Classy Waterford hit five goals as they ease into Under-21 All Ireland final
Waterford 5-25 Antrim 1-8
SEAN Power’s Waterford cruised into the county’s first Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U21 hurling final in 24 years after scoring a massive 29-point victory over Antrim at Semple Stadium yesterday.
The end result was predictable as the Munster champions had too much class for their Ulster counterparts in Thurles.
Waterford were un-backable favourites before throw-in, and the handicap a massive 25 points, and unfortunately from an Antrim perspective, the predicted mismatch ensued.
At half-time, Waterford were 13 points clear and already thinking about a first final since their one and only victory in this competition back in 1992.
For Waterford’s senior contingent, it was redemption of sorts as they returned to the venue where they bowed out of the championship against Kilkenny in a classic a week previously.
Hurler of the Year contender shone from centre back before going off late on while fellow seniors Conor Gleeson, Tom Devine, Patrick Curran and the Bennett brothers, Shane and Stephen, were also starters.
Shane Bennett went off injured early on but, in truth, he wasn’t needed as Waterford didn’t need to get out of second gear to see off the Saffrons, with Curran collecting 2-7.
The only real pre-match debate surrounding this game was how much Waterford would win by and they went about their business early, looking to get this one done and dusted as quickly as possible.
The Déise were 2-5 to 0-0 clear before Antrim registered their opening score – Saul McCaughan converting a 19th minute free for the Glensmen.
Tom Devine looked to have taken too many steps in the 11th minute before crashing home Waterford’s goal but it was a spectacular effort nonetheless, high past Ryan Elliott in the Antrim goal.
Waterford’s second green flag arrived in the 15th minute and this time it an own goal from Antrim corner back Eoin McManus, who flicked the ball into his own net after DJ Foran’s effort was half-blocked.
And Waterford had goal number three on the stroke of half-time when Bennett’s effort was saved by Elliott but spooned into the air and Patrick Curran pounced to bat home from close range.
At the break, Waterford had a 3-10 to 0-6 lead and while Antrim played with a strong breeze blowing towards the Town End in the opening half, they managed just two points from play before the interval – Domhnail Nugent and McCaughan on the mark.
Waterford fell asleep early in the second half as McCaughan stole in for an Antrim goal but the winners responded with further goals from Stephen Bennett and Curran, who completed his brace.
Scorers for Waterford: P Curran 2-7 (0-4f), T Devine 1-2, Stephen Bennett 1-1, M Kearney (1 sl) & DJ Foran 0-4 each, E McManus 1-0 (o.g.), A Gleeson 0-2, M O’Brien, Shane Bennett, P Hogan, A Farrell & J Fagan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Antrim: S McCaughan 1-4 (0-3f), M Connolly 0-2 (1f), D McMullan (f) & D Nugent 0-1 each.
WATERFORD: G Power; W Hahessy, C Gleeson, D Lyons; M Harney, A Gleeson, C Prunty; C Roche, Shane Bennett; Stephen Bennett, T Devine, M O’Brien; P Curran, DJ Foran, M Kearney.
Subs: P Hogan for Shane Bennett (16), A Farrell for Roche (39), B O’Keeffe for Lyons (41), J Fagan for Devine (44), D Ryan for A Gleeson (50).
ANTRIM: R Elliott; G Walsh, T Burns, E McManus; D McMullan, P Burke, R McCambridge; C Ross, A Delargy; M Connolly, D Nugent, J O’Connell; S McCaughan, T.T. Butler, R McKee.
Subs: J Connolly for Ross (28), R Gillan for Walsh (40), C McNaughton for Nugent (43), C McAllister for O’Connell (47), R Delargy for McManus (51).
Referee: D Hughes (Carlow)