| 12.3°C Dublin

Hurney on song as Deise have day in the sun

THIS notable victory, which means so much to Waterford football, was hewn out of spirit, desire and unrelenting hope, as much as from sweat and hard-edged physicality.

And how appropriate that the hunger for success and promotion and for national headlines should be sated on a sun-drenched Fraher Field, Dungarvan.

Here is the tidy and well-appointed stadium that has played host to so many matches played by the Waterford footballers, usually watched by no more than a sprinkling of followers.

Well, yesterday, it was all so different. The Decies men who play the big ball game had over 1,200 passionate supporters giving them the backing they deserved as they trampled Clare's own promotion hopes into the green sward.

It hasn't been like this since the four-division league came into operation. As one local journalist observed: "We used to be known as the 31st best team in the country. Only Kilkenny were rated below us."


Credit to manager John Owens and his backroom team for the work they've done with the players in their first campaign, but nobody in attendance yesterday could overlook the contribution of John 'Jackson' Kiely, the manager for the previous five years.

Waterford are a great example of a side that becomes an overnight success after years of trying in vain.

"It's been a good day," said quiet-spoken Owens. "Once you get their tails up, they're hard to stop. The good thing is that we scored 20 points today and our backs are very tight, and very quick.

"They're a great bunch of lads."

Owens knows it doesn't finish here. There's a Division 4 League final to be played, hopefully at Croke Park, and in six weeks' time, Clare return to Fraher Field for a first-round Munster championship clash

For now, Waterford can enjoy their victory.

They won by nine points, but it could have been more if they had been more clinical and ruthless in front of goal. And also take note that they restricted the Banner men to only seven scores in the match -- two goals and five points.

Those goals put a gloss on the game that made it look even closer than it was.

Clare's Gary Brennan broke through for goal number one after 18 minutes in a rare slip by the Waterford defence, and the second one came from a 67th-minute penalty scored by David Tubridy when the match was long over as a contest.

That Clare walked into a mind-numbing and confidence-shattering piledriver of a defeat is a credit to Waterford's combination of bony physicality and fast-paced footballing skills.

It's doubtful that even the loss of big Clare midfielder David Russell, sent off in the 44th minute, made much difference to the result. Russell got a second yellow card for indulging in a silly clash with an opponent when he had already been awarded a free. It wasn't serious but definitely worth a booking.

Both sides were lucky not to have a couple more dismissed on a second yellow, because there was too much loose tackling, particularly high tackles that were more careless than malicious.

But it's on the scoreboard that matches are won and lost, and in this case, Waterford performed way ahead of their opposition.

Hearts leapt in anticipation as early as the first minute when Conor McGrath broke through for a one-on-one with Clare 'keeper Conor O'Loughlin.

But, just as fast, heads dropped in despair as McGrath messed up that golden chance of a lightning strike on Clare's backline.

David Tubridy, GAA player of the month for March, then opened the scoring 30 seconds later with a point from a free. It looked as if Clare were on their way.

Over the next 15 minutes, with exchanges tough and often messy at close quarters, and plenty of frees being conceded by both sides, Waterford gradually edged ahead.

Points scored by Liam O'Lionan (two) and Gary Hurney from play and two frees from Wayne Hennessy and Brian Wall had Waterford 0-5 to 0-3 up, with Tubridy getting a second point from a free before Graham Kelly also got on the scoreboard for Clare.

Then came that 18th-minute goal by Brennan against the run of play which put Clare into the lead until a Wall free in the 29th minute levelled the match at 0-6 to 1-3.

That's when Waterford put the foot on the accelerator as if they were on the new M9, and picked off five points between the 31st and 37th minutes.

Hurney, the man of the match who eventually finished with 0-7, got a superb long-range point from near the sideline in this spell, and Wall (two), Hennessy and McGrath also did the business to put Waterford 0-11 to 1-3 ahead.

Could Clare rally? David Tubridy's long-range effort that inched just wide immediately after the restart signalled some intent, but it was to no avail as Waterford zoomed out of sight with another five-point scoring burst over the next 15 minutes.

They swarmed forward in strength, and Hurney scored three and made another for McGrath, with Wall getting another point from a free.

Their 10-point lead briefly dropped to nine when Tubridy scored from a '45' for Clare in the 51st minute, but normal service resumed and Waterford tagged on another four points for the 0-20 tally in the next 20 minutes.

The penalty scored by Tubridy three minutes from the end was too little too late, and it was adios Clare, who were pipped for second place by Limerick.

Manager Micheal McDermott said: "Our goal in the league was to get to Division 3. That goal wasn't achieved so we have to reassess things now. The season isn't over by a long shot."

Scorers -- Waterford: G Hurney 0-7 (0-2f), B Wall 0-4 (3f), W Hennessy 0-3 (1f), C McGrath, L O'Lionain 0-2 each, T Prendergast, P Hennessy 0-1 each. Clare: D Tubridy 1-4 (1-1 pen, 0-2 '45, 0-2f), G Brennan 1-0, G Kelly 0-1.

Waterford -- T Wall; M O'Gorman, T O'Gorman, K Connery; T Grey, S Briggs, N Hennessy; T Prendergast, M Ahearne; B Wall, C McGrath, W Hennessy; G Hurney, R Ahearne, L O'Lionain. Subs: S Cunningham for C McGrath (53), P Hurney for R Ahearne (56), M Donnelly for B Wall (66), M O'Gorman for W Hennessy (68), B Phelan for T Prendergast (71).

Clare -- C O'Loughlin; G Kelly, D Hickey, L Healy; D Callinan, E Coughlan, S Hickey; D Russell, G Brennan; M Tubridy, G Kelly, G Lynch; D Tubridy, P O'Dwyer, A Clohessy. Subs: M O'Shea for P O'Dwyer (23), S Kinnevan for M Tubridy (38), C Dunning for G Kelly (53), D Ryan for M O'Shea (54), M McMahon for D Callinan (58).

Ref -- P Sheehy (Kerry).

Irish Independent