All Ireland SHC Qualifier: Emphatic win for Waterford
All Ireland SHC Qualifiers Round 1
WATERFORD 1-35 OFFALY 0-14
By Kevin Egan at Bord Na Mona O'Connor Park
Qualifier records aplenty were broken at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park in Tullamore when Waterford record their largest ever qualifier win and simultaneously inflicted Offaly’s largest ever qualifier defeat in an utterly one-sided contest.
Results so far this year suggested that Waterford were always likely to win this fixture with ease, but Offaly will have been very happy with their performance in the first 20 minutes, when they played into the teeth of a very stiff breeze and held their own, sharing the first 12 points of the game.
Both sides played with extra defenders, Offaly dropping Emmet Nolan and Shane Kinsella into deeper roles while Tadhg de Búrca came back to operate as a seventh back for the Déise men, and consequently both sets of attackers struggled to make inroads in the early stages. Offaly’s Shane Dooley was lively, converting five frees, including two which he earned himself, and with both sides patiently using their extra men to move the ball up along the lines, the contest took time to catch fire.
Inaccuracy plagued some of the Waterford forwards in the early stages too, but when they finally found their rhythm, they were irresistible.
A close-range score from Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh was the first of eight points in a row for the Déise men in the space of just 10 minutes, and while the stiff breeze that blew down towards the Park Avenue end of the Tullamore venue was a key factor, some of the striking of the sliothar from the Waterford forwards was simply sublime. Austin Gleeson, Maurice Shanahan and even de Búrca got on the scoresheet, the defender hitting the target with a monster strike from inside his own ’45.
Still Offaly were entitled to be moderately happy as half time drew closer, as any single figure deficit would have been seen as good going into the breeze. That all changed in the 33rd minute, however, as a monster puckout from Stephen O’Keeffe dropped right into the Offaly penalty area and with a quick catch and strike, Shane Bennett was able to flash the ball underneath James Dempsey for what turned out to be the game’s only goal.
Gleeson, Jamie Barron, Darragh Fives and Shanahan all added further points for Waterford to make it 1-18 to 0-8 at the break and while Offaly would have hoped to have fared better with the wind in the second half, they never looked like making any inroads against a Waterford side that was growing increasingly dominant in every phase of the game.
Good movement and support play out from the back allowed Waterford to work the ball into key scoring areas and while the Offaly attack was robbed of their most potent weapon when Shane Dooley was withdrawn due to injury at half time, the midlanders will still be hugely disappointed not to have asked more testing questions of the Waterford back line, particularly close to goal. Stephen O’Keeffe proved his worth with an excellent diving save to deny Peter Geraghty late in the game, but otherwise Offaly never looked like getting in to sneak the goals that they needed to stay in touch.
The strength in depth of the Munster county was clear to see when Colin Dunford, Jake Dillon, Tommy Ryan and Patrick Curran came off the bench to make scoring contributions, three of them doing so with their very first touch, however McGrath will be acutely aware that much tougher tests lie in store.
*Scorers for Waterford: *Pauric Mahony 0-11 (8fs, 165), A Gleeson 0-6, P Curran 0-4 (2fs, 165), S Bennett 1-0, J Barron 0-3, D Fives, K Moran, C Dunford, M Shanahan 0-2 each, T De Búrca, M Walsh, T Ryan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Offaly: S Dooley 0-5 (5fs), J Bergin 0-3 (2fs), J Mulrooney, E Nolan, O Kelly, S Kinsella, B Conneely, P Guinan 0-1 each.
*WATERFORD: *S O’Keeffe; N Connors, B Coughlan, S Fives; D Fives, C Gleeson, Philip Mahony; J Barron, K Moran; M Walsh, A Gleeson, Pauric Mahony; T De Burca, M Shanahan, S Bennett.
Subs: C Dunford for Walsh (48), J Dillon for Shanahan (48), S Daniels for Moran (52), T Ryan for Bennett (55), P Curran for Pauric Mahony (59).
OFFALY: J Dempsey; B Conneely, D Shortt, P Camon; S Gardiner, A Treacy, D King; P Murphy, S Ryan; S Kinsella, J Bergin, J Mulrooney; O Kelly, S Dooley, E Nolan.
Subs: E Grogan for Treacy (ht), S Cleary for Dooley (ht), M Cleary for Nolan (54), P Geraghty for Kinsella (54), P Guinan for Murphy (58).
REFEREE: Alan Kelly (Galway).