HYPERACTIVE Eurovision hopefuls Jedward may be providing some entertainment at their next big game, but the hurling action in Dublin's league opener yesterday was sufficiently hair-raising all by itself.
Five goals and 35 points in a game that dramatically see-sawed before Conal Keaney snatched a great equaliser for the visitors; in these recessionary times it'd be hard to get better sporting value than yesterday's €13 admission at Walsh Park.
Keaney, who has just turned his back on Dublin's footballers in favour of a return to the small ball, provided most of it in the first half.
With fabulously sharp fielding a palpable hunger and physicality, the Ballyboden star looked just like he had never been away, racking up 0-7 of his eventual 0-10 by the break before popping up in the late stages to snatch the draw.
Yet by the end he was actually outshone by Waterford's Richie Foley, who racked up 2-10 (1-7 from frees, including a penalty) in a phenomenal display.
Both teams arrived severely under-strength and lost players before throw-in -- Waterford's Clinton Hennessy's wife gave birth over the weekend, while the Dubs' Joey Boland had flu -- which added to their woes.
And their managers left with equally mixed feelings, knowing it was a game either could have won. Dublin came to avenge the pasting they'd received in Waterford last year and they raced into an eight-point lead after 33 minutes.
Yet Waterford manager Davy Fitzgerald, while disgusted not to win it in the end, had the satisfaction of seeing his inexperienced side roll up their sleeves and stand their ground. "We totally dominated the second half and we shouldn't have let Dublin back into it, but I have to say I'm very proud of the lads," Fitzgerald said.
Dubs boss Anthony Daly was equally contented. "We got our break (with the goal) at the end and drove on and it could have gone either way," he said. "But I'd have been disappointed if we'd lost it."
Three minutes before half-time, despite a flicked 26th-minute goal from Foley, the Decies were still eight points adrift, yet 21 minutes into the second half they were five points up after keeping Dublin scoreless for a full 27 minutes while they rattled up an unanswered 2-7.
Major kudos for their comeback had to go to full-forward Seamus Prendergast. For the first 20 minutes he struggled badly against Tomas Brady, but Waterford persisted with the direct ball into him and it finally came good when Prendergast made a super catch to goal in the 35th minute.
Within a minute he'd won another free that Foley converted and Waterford headed for the dressing-rooms with a much smaller deficit (2-7 to 1-14) than they might have expected.
With Brady already booked, Stephen Hiney moved to mark Prendergast, but seven minutes after the restart he was shifted too to make way for Peter Kelly after conceding a penalty that Foley rattled home.
For the next 20 minutes Foley showed that Keaney wasn't the only one in dazzling form, displaying brilliant long-range shooting and free-taking to give inspirational leadership.
David 'Dotsy' O'Callaghan eventually got Dublin on the second-half scoresheet in the 58th minute. Two minutes later they got the goal that put them back into the game, from a chipped effort from debutant Conor McCormack that 'Dotsy' appeared to get a touch on, though Davy Fitz felt that goalkeeper Adrian Power was fouled in the process.
The final seven minutes were frenetic. Prendergast and Jamie Nagle scored two great points that were matched by Keaney's free-taking and then Peadar Carton laid off a ball for Liam Rushe to draw the scores level. When Foley then slotted over a free, Stephen Hiney and Keaney combined to equalise.
Scorers -- Waterford: R Foley 2-10 (1-7f), S Prendergast 1-1, Padraig Mahony 0-2, J Nagle, S Molumphy, S Casey 0-1 each. Dublin: C Keaney 0-10 (8f), D O'Callaghan 1-3, D O'Dwyer 1-1, L Rush 0-2, P Kelly, C McCormack, P Carton 0-1 each.
Waterford -- A Power; D Fives, J Maher, N Connors; S Fives, M Walsh, J Nagle; S O'Sullivan, Philip Mahony; S Molumphy (Capt), R Foley, Padraig Mahony; S Casey, S Prendergast, T Ryan. Subs: W Hutchinson for Maher (h-t), E Murphy for Ryan (60), K McGrath for Casey (65).
Dublin -- G Maguire; S Hiney (Capt), T Brady, S Lambert; N Corcoran, P Kelly, S Durkan; S Ryan, J McCaffrey; C Keaney, D O'Dwyer, C McCormack; D O'Callaghan, L Rushe, P Carton. Subs: P Ryan for S Ryan (49), L Ryan for O'Dwyer (65).
Ref -- D Kirwan (Cork).