Ruth goal gets Cats back on right road
NORMAL service resumed at Nowlan Park as Kilkenny awoke from their spring slumber to register their first league points of the campaign.
The Cats line-up still had a patched-up look to it as the likes of Henry Shefflin, TJ Reid, Michael Rice and Michael Fennelly remained absent.
Furthermore, Brian Cody's defence underwent some serious surgery during the game, as corner-backs Jackie Tyrrell and Paul Murphy were forced off.
Both men suffered hamstring injuries, with the latter suffering the more serious tear; he is looking at "four to five weeks" on the sidelines.
But despite those setbacks, the Cats looked more like themselves. They did enough against the conditions in the first half to keep in touch. Typically, they punished some sloppy defensive play to strike for their goal through Ger Aylward, who gathered Stephen O'Keeffe's wayward puck-out.
Tommy Walsh showed flashes of his best form, while his brother Padraig also featured. Richie Hogan also looked energised and got through an ocean of work around the middle third.
Defensively, they were more solid. Coming into the weekend, Kilkenny had conceded more goals than anyone else in Division 1A and that saw a change between the posts as Eoin Murphy was chosen ahead of David Herity. Murphy put in a solid shift as the Cats mustered their first clean sheet of the league.
While Waterford were game against the wind on the restart, Kilkenny timed their run perfectly. After a tit-for-tat spell, they hit the front with 10 minutes to go and never looked back.
"For a long time it looked like we were going to find it very, very difficult to win," conceded Cody, who watched his side rack up 14 wides.
"Waterford were playing very well. There was never much in it. There was a bit of a breeze, but there was never much between the sides. We kept in touch and goals matter so much. We had been conceding them and we didn't concede any today and we got a couple."
Waterford played with the wind in the first half and the extent of the advantage it provided became apparent with the first score of the day when 'keeper O'Keeffe landed a huge free from his own 21-metre line.
The home side slowly settled to their task and reeled off the next three scores before the Deise hit back through a sideline from the impressive Jake Dillon.
Eoin Larkin and Paddy Hogan shared the free-taking duties, but when Larkin opened his account from a placed ball on 12 minutes it sparked a period of Deise dominance.
Despite not getting much change from their full-forward line, Michael Ryan's men hit five points on the bounce.
Midfielder Shane O'Sullivan bagged two as they displayed some excellent long-range shooting to leave them three points to the good approaching the half-hour mark.
But the champions found a way back into the game when Aylward, despite looking to be fouled, forced the ball beyond O'Keeffe in the Waterford goal.
The Deise hit the next two points to steady the ship and while Kilkenny pulled themselves level, the visitors finished the half strongly with scores from Dillon and Kevin Moran to lead 0-11 to 1-6 at the break.
The sides swapped three points each on the restart but Aylward fluffed his lines when presented with the chance to notch his second goal. Matthew Ruth engineered a point but only after he pulled on fresh air with only the 'keeper to beat.
However, the James Stephens clubman recovered to pounce for the game's crucial score eight minutes from time. Paddy Hogan's long-range free dropped dangerously around O' Keeffe's square and once the Ballygunner man failed to hold it, Ruth pounced.
Larkin followed that with a point to put five between the teams and while Maurice Shanahan pulled one back, the clock was against the Deise.
Waterford boss Ryan absolved his goalkeeper of any blame for the goals and declared himself "delighted" with the performance.
"The goals we gave away, they were very hard to make up. The second goal in particular, they were on the run after that with the wind behind them and there was no catching them.
"Overall, though, I'm delighted with the performance, and the first 20 minutes of the second half against the wind in particular. In fairness for the second goal, conditions were poor, but those things happen. We have to learn from them and drive on.
"With 15 minutes to go we were in a strong position but we didn't finish it off. It (The league) will be in the melting pot until the last ball is pucked in two weeks' time. We have two home games now and we need to get points on the board. It's very much there for everyone."
For Cody, there was the relief that Kilkenny can start to look up the table rather than over their shoulders and with ties away to Clare and at home to Cork to come, they are back in contention for a top-three finish and a place in the semi-finals.
"Teams are beating each other and it's very tight," said Cody. "To get the third place is going to be very tight. It will be a bit of a dogfight. The next one (in Clare) is crucial. It's going to be interesting."
Man of the match: R Hogan (Kilkenny)
SCORERS – Kilkenny: E Larkin 0-6 (5f), M Ruth, G Aylward 1-1 each, A Fogarty 0-3, R Hogan 0-2, C Fennelly, L Ryan 0-1 each.
Waterford: P Mahony 0-6 (4f), J Dillon 0-3 (0-1sl), S O'Sullivan 0-2, K Moran, S Walsh, B O'Halloran, S O'Keeffe (1f), M Shanahan 0-1 each.
Kilkenny – E Murphy 7; P Murphy 7, JJ Delaney 7, J Tyrrell 6; T Walsh 7, B Hogan 7, K Joyce 7; L Ryan 6, P Hogan 6; R Hogan 8, M Bergin 6, E Larkin 7; G Aylward 7, C Fennelly 7, A Fogarty 7. Subs: P Walsh 6 for Tyrrell (24), M Ruth 7 for Bergin (h-t), W Phelan 7 for Murphy (47).
Waterford – S O'Keeffe 6; S Fives 6, L Lawlor 6, S Daniels 6; J Nagle 6, M Walsh 8, K Moran 7; S O'Sullivan 8, P Prendergast 6; B O'Halloran 6, S Prendergast 6, J Dillon 8; B O'Sullivan 6, S Walsh 6, P Mahony 6. Subs: J Barron 6 for B O'Sullivan (47), M Shanahan 7 for S Walsh (56), R Barry for Moran (64).
Ref –J McGrath (Westmeath)