Dire Dublin reel after McCrabbe injury blow
Waterford 4-13 ,
NFL DIVISION 1
WHAT a difference a year makes!
When his side were pipped in Parnell Park 12 months ago, Waterford boss Davy Fitzgerald got it in the neck for taking his team to the Bernard Dunne world title fight the night beforehand.
Yesterday it was Dublin who looked completely punch-drunk when they suffered a desperate walloping in Walsh Park in a disastrous opener.
And to add injury to insult, their best player, All Star Alan McCrabbe, suffered an injury that was feared to be a broken leg, but later transpired not to be as serious.
"Just shocking!" was Dublin manager Anthony Daly's assessment and he wasn't just talking about McCrabbe's 57th-minute injury which left the Craobh Chiarain star writhing in agony and necessitated an 11-minute stoppage that saw him taken away by ambulance. The fact that Waterford were without so many big names while Dublin lined out at full strength (apart from the injured David O'Callaghan and Liam Ryan) only exacerbated the defeat.
Daly was at a loss to explain his side's terrible sluggishness and bad touch.They have had nine players away with their colleges and fielded a second-string in the Walsh Cup but that still didn't explain it and he didn't try to sugar-coat things.
"You'd be looking for excuses at times like this but we have to be honest: we were blown out of it by fellas that wanted the ball more," he said, his brow heavily furrowed.
"The amount of rucks that developed, and (that) the Waterford fella always came away with the ball, that was fairly serious from our point of view. It was just a shocking day, we just didn't compete all over the place."
Given that he's still resting so many of his veterans, Waterford manager Fitzgerald reckoned that Dublin had possibly underestimated the strength of his side's challenge.
But the Leinster finalists had travelled down the night beforehand so obviously weren't complacent.
What they met was a Deise side full of vim, vigour and hunger who sent the large home crowd (6,000-plus) delighted with their relatively inexperienced side's big victory.
There was no player in the starting 15 from Ballygunner or Mount Sion, and only one from De La Salle.
'Big Dan' Shanahan is one of their many veterans currently recharging their batteries but his 19-year-old brother Maurice proved a handful on his full debut, apart from his excellent free-taking.
Yet even Shanahan was outshone by the brilliance of Kevin Moran who proved, beyond doubt, that his place is in the forwards.
The De La Salle star had scored four of his 1-5 from play by half-time, by which time Stephen Hiney was his third marker, trying desperately to do what had been beyond both Maurice O'Brien and Joey Boland.
Moran soloed through to split the defence after just seven minutes and laid off for Gary Hurney to goal and Waterford had raced into a seven-point lead by the end of the first quarter.
But then they didn't score for 12 minutes as Dublin, led almost single-handedly at times by McCrabbe -- who played very deep in midfield -- tried to battle their way back into it.
Waterford were seven points up again by half-time (1-10 to 0-6) but it could have been more had Dublin 'keeper Gary Maguire not made a brilliant point-blank save from Tomas Connors just before the break.
Within five minutes of the restart Dublin's net shook again when a Shanahan flick across the goal was deflected into Shane Walsh's path.
Three changes, including the arrival of former football stalwart Shane Ryan, helped Dublin to a run of four unanswered points, and things might have changed had Liam Rushe then not shot from far too far out and McCrabbe not been injured.
As Daly noted, the visitors were beginning to get a little foothold but the subsequent long delay took the momentum from them and when it restarted again they were dispatched clinically with two goals inside 90 seconds.
Waterford's third came from a mazy run by captain Stephen Molumphy, who looked remarkably sharp considering his fresh Chad tan.
Their fourth green flag was raised 30 seconds later, when Connors laid off to Moran to open up Dublin's ridiculously porous defence.
And the Dubs were lucky there wasn't a fifth as Shanahan blazed a great chance over the bar in the dying minutes.
McCrabbe's injury initially looked extremely serious but x-rays last night showed no broken bones, just serious bruising of his knee, and it remains to be seen how long Dublin's Allstar is sidelined.
Daly assessed his sharpshooter's unfortunate injury as accidental.
"Alan was trying to shield the ball as it was going out and the Waterford guy (Jamie Nagle) was trying to keep it in by pulling on it and he missed the ball but I don't think it was too intentional," he said.
"Diarmuid (Ryan, the referee) had a good view of it and didn't even give a free."
Apart from McCrabbe, corner-back Niall Corcoran, admittedly often unmarked as Waterford operated a two-man full-forward line, was one of the few Dublin players who came away with his reputation intact.
Waterford were far from perfect themselves but they certainly got an uplifting start to the season.
Fitzgerald's only problem was that the poverty of Dublin's attack left it hard to assess some of his debutants, though Jerome Maher and Liam Lawlor certainly did everything asked of them in defence and Connors was impressively busy up front.
Scorers -- Waterford: K Moran 1-5, M Shanahan 0-6 (0-3f, 0-2 '65), S Molumphy 1-1, S Walsh, G Hurney 1-0 each, J Nagle 0-1. Dublin: A McCrabbe 0-5 (0-4f), D Treacy 0-3, L Rushe, S Durkan, K Flynn, P Ryan (0-1f) 0-1 each.
Waterford -- C Hennessy; J Maher, L Lawlor, N Connors; D Prendergast, M Walsh, J Nagle; J Murray, R Foley; K Moran, S Molumphy (capt), M Shanahan; S Walsh, G Hurney, T Connors. Subs - S Fives for Murray (48), T Ryan for Walsh (56), M O'Neill for Hurney (77).
Dublin -- G Maguire; N Corcoran, T Brady, O Gough; S Hiney (capt), R Fallon, M O'Brien; J McCaffrey, J Boland; P Kelly, L Rushe, S Durkin; D Treacy, K Flynn, A McCrabbe. Subs -- M Carton for M O'Brien (22 mins), D Curtin for Boland (47), S Ryan for P Kelly (47), J Kelly for Flynn (47), P Ryan for McCrabbe (57).
ReF -- D Kirwan (Cork).