Fitzgerald vows to read riot act after 'crazy' Deise display
THEY may be heading abroad this week for a spot of warm-weather training but any hopes Waterford's hurlers had of lying around on sun loungers were firmly scotched by manager Davy Fitzgerald after yesterday's three-point defeat of Offaly in Walsh Park.
The sides were level for the 12th time with five minutes remaining and it was only Waterford's superior bench and some metronomic late free-taking from Maurice Shanahan that dragged the Decies across the line.
So when Fitzgerald accused his players of "some absolutely crazy mistakes and over elaboration," and announced, "trust me, we'll sort that out during the week!" they'll know not to bother packing buckets and spades.
Yes, Offaly lost, but it was Joe Dooley's side, a week after only pipping Limerick by a point, who produced a hurling resurrection here on Easter Sunday.
Waterford had hopes that Walsh Park's tight lines might confine them but the visitors gave as good as they got for most of the match and forced Fitzgerald to empty his bench, which, ultimately, proved the only difference.
Seamus Prendergast and Eoin Kelly were the first to be withdrawn despite scoring all but one of Waterford's first-half points, with Kelly virtually faultless from frees.
Before he left, Kelly contributed to Waterford finally getting a goal, after several close calls and ignored penalty appeals, when he whipped a ball up the wing to Tommy Ryan, who broke it well and crossed to Dan Shanahan who flicked it in.
But the arrival of John Mullane and Shane Walsh to Waterford's forwards considerably improved their attack, especially with Stephen Molumphy dropping deep to help out the over-worked Shane O'Sullivan in midfield.
The all-action second-half was a huge contrast and welcome relief to the syncopated first-half which was basically a turkey shoot between Kelly and Shane Dooley.
Eight times the sides were level before a great point from O'Sullivan gave Waterford a minimum half-time lead of 0-11 to 0-10.
Within minutes of the restart referee John Sexton got the bird for not giving Dan Shanahan a penalty and Offaly moved a point clear again thanks to good scores from Daniel Currams and excellent midfielder Rory Hanniffy.
Two of Dooley's nine frees put Offaly two points clear then but the sight of Mullane coming off the bench roused the crowd and despite Offaly levelling it again after the goal, Mullane produced one of his brilliant, trademark angled points to help pull Waterford two clear.
The crowd responded similarly when veteran defender Tony Browne made his first appearance of the season with 10 minutes left.
His arrival, not surprisingly, came just after Waterford's last line of defence, which had done so well for so long with Noel Connors standing out, gave away a silly goal.
A long ball from Hanniffy was crossed by Joe Bergin and though Derek Molloy's first touch was blocked, Dooley scrambled a ball across the line that the backs and 'keeper Clinton Hennessy really should have cleared.
Even after that Waterford were guilty of far too many errors, particularly loose hand-passes around defence on which Offaly gratefully pounced.
For a long time it looked like they might draw a third league match in a row but the influence of Mullane and Walsh and Maurice Shanahan's improved second-half performance, pulled them through with four unanswered final scores
"I'm actually happy the way it turned into a battle because it showed we have the character to fight our way out of trouble," Fitzgerald said. "But we're a mile off championship (pace)."
Offaly, without Ger Oakley (abroad), noticeably started David Kenny at centre-back and put Paul Cleary on Dan Shanahan, a switch that paid off for long periods.
They could also be happy with the contributions of wing-back Derek Morkan, Hanniffy, Derek Molloy and Currams, who produced some great blocking and harrying.
But they still badly need to starting spreading the scoring.
Their manager was relieved at their improvement, despite Offaly's five wides in the last eight minutes. "I'm disappointed to lose but very proud of them," Dooley said.
"It was a big step-up from last week and probably we could hurl with more freedom because the pressure wasn't on us, while Waterford were still playing to make the league final."
Scorers -- Waterford: E Kelly 0-8 (0-8f), M Shanahan 0-6 (0-4f), D Shanahan 1-0, S Prendergast 0-2, S O'Sullivan, J Mullane, S Walsh 0-1 each. Offaly: S Dooley 1-10 (0-9f), D Molloy, D Currams 0-2 each, R Hanniffy, B Carroll 0-1 each.
Waterford -- C Hennessy; E Murphy, M O'Brien, N Coonors; S Fives, R Foley, J Nagle; E Kelly, S O'Sullivan; K Moran, S Prendergast, M Shanahan; T Ryan, S Shanahan, S Molumphy (capt). Subs: J Mullane for E Kelly (46), S Walsh for S Prendergast (46), A Kearney for Fives (53), T Browne for D Shanahan (65), J Maher for E Murphy (72).
Offaly -- J Dempsey; M Verney, P Cleary, D Franks; J Rigney, D Kenny, D Morkan; R Hanniffy, S Wynne; B Carroll, D Currams, D Molloy; G Healion, J Bergin, S Dooley. Subs: D Hayden for Rigney (h-t), C Mahon for Healion (57), S Egan for Franks (63), J Brady for Wynne (68), C Parlon for Bergin (72).
Ref -- J Sexton (Cork).