A fortunate opening NHL win for Tipperary

Allianz National Hurling League Tipperary 2-13 Waterford 0-16

Allianz National Hurling League

Tipperary 2-13 Waterford 0-16

There was a distinct whiff of good fortune about this one. Waterford trudged off the field on Saturday night at Semple Stadium, Thurles despite proving the more consistent force in this encounter.

Tipperary, featuring the outstanding Michael Cahill, had struggled to come to terms with the structure and vigour of the Déise for long stages of this clash, but just about edged it thanks to the class of Séamus Callanan, the creativity of Noel McGrath and a late Darren Gleeson delivery which deceived Stephen O’Keeffe in the Waterford goal.

Seeking their first league win at Semple Stadium since 1998 Waterford manager Derek McGrath, despite playing with the wind in the opening half, elected to pack the middle third of the field.

This structure, allied to a fantastic work rate and which featured a one-man full-forward line, made life more than difficult for a Tipperary side who struggled with their touch throughout.

It was instructive to note that during the opening half Maurice Shanahan and Pauric Mahony turned up inside their own 45-yard line in an effort to hook raiding Tipperary players while in the 28th minute, for example, twelve of the Waterford players were stationed inside their own ‘70.

Waterford took the lead thanks to a Pauric Mahony free in the second minute and signaled their intent when Kevin Moran enthusiastically celebrated a left-handed point from the middle of the field four minutes later.

Mahony added another from a placed ball before Tipperary got off the mark thanks to a John O’Dwyer free in the ninth minute to leave the score reading 0-1 to 0-3 in favour of the visitors.

With the structure of the Waterford team continuing to cause Tipperary problems the Déise added three points to take a 0-6 to 0-1 lead inside the opening fifteen minutes - a long-range effort from Philip Mahony launched this onslaught with Pauric Mahony adding a brace.

Tipperary’s second point of the evening materialized in the 15th minute when Paddy Murphy won a turnover and Shane McGrath created an opportunity for Noel McGrath.

Maurice Shanahan then fluffed a reasonable goal-scoring opportunity before Jason Forde set up James Woodlock for a Tipperary point in the 21st minute.

Pauric Mahony converted two placed balls to help his side into a 0-8 to 0-3 lead by the 29th minute, but, considering their dominance, Waterford deserved to be much further ahead; their efforts deserved a reward more significant than a five-point dividend.

John O’Dwyer (free) was responsible for Tipperary’s first point in eleven minutes before the Killenaule man closed out the half with another free to leave three in it at the break - 0-5 to 0-8.

The 4,786-strong attendance expected a rousing second half display from Tipperary, but Waterford seized the initiative immediately after the break with cracking points from Maurice Shanahan and Jake Dillon forcing the Déise five-points clear by the 40th minute.

A John O’Dwyer free closed the gap to four before Noel McGrath notched Tipperary’s first point from play in thirty-one minutes (0-7 to 0-10).

Both Tipperary corner-forwards had been withdrawn by the 48th minute, but the Premier found the tonic they were looking for when a sensational piece of vision from Noel McGrath created the room for Séamus Callanan to smack home a right-handed shot. Callanan’s strike lifted the crowd a little, but Pauric Mahony (free) re-claimed the lead for Waterford almost immediately.

A brilliant Noel McGrath flick set up Kieran Bergin for a long-range point to level matters with twenty minutes to play. Waterford responded with another Pauric Mahony free in the 52nd minute before Séamus Callanan roused the Tipperary support with a superb equalizing point in the 55th minute.

In the 57th Séamus Callanan, who now appeared to be relishing the challenge presented by the Waterford defence, converted an awkward 21-yard free to hand Tipperary the lead (1-10 to 0-12) for the first time.

Indeed, Séamus Callanan then scored a magnificent 58th minute point following neat work by Pádraic Maher to force Eamon O’Shea’s men into a two-point lead.

Pauric Mahony and Séamus Callanan traded frees thereafter as we moved into the final ten minutes before a Brian O’Sullivan point with seven minutes to play left the minimum between the sides.

Denis Maher landed a long-range point for Tipperary in the 66th minute, but a resolute Waterford hit back through wing-back Philip Mahony.

The Déise challenge, however, lay in ruins as this encounter ticked into injury time when ‘keeper Stephen O’Keeffe misjudged a Darren Gleeson delivery from a placed ball and the home side were presented with a soft three-pointer - one would presume that the talented Ballygunner goalkeeper lost the ball in the lights.

A Pauric Mahony free reduced the deficit to three points and although Waterford enjoyed one final opportunity to threaten the Tipperary goal Shane McGrath won Philip Mahony’s searching late delivery.

Tipperary: Darren Gleeson (Portroe, 1-0, 1-0 free), Cathal Barrett (Holycross-Ballycahill), Conor O’Mahony (Newport), Michael Cahill (Thurles Sarsfields), Shane McGrath (Ballinahinch), Pádraic Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Conor O’Brien (Éire Óg Annacarty-Donohill), Brendan Maher (Borris-Ileigh, captain), James Woodlock (Drom & Inch, 0-1), Séamus Callanan (Drom & Inch, 1-4, 0-2 frees), Noel McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney, 0-2), Kieran Bergin (Killenaule, 0-1), Jason Forde (Silvermines), Paddy Murphy (Nenagh Éire Óg), John O’Dwyer (Killenaule, 0-4, 0-4 frees). Subs: (43rd) Liam McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney) for Jason Forde, (48th) Denis Maher (Thurles Sarsfields, 0-1) for John O’Dwyer, (57th) Shane Bourke (JK Bracken’s) for Paddy Murphy, (59th) Ronan Maher (Thurles Sarsfields) for James Woodlock.

Waterford: Stephen O’Keeffe, Noel Connors, Shane Fives, Barry Coughlan, Jamie Nagle, Michael Walsh, Philip Mahony (0-2), Kevin Moran (0-1), Shane O’Sullivan, Jamie Barron, Pauric Mahony (0-10, 0-9 frees), Jake Dillon (0-1), Maurice Shanahan (0-1), Shane Walsh, Brian O’Sullivan (0-1). Subs: (48th) Stephen Molamphy for Shane Walsh, (58th) Séamus Prendergast for Jamie Barron, (66th) Eddie Barrett for Maurice Shanahan, (71st) Stephen Roche for Séamus Prendergast.

Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork).