bunch of guys . . . They didn’t want to lie down.”
Goalscorers – Waterford: Stephen Bennett 0-10 (10f); D Hutchinson 1-3; P curran 0-4; M Kiely 1-0; S McNulty, J Barron and A Gleeson 0-2 each; J Prendergast 0-1. Tipperary: N. McGrath 0-6 (2f); M Kehoe 2-0; J Forde 0-4 (4f); M Breen, D McCormack, J Morris 0-2 each; B. Heffernan, B. Hogan (1f), C. Stakelum, C. Bowe, 0-1 each.
WATERFORD: S O’Brien 8 C Gleeson 7 C Prunty 6 S McNulty 7 J Fagan 7 T de Burca 7 C Daly 6 D Lyons 7 C Lyons 7 N Montgomery 6 J Prendergast 7 P Curran 8 , D Hutchinson 8, Stephen Bennett 7, M Kiely 7. Subs: A Gleeson 8 for Montgomery (halftime) and J Barron 8 for Daly (halftime), Shane Bennett 6 for Kiely (62 mins), I Daly 7 for Fagan ( 63 minutes), P Hogan for D Lyons (67 minutes).
TIPPERARY: B Hogan 8, C Barrett 8, J Quigley 7, C Morgan 8, D Quirke 7, R Maher 7, S Kennedy 7, A Flynn 6, B Heffernan 7, C Bowe 6, N McGrath 8, M Breen 7, J Forde 6, M Kehoe 8, J Morris 7. Subs: P Maher 6 for Bowe (halftime), D McCormack 8 for Flynn (45 mins), C Stakelum 7 for Heffernan (52 mins), G Browne 6 for Forde (62 mins), J McGrath for Breen (66 mins)
Referee – J Murphy (Limerick).
game at a glance
man of the game
Rarely does a player from the losing team get it, but McGrath was poetry in motion for much of the game, his floating role as center forward posing some serious problems for Tadhg de Burca. Scored four great points from the game and took the day off when Jason Forde left.
Waterford should benefit enormously from completing a challenge of this intensity, but it’s worth asking what impact Tipperary can have on this Championship now. After yesterday’s evidence it seems fair to suggest a serious one, but a win against Clare next weekend now feels absolutely necessary.
He was initially in the shadows but Austin Gleeson’s second-half impact found a glorious signature with that almost haphazard side cut in the 67th minute to once again put Waterford two points clear while Tipp fought so desperately to stay alive.
Wides-Waterford 13 (5). Tipperary 12 (6).
Yellow cards: Waterford 1 (C Gleeson); Tipperary 2 (D Quirke and N McGrath).
Red cards: Waterford 0; Tipperary 0.
Number of visitors: 10,982.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/hurling/great-expectation-clearly-weighs-heavily-on-waterford-but-deise-overcome-their-first-stress-test-41562346.html Waterford clearly has high expectations but Déise survived her first stress test