Deise delight as Mahony spree sinks Tipperary
Sniper shoots 13 points to underline Waterford's remarkable progress
Derek McGrath really is building something very impressive in Waterford.
Waterford 1-19 Tipperary 2-15
This was supposed to be a period of transition, a season of advances and setbacks, with the hope that ultimately the former would outweigh the latter.
Thus far, however, there have been no negatives, while the plus column is widening all the time. Waterford have now passed three demanding tests, gaining confidence as they go.
The first involved escaping from Division 1B, a target they reached most impressively, leaving Limerick, who were group favourites, behind then.
Then, they were outsiders against Galway in the quarter-final on the basis that the move from 1B to 1A opposition would prove too tough for them. Once again, they ignored the script, winning quite comfortably.
Tipp were supposed to represent another step up in class, but they too found rapidly-improving Waterford too much for them in a cracking Allianz NHL semi-final in Nowlan Park.
All of which leaves Waterford in the League final for the first time since 2007 and looking forward to a clash with Cork on Sunday week in what will be a full dress rehearsal for the Munster semi-final clash on June 7.
There was so much for Waterford to be pleased about yesterday, in front of a crowd of 16,445.
They had to dig deep into their reserves of courage to recover from a difficult opening quarter, when they fell seven points behind.
And when they opened up a four-point lead after 55 minutes, they had to withstand a ferocious Tipperary onslaught. The lead was wiped out by the 67th minute, at which stage it looked as if Tipp would maintain the required momentum to edge through to the final.
However, Waterford re-asserted themselves and a pointed free from Pauric Mahony in the 70th minute provided the precious winner.
Tipperary worked hard in stoppage-time to rescue the situation and thought they had forced a '65', which might have yielded the levelling point but the decision went against them.
The winning point was Mahony's 13th of the afternoon, all but one of which came from placed balls. He really is wonderfully accurate striker from all distances and angles, making discipline absolutely vital for the opposition.
It was an area where Tipp fell down yesterday, conceding far too many frees for sloppy tackling, all of which were punished by Mahony. He converted eight in the first half and added four more in the second half of a game which will leave Tipp with a lot of frustrations in their system.
It appeared early on as if they would power into a third successive League final with relative ease. They led by 2-4 to 0-3 after 16 minutes and seemed to playing well within themselves. The wind was a factor in their dominance but so too was the slickness of the attack, which stretched Waterford beyond breaking point.
'Bonner' Maher bolted in for their first goal in the fifth minute and John O'Dwyer added a second nine minutes later. The Waterford defence were allowing far too much leeway up to that stage, but they gradually sorted out their alignment, before applying locks which Tipperary found very difficult to break.
Waterford outscored Tipp by 0-6 to 0-2 in the closing 10 minutes of the first half, which not only cut the margin to three points but also raised their ambition levels as they looked forward to playing with the wind in the second half.
They were back to within two points by the 48th minute, before hitting their most productive spell when they scored an unanswered 1-3. The goal came from Colin Dunford in the 52nd minute when he angled in from the right and fired a great drive past Darren Gleeson.
That score typified the new sense of adventure which Waterford are bringing to their play these days. A point opportunity presented itself but Dunford had a bigger prize in mind, which he attained with an excellent finish.
Waterford opened up a four-point lead in the 55th minute, before Tipp re-booted and embarked on a game-saving mission. They did it quite well too, drawing level in the 67th minute, but the Deise didn't panic and were rewarded with the winning point three minutes later.
This win really has taken Waterford into bonus territory but, having got there, they will be very determined to complete the first half of the year as Division 1 champions. What's more, the manner of yesterday's success will convince them that even as a work-in-progress, they can win the title.
After all, Tipp are second favourites for the All-Ireland title, yet were made to look very ordinary, apart from the opening quarter and a short period late on.
Tipp manager Eamon O'Shea's comments after some previous League games suggested that he didn't regard winning it as a matter of huge importance. But, at the same time, he cannot be satisfied with the texture of yesterday's display.
Winning a League title would be good for Tipperary's confidence ahead of the championship but, instead, they will go into the clash with Limerick or Clare on June 21 unsure of exactly where they stand.
For while there was plenty to admire about some of their League performances, much of it was undone by yesterday's uneven performance.
Why, for instance, were they unable to build on the early enterprise that put them in such a promising position? Obviously, credit must go to Waterford for the manner in which they stabilised their game but the process was helped by Tipp's shortcomings.
Waterford's appetite for hard work was in contrast to Tipp, who looked very much like a side expecting things to happen rather than making them happen. It's a dangerous game, especially against a side like Waterford, who are very well-organised and full of self-belief.
Yesterday's win will further reinforce their confidence as they look ahead to the battle with Cork.
After all, if they can beat Galway and Tipperary in successive games, it's clear that they are right up there among the big boys.
Man of the match: Pauric Mahony
Scorers - Waterford: P Mahony 0-13 (11fs, 1 '65), C Dunford 1-1, M Shanahan 0-3, J Dillon, J Barron 0-1 each. Tipperary: S Callanan 0-8 (5fs, 1'65'), J O'Dwyer 1-1, Patrick Maher 1-0, N O'Meara 0-2,Padraic Maher, J Forde, C Kenny, J Woodlock 0- 1 each.
Waterford - S O'Keeffe 7; S Fives 7, B Coughlan 7, N Connors 7; T De Burca 6, A Gleeson 7, Philip Mahony 7; J Barron 7, K Moran 6; M Walsh 7, Pauric Mahony 9, J Dillon 7; C Dunford 8, M Shanahan 8, S Bennett 6. Subs: B O'Halloran 6 for Bennett (50), T Devine 6 for Dillon (56), S O'Sullivan for Walsh (63), E Barrret for Moran (70).
Tipperary - D Gleeson 7; P Stapleton 6, C O'Mahony 7 , P Curran 6; M Breen 7, Padraic Maher 7, R Maher 7; J Woodlock 7, S McGrath 6; J O'Dwyer 6, B Maher 6, J Forde 6; S Callanan 7, Patrick Maher 7, N O'Meara 7. Subs: J Barry 6 6 for Stapleton (43), S Bourke for O'Dwyer (45), C Kenny 7 for Forde (53), G Ryan 7 for McGrath (58), J Meagher for Curran (66).
Ref - B Kelly (Westmeath)