Waterford wonders whip Tipp with awesome display
WATERFORD 2-23 ; TIPPERARY 3-12 IRRESPECTIVE of which county, country or continent Waterford people wake up in this morning, they will see the world in a dazzling new light.
A mighty burden, which has perched on their shoulders for so long, was throw off with a confident swagger at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork yesterday by a team for whom disappointment and frustration had been constant companions.
This time, Waterford simply refused to take 'no' for an answer and delivered a rousing performance which won them the Guinness Munster hurling title for the first time since 1963.
And deservedly so, as they were far superior to Tipperary, particularly during the closing quarter when they sent some magnificent points sailing over Brendan Cummins' bar.
The scenes at the end were reminiscent of Clare's Munster breakthrough in 1995 as the Waterford team united with their joyous fans to celebrate a victory which few thought possible.
The players remained on the pitch for a half hour after the game, inhaling deeply from the atmosphere, as if caught up in a dream which had become a reality.
Tipperary manager Nicky English also stayed on the pitch for a considerable length of time in a gracious acknowledgement of Waterford's wonderful achievement in beating the defending Munster and All-Ireland champions by a whopping eight points.
Such was Waterford's dominance in the second half that they could easily have won by a wider margin, but their shooting didn't always match the rest of their game. They shot 17 wides in all 11 in the second half but were generating so much positive energy and momentum that they wore Tipperary down with the sheer relentlessness of their approach.
Waterford scored 1-18 from play on a day when every card they dealt turned into an ace. Goals kept Tipperary in touch until the 50th minute but as Waterford increased the pace and the power, they pulled well clear over the final stretch.
Tipperary led by a point, 3-12 to 1-17, after 50 minutes but failed to land another score while Waterford added 1-6 in a finishing blitz which was a joy to watch.
Quality was stamped all over a game plan which was expertly devised by Justin McCarthy and, in the end, a Tipperary team which hadn't lost a championship game since July 2000 was swotted aside with remarkable ease.
Waterford had genuine giants anchoring their efforts all over the field, but none stood taller or more regal than Ken McGrath. His preparations were seriously restricted by a shoulder injury but he still managed to be the most influential player on the field.
He shot seven points from play in as fine an exhibition as the Munster final has seen for many years, presenting Tipperary centre-back David Kennedy with an unmanageable assignment from which he was relieved in the 55th minute. Eamonn Corcoran tried his luck on McGrath from there on, but didn't do much better as the Mount Sion man continued to terrorise the Tipperary defence.
While McGrath was the main man up front, he got consistent support from youthful allies, including his brother Eoin, Eoin Kelly and John Mullane. Their pace destroyed a Tipperary defence which, up to this, had been noted for its consistent solidity.
It collapsed completely yesterday under the sheer volume of Waterford's pressure which had its origins a long way back the field. Tom Feeney, Brian Greene and Fergal Hartley defended heroically, with Hartley, in particular, knitting the resistance together with his calm, assured reading of every situation.
Tony Browne started slowly at midfield but powered his way into the game in the second half and was very much at the heart of Waterford's more progressive assaults. He also struck for the vital second goal in 52nd minute when a long free from goalkeeper Stephen Brenner bounced in behind a confused Tipperary full-back line.
That put Waterford three points clear and was the ideal confidence injection for a defiant last stand. But then confidence was an integral part of their game from the start as proven by Paul Flynn, who drove a 21-yard free to the net in the 16th minute.
It was an early reminder to Tipperary that Waterford had a loftier calling this time. They even had the self-belief to play against the stiff breeze, a decision which looked questionable when Tipperary galloped into an 0-6 to 0-2 lead after 11 minutes.
However, two retaliatory points, followed by Flynn's goal, quickly redressed the balance and while Eoin Kelly blasted a 21-yard free to the Waterford net in the 35th minute, Tipperary's interval lead of 1-10 to 1-9 looked extremely insecure.
The more pessimistic Waterford fans may have been fearing a repeat of the 1998 All-Ireland semi-final when their team failed to make use of a strong wind against Kilkenny, but they needn't have worried.
This was an altogether more cohesive Waterford performance and once the points started to flow in the second half, Tipperary's problems increased dramatically.
Tipperary managed to stay in contention thanks to goals from Benny Dunne in the 40th and 47th minutes but it was becoming increasingly apparent that reigning champions couldn't match the fury or intensity levels which Waterford were bringing to their game.
Sensing that liberation was at hand, Waterford pressed on and once Browne whipped home their second goal, the fans launched into a victory chant which grew ever louder during a closing period which will rank among the sweetest in Waterford hurling history.
SCORERS Waterford: P Flynn 1-6 (1-5f), K McGrath 0-7, J Mullane 0-4, T Browne 1-0, E Kelly 0-3, E McGrath, S Prendergast, D Bennett 0-1 each. Tipperary: B Dunne 2-2, E Kelly 1-4 (1-3f), C Gleeson, T Dunne (1f) 0-2 each, L Corbett, J Carroll 0-1 each.
WATERFORD S Brenner 7; B Flannery 7, T Feeney 8, B Greene 8; E Murphy 7, F Hartley 8, P Queally 8; T Browne 8, J Murray 7; E Kelly 8, P Flynn 7, S Prendergast 6; J Mullane 8, K McGrath 9, E McGrath 8. Subs: D Bennett 7 for Flannery (52), M White 6 for Flynn (61), A Moloney for Prendergast (68), D Shanahan for E McGrath (68). Booked: S Prendergast (14), P Flynn (19)
TIPPERARY B Cummins 7; T Costelloe 5, P Maher 7, D Fahey 5, E Corcoran 6, D Kennedy 5, P Kelly 6; T Dunne 6, N Morris 5; B Dunne 8, C Gleeson 7, B O'Meara 6; E Kelly 7, J Carroll 6, L Corbett 7. Subs: E Enright 6 for Morris (45), P Ormond 6 for Kennedy (55), M O'Leary 6 for Costelloe, P O'Brien 6 for Gleeson (62).
REF A MacSuibhne (Dublin)